• 17 October 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    EVALÚA and Ecuador’s rebuilding efforts after the 2016 earthquake

    Marta Monterrubio, Public Policy Evaluation specialist from the Evalúa project, tells us about the policy evaluation carried out after the earthquake that took place in Ecuador in 2016

    When it comes to preparing the National Evaluation Agendas, different goals come into play: accountability, policy improvement or programme evaluation (its design or management), transparency promotion as a democratic tool, and ultimately institutional or managerial learning

    In terms of Disaster Risk Management, this evaluation is relevant to all of these matters. It is also a particularly sensitive matter: in addition to exposing the major vulnerabilities that afflict a large part of the world’s population, there are known cases of regrettable deficiencies in fund management for emergency and reconstruction. The unanimous opinion of specialists, also included in the Sendai Framework, is that in terms of disaster risk having a solid prevention system helps prevent the loss of human lives, as well as material loss and the loss of basic goods for population survival. It will also make a difference when facing subsequent reconstruction. 

    On April 16, 2016, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 (Mw)3 was recorded on the north-east coast of Ecuador.  671 people died and 6,277 were injured. The damage affected four provinces, and fourteen cantons were declared to be in a state of emergency.  

    After assisting the first moments of the emergency, the Ecuadorian government approved the 2016 Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Plan, framed  within its Risk Management regulations and in the National Decentralized Risk Management System (SNDGR). The Reconstruction Plan’s aim is territorial recovery, canalise the reconstruction and recovery processes of post-earthquake livelihoods under the criteria of resilience and sustainability through intersectoral and multilevel coordinated interventions. 

    What has emergency and reconstruction assistance coverage been like for the population in the affected areas? How many families benefited from this asisstance and for how long? How and in what way were the shelter, rental and food aid distributed? Were the most vulnerable people included? To what degree was infrastructure rehabilitated? How many public health facilities were rebuilt and rehabilitated? What is the degree of citizen satisfaction with regard to medical care and services? Is Ecuador’s National Decentralized Risk Management System working as well as it could to prevent and manage disasters of this nature? What improvements should be made to minimize the consequences of possible future disasters? 

    These are just some of the questions that the evaluation will answer: Transparency, improvement, learning

    The consulting team hired by EVALÚA has already completed the field work. In the next few weeks we will have the answers. 

  • 19 September 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    COPOLAD, EL PAcCTO, EUROsociAL+ and the value of joint work in Latin America and the Caribbean

    These projects, financed by the European Union and in whose management the FIIAPP participates, hold a high-level bi-regional conference today in Montevideo on alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty

    Snapshot taken at the beginning of the conference

    With the presence of numerous European and Latin American authorities, COPOLAD, EL PAcCTO and EUROsociAL+ combine efforts, work, discourse and media in this conference with the aim of achieving a greater impact of the issue on society.

    The conference was closed with a broad agreement formalised in a joint declaration ratified by all the representatives of the participating Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as by the European Union and by the three regional cooperation programmes organising the event: COPOLAD II, THE COURT and EUROsociAL+.

    Each from its perspective, in this post the three projects highlight the common dimension that they share around alternative measures to imprisonment.


    COPOLAD and the importance of coordination between institutions

    In recent years, several alternative measures to prison have shown encouraging results by reducing, in some prisons, the overpopulation and with it, the problems associated with this situation. The lecture will explain the main lines of action in this area, which have shown positive results, consistently and in different social contexts, in relation to overcrowding and in addressing other associated problems. In this context, and in order to explore the successful alternatives implemented in some countries and the evaluation of their benefits, an aspect that is common, basic and essential for ensuring success in the application of any alternative measure will be considered.

    This key factor is the need for inter-institutional coordination, a concept that is easy to formulate but more complex to apply. Inter-institutional coordination has proven to be at the centre of any action that promotes the development of public policies in the field of alternatives to prison if they are to be effective (evidence-based), efficient and aligned with development goals, especially the protection of human rights, the empowerment of women, the promotion of public health and good governance.

    With this in mind, the conference will provide an opportunity to look more in-depth at what inter-institutional coordination means in this area, the implications of facing the many challenges of developing and managing opportunities and the coordination mechanisms (multisectoral platforms and tools) that must exist to improve horizontal cooperation between the judicial system and the security forces, as well as between social and healthcare services.

    Teresa Salvador-Llivina is director of COPOLAD and Claudia Liebers is responsible for Institutional Relations and Project Strategy.


    EL PAcCTO: the relationship between alternative measures to prison and organised crime


    Worldwide, and Latin America is no exception, many states have a prison overpopulation that sometimes reaches alarming levels. Overcrowding is an evil in itself, since in addition to affecting the human dignity of persons deprived of liberty, it prevents or greatly complicates the correct implementation of social reintegration programmes, the physical separation between dangerous detainees and minor criminals or first-time offenders.  

    Numerous international studies underline that prison cannot be the only solution for dealing with crime and show that, frequently, it becomes a crime school, favouring the proliferation of criminal groups that act inside and outside the detention centres, putting the safety of convicts and society as a whole at risk.  There are several criminal organisations that have emerged and have been strengthened in the prison environment, taking advantage of the weaknesses of the systems due to high overpopulation.  

    Therefore, one of the main concerns of EL PAcCTO is the need to support the execution and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, considering them as essential to easing congestion in prison systems and focusing attention on the most dangerous persons deprived of their liberty, who can recruit followers in prisons. For these reasons, we consider that the measures are also an essential tool for the fight against organised crime

    In addition, alternative measures are a transversal issue that need a holistic approach, strong coordination and lead to cultural change and a shared approach among all the actors involved also in terms of external communication.  

    Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini is the coordinator of the EL PAcCTO Prison systems component, Lorenzo Tordelli is the thematic co-coordinator-manager and Nathalie Boissou is the deputy coordinator.


    EUROsociAL + , favouring social insertion and the abandoning of crime


    In Montevideo, the EUROsociAL+ programmes, together with El PACcTO and COPOLAD, are currently organising a bi-regional conference on alternative measures to deprivation of liberty. All three, each from its own perspective, have addressed this issue, converging on common problems that make us work in the same direction.

     Imprisonment as a penalty, which should be a last resort, has been used indiscriminately in Latin America. There has been an exponential growth in the prison population in recent decades. This overpopulation, which has caused problems of overcrowding, health, and violence, has been questioned to the extent that it has shown not to be able to favour social insertion processes, nor has it had a deterrent effect reducing re-offending, or positive effects on social rehabilitation 

     The social cohesion approach, which the EUROsociAL+ programme promotes, is closely linked to the development and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, not only because inequality contributes to violence, and this in a programme that aims to reduce all kinds of inequalities, but because in their eagerness to “leave no-one behind”, the question that should interest us above all is not why do criminals commit crimes? but why do they stop committing crimes? The search for actions that favour the decision to abandon crime is the key in the processes of social insertion of offenders and in alternative measures.

    A special focus will be given to women deprived of their liberty in this conference. Despite the fact that the percentage is much lower than that of men, the number of women imprisoned in the region has almost tripled in recent decades. This growth is very fast and proportionally much higher than that of men. These trends should be a concern for governments and the prison system, still lacking or indifferent in dealing with the specific needs of women. It is urgent, therefore, to incorporate the gender perspective.

    Of course, the application of alternative measures cannot be incorporated without the backing of reliable administrative action. Implementation requires a framework of action with rehabilitative measures that allow judges to give real consideration and offenders to take responsibility for their actions and change and abandon crime.

    Sonia González Fuentes is coordinator of the Democratic Governance policy area of EUROsociAL+ at FIIAPP.



  • 12 September 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    “Environmental crimes have become the third most lucrative crime in the world”

    On the occasion of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to be held on 16 September, Marc Reina, manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO, reflects on the need for a strategic and operational framework for a more comprehensive, coordinated and multinational work against environmental crimes.

    Representing an illegal business worth between 110 and 281 million dollars in 2018, according to estimates made by In­terpol and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), environmental crimes have become the third most lucrative stream of illegal revenue in the world, after drugs and counterfeit goods.


    These figures have increased exponentially in recent years, growing by several digits, assisted by an inadequate regulatory system and an offence classification and punishment system which often treats them as civil rather than criminal matters. In addition, allocating police and judicial investigation resources to other areas, such as drug and trafficking in human beings, as well as treating environmental crimes as low risk compared to other types of crime, has created a breeding ground for criminal activity. These organisations engage in illegal mining, deforestation and wildlife trafficking, among other practices, and encourage other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, the hiring of hit men and sexual and worker exploitation.


    Bearing in mind that Latin America represents more than 40% of the world’s biodiversity and that the geographic and political complexity of the region makes effective territorial control by States difficult, the fight against environmental crimes as a whole is a herculean task.


    Thus, it is necessary to develop strategic and operational actions at various levels. On the one hand, strategic development must necessarily entail the creation of an international regulatory framework, either by means of protocols annexed to important conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention), or by creating a new international treaty to serve as an umbrella to protect the environment and provide means for addressing environmental crimes.


    On the other hand, at an operational level and in line with the conclusions and commitments of the Heads of State and the Ministers of the Interior of the seven largest economies  in the world, who met at the G7 on the 4th and 5th of April, 2019, in France, efficient coordination mechanisms and police and judicial cooperation, both national and regional, is required; as well as the creation of specialised multidisciplinary Task Forces and Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). In this regard, the European Union has a significant comparative advantage over other regions, having fostered the development of institutions whose main purposes are coordination, exchange of information and inter-institutional and inter-country work. Examples of this are Europol and Eurojust.


    National agreements against environmental crimes


    However, in my opinion, the most efficient but perhaps most complex action is the search for strategic alliances and National agreements to develop comprehensive public policies. These policies would both prevent and establish the criminal nature of environmental crime, and would include important aspects of the fight against poverty, gender perspectives, the promotion of entrepreneurship, promotion of culture and education.


    National agreements, together with their public policies, must have a majority consensus of the population and be governed by five basic principles: a willingness to provide financing and specific budgets; control and inspection; transparency; good execution; and, citizen accountability.


    In this sense, Latin America has an opportunity, the experience and a duty to take on international leadership when it comes to developing comprehensive public policies to fight environmental crimes more effectively, fostering the transition to a green and responsible economy, as well as sustainable economic growth to generate business and to boost development in communities which are directly dependent on specific ecosystems for their survival.


    This applies to a significant percentage of approximately 60 million people who consider themselves indigenous in the Latin American region. Many of them live in the Amazon basin, which has lost 20% of its biodiversity in the last 50 years according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, 2018), for reasons linked to overexploitation and organised crime.


    Because of their way of life and their number, these communities are key not only to changing economic and human development in many countries, but also to developing new approaches to sustainable economic development, the fight against environmental crime and climate change, taking into account the collaboration between civil society, private companies with corporate social responsibility and the State.


    Economic development vs. protection of natural resources


    At this point, it is necessary to highlight the dichotomy between, on the one hand, excessive economic development at any cost; and, on the other, protection of natural resources. It should be noted that, in part, the increase in illegal extraction of raw materials and deforestation to create of large areas of animal pasture and plantations has been caused by an unbridled increase consumption by humans.


    We have to acknowledge that there are organised criminal groups behind these crimes because there is a specific demand in this regard. Voluntarily or involuntarily. Whether or not the demand is aware of the connection between violence and crime.


    It is clear that all countries and societies in the world have the right, but not the obligation, to economic, cultural, and intellectual development. However, as the impact of climate change is more than evident, we must consider the need to change an unbridled system of economic growth, that allows the emergence of numerous crimes which will end up contributing to climate change and growing violence in countries.


    Therefore, it is necessary to balance frenetic human consumption with the protection of the environment.


    Marc Reina, Manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO

  • 22 August 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Women and criminal gangs in Central America

    Sandra Zayas, prosecutor of Guatemala and EL PAcCTO collaborator talks about developments in the role of female gang members in Central America

    Sandra Zayas

    Prevention: a priority


    Prevention. This is the area we must focus on in Central American countries because, mathematically, three of the six countries in the region have had a problem with gangs for many years and the situation is emerging in the other three, meaning they will be able to achieve very different results if they work on social prevention and crime.


    When you look at the active participation of female gang members, it has changed a lot: from women being the victims of coercion to actually joining these criminal groups. In some countries in the region, they have even become responsible for areas such as logistics and finance.


    We must not forget to differentiate between gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, some very powerful such as Mara SalvaTrucha and Barrio 18, and mafia-related gangs in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, some emerging and  others with very specific purposes.


    Gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have more female gang members and several studies on this topic have found that Guatemala is the Central American country with the highest rate of gender inequality, classified as “high”, El Salvador and Honduras as “medium”, and Costa Rica and Panama as “low.” This means fewer job opportunities, less parity, a more serious social gender problem. This gender inequality in our countries coincides with the facts presented at the Workshop on Female Gang members held this spring in San Salvador and organised by EL PAcCTO, a project funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, with support from IILA and the Camões Institute.


    It is necessary to distinguish between female participation in gangs as perpetrators, accomplices or to cover up crimes by establishing different penalties for each case. We would also highlight that, in matters of drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering, female gang members take part in activities necessary to commit one or more crimes.


    In addition, drug trafficking crimes have led to extortion and murder (“hitmen”) in many of our countries, where female gang members are heavily involved. In Guatemala, there have already been three cases of female gang members who have set off grenades on public transport buses. Therefore, the participation of female gang members in criminal organisations is a fact.


    When it comes to the police, prosecutors and judges, there is no evidence that they distinguish between women and female gang members, with the exception of El Salvador and Costa Rica, where they have innovative internal protocols for treating female members of organised crime.


    Female gang members in prisons


    The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and the Non-custodial measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) recommend reducing imprisonment sentences for women through corrective measures without custody, taking into account maternity, the separation of mothers from minor children or even mothers who are being held with their children in prison centres. Once again, Costa Rica has managed to reduce the number of women prisoners, taking these criteria into account and using alternative measures to prison in all cases of women who are deprived of liberty. The other countries of the Isthmus only separate the women belonging to different gangs in different prisons in case of conflict between rival gangs. Then there is the matter of the non-existence of positive social reintegration for both women and men in most countries. It is more difficult to reintegrate female gang members into society, especially with an “aggravating factor” when gang women are protected witnesses or effective collaborators, betraying their “family”, their “gang”.


    There is little money allocated to invest in this type of problems, total or little political will to create positive regulations, and shared indicators and statistics throughout the legal systems. Specialised means of investigation and above all, a desire for change are also required.


    We know that we need intelligence offices, inter-institutional protocols, committed administrators of justice with sufficient tools to act effectively, inter-institutional and international cooperation, data registers and specific indicators for the problems to be solved, because all of this needs to be measurable.


    I conclude therefore with the 5Ws: What do we need to do? Work on this problem before it spreads to other countries and becomes as serious as it already is in some regions. How? By working together with defined government policies, with intelligence, registers and measurements. Why? For a better future for our countries. Who? All the inhabitants who love their country. Where? Around the world and when? Right now.

  • 18 July 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Breaking barriers: how to bring taxation closer to the most vulnerable groups in Latin America

    Borja Díaz Rivillas, technician from the EUROsociAL+ programme, recounts the experience of Sergio Dos Santos, one of the coordinators of an accounting and tax support core (NAF).

    Members of the UNIVALE NAF advising the ASCANAVI association

    Sergio Dos Santos Reis worked during his childhood and youth as a street vendor selling ice cream and washing cars in the suburbs of the city of Gobernador Valadares, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. He knows very well what it is to live in an environment with few opportunities to prosper. 


    “Education changed the story of my life,” says Sergio. After completing a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, he is now a professor of accounting sciences at the University of Vale do Rio Doce (Univale). For four years he has also been the coordinator of the accounting and tax support core ( NAF )  of his university. NAF is a free tax and accounting consultancy service for low-income people that Sergio runs with his students, who are previously trained by the tax administration, the Federal Revenue Service. 


    NAF is active in the university, but it also runs an itinerant service to help vulnerable members of society, including the community in which Sergio grew up. “They are areas with problems gaining access to microcredit or micro-entrepreneurship, people who do not have access to the internet, low-income people without resources to pay an accounting professional, people who do not have information or knowledge about their rights in relation to their retirement, pension or the procedures involved therein. We are talking about small businesses such as manicure and pedicure salons, hairdressers, steakhouses and cake vendors, among others. NAF helps them,” he explains. 


    Univale’s NAF also supports itinerant non-profit social organizations , such as Associação dos Catadores Materiais Reciclados ( Ascanavi ), which works in very underprivileged neighbourhoods affected by drugs and prostitution. 


    “They are people who have sometimes suffered sexual violence, physical violence, who have not had the opportunity to get an education, and who dedicate themselves to garbage collection to survive through recycling. NAF goes to that community to do job orientations, analyses and accounting and tax document support for the association,” Sergio says. 


    How does NAF transform the lives of these people? “I’ll give an example. One day we talked with a mother who has a child with a disability. For five years she had been unfairly deprived of a benefit to which her son’s situation entitled her. When we solved her problem and we got the tax administration to reimburse her for the amounts they had unfairly withheld, she cried. She told us that she would be able to use that money to pay for medicines, to eat, and to feed her son. The story strongly impacted my life, because we solved something that was very complicated for her and very simple for us.” 


    But NAF also transforms the lives of the students . “In our line of study we have courses on ethics and citizenship. While working in NAF, the student sees theory put into practice. Students interact with the reality of the country by doing things for others and exercising citizenship . I see the joy in the faces of the students when they see that they can transform peoples’ lives,” says Sergio. 


    NAF emerged in Brazil in 2011. Today, thanks to the support of EUROsociAL+, through its alliance with the Federal Revenue Service of Brazil, they are already operating in more than 650 higher education institutions in 10 Latin American countries. In this new phase of the EUROsociAL we are pushing for a more social character, promoting help for people in a situation of vulnerability, in areas with high-informality and weak State presence where NAF act as a bridge between the tax administration and citizens, linking realities that are still very distant. 


    Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Expert in Democratic Governance for the EUROsociAL+ Programme  

  • 04 July 2019


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Towards more open and transparent justice in Colombia

    The Open Justice Strategy of the State Council of Colombia, supported by the ACTUE Colombia project, has received a stellar reform award.

    Consejo de Estado colombiano

    Early last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the 6th Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership in Canada , a gathering that brought together two thousand people from 79 countries and 20 local governments who, along with civil society organizations, academics and other stakeholders, make up the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This year, the Summit revolved around three strategic priorities: participation, inclusion and impact.


    During the inauguration, and to my surprise, the initiative that we supported in the ACTUE project – a project managed by FIIAPP with EU funding between 2014 and 2018 – was displayed on giant screens: the Open Justice Strategy in the State Council of Colombia as one of the “ Stellar Reforms” selected in the last OGP cycle. It was very exciting to be able to experience that tangible impact of one of our projects, something that we rarely get to experience. I was even more thrilled than when I saw the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau live, which is really saying something. And for good reason, too. These 12 commitments have been selected by the Independent Review Mechanism from among hundreds of others for showing evidence of preliminary results that mean significant advances in relevant and transformative political areas .


    The Open Justice Strategy in the Council of State of Colombia  has, for the first time, allowed the Court to begin publishing its previous agendas and decisions, as well as information on possible conflicts of interest of judges and administrative staff; essential aspects of public accountability, as well as enabling citizens and civil society to do their work of social control. In the long term, these changes can reduce corruption in justice institutions and allow them to regain the trust of citizens . Justicia Abierta is one of the political tendencies in open government that is gaining greater traction, given the major impact that its actions can have on citizens; In particular, access to justice makes it possible to exercise other rights. In addition, this sectoral action contributes directly to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda through goal 16, Peace, Security and Solid Institutions.


    The ACTUE Colombia project was supporting the Transparency Secretariat of Colombia in the preparation of its OGP action plans, as well as civil society organizations, by using specialized technical assistance to promote the creation of a space for dialogue between administrations and civil society to define their own priorities in open government .


    This is a good example of the positive impact that delegated cooperation can have, thanks to the flexibility and innovation they bring to our partners and the technical assistance on demand that we carry out.


    About the ACTUE-Colombia project


    The Anti corruption and Transparency Project of the European Union for Colombia (ACTUE-Colombia) has supported Colombian institutions in the implementation of key measures for a Open Territorial Government with the aim of making progress in the prevention of and fight against corruption both at the national and territorial levels. To this end, the project supported the creation of conditions for the fulfilment of international commitments, the strengthening of social control, the promotion of the co- responsibility of the private sector, and the generation of cultural and institutional changes .


    The project is financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP in coordination with the Secretary for Transparency (ST) and Public Function (FP). It has assisted three regional governments, six city councils and two hospitals in areas such as applying the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information, drafting Anti-Corruption and Citizen Information Plans (PAAC), fostering accountability and promoting public participation. It has thus helped officials to understand that the right to transparency and access to information is an essential right on which other rights depend. It has increased their awareness by institutionalizing advances in active transparency and their knowledge of how to identify and manage the risks of corruption.


    Carolina Díaz, legal technician in the area of Justice and Security at FIIAPP and, between 2014 and 2018, member of the ACTUE Colombia team