• 04 July 2019

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    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.

    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

  • 14 March 2019

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Guardian Angels

    Laura Cárdenas is the author of this text and a EUROsociAL + expert in the development of an awareness strategy for alternative measures to prison

    Just like every week, Miguel comes to PROMESEM, the Social and Community Insertion Program of the National Institute of Social Inclusion of Adolescents Uruguay (INISA). Every day psychologists, social educators, professors and teachers await to work closely with him and to comply with the sanction imposed by the court for the crime he committed, after a year of confinement, now in an open environment. “They are my guardian angels,” he explains. And that is the atmosphere in the INISA centre. Hugs, smiles, the smell of incense, decorated walls and teenagers, men and women, who are looking for encouragement and a way to make up for the damage they caused, to society and to themselves.

     

    Miguel is one of more than 300 teenagers who are under the protection of INISA, the governing body in charge of young people guilty of criminal conduct, within a system in which imprisonment “has been the rule rather than the exception”, according to its president, Gabriela Fulco.  That is why the State has created a new model for addressing non-custodial measures that “responds to the need to comply with the commitment acquired by the State on ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child ” and implies more extensive application of socio-educational and reintegration measures, facilitating the continuity of the social and family lives of teenagers and establishing peace within the community.

     

    Because of this, the European Union, through its EUROsociAL + programme, which is managed by the FIIAPP, is assisting INISA in this process by exchanging experiences and good practices in European and Latin American public policies in this area. These include designing a communication and awareness-raising strategy to serve as a guide to raise awareness among Uruguay’s citizens, state institutions, media and private sector of the need to promote the application of measures other than imprisonment to improve social cohesion.

     

    As explained by Fulco, from the perspective of both children’s rights and citizen security, imprisonment does not solve the problem of insecurity or improve the possibilities of social reintegration of teenagers. However, the model that applies alternative sanctions to imprisonment through socio-educational measures has demonstrated internationally lower rates of recidivism and greater reintegration.

     

    Integral work

     

    PROMESEN serves teenagers who have previously been imprisoned and others who have not . According to its director, Fernanda Albistur, there is a big difference between them: “Those who come after being incarcerated are stunned, during the initial weeks they do not even want to leave the house and many are afraid to come alone. They keep hearing the noises of the prison, the padlocks, the doors … It is much more difficult to get them to participate in the programme. Confinement also aggravates the family situation and all the conflicts they had prior to their detention and that were frozen reappear, “explains Albistur. “We often ask ourselves what we can do to repair the institutional damage caused by confinement, what we can do to repair the horrible experiences they have had.”

     

    Miguel went every week to the geriatric hospital Piñeiro del Campo, where elderly homeless people live, as part of one of the community service programmes the socio-educational sanction requires.

     

    Laura Berois, a teacher, accompanied the teenagers in this activity. “They have very complex lives and when faced with situations more difficult than theirs they become aware of how important it is to look after themselves,” she says.

     

    Mariela, who also participates in this programme, lives with her parents and grandparents in a neighbourhood that she does not like, she explains.  Now Mariela says that she has realised that “it is useless to take the easy way. You have to fight and live peacefully with other human beings . ”  Mariela imagines a future in which she can continue with her studies “to work and bring up my family because I want to be a nurse to be able to heal people”.  “I still have two months left to keep coming, but I’m going to do it. In addition, there are good people here, they help us “, she emphasises.

     

    Sofia Rodríguez is one of the PROMESEM educators. Every day, she faces the challenging task of seeing the conditions in which the teenagers live. Their basic needs and rights have been totally violated which is why “they care so little about their own lives”. They are teenagers who are totally excluded from society, from the education system, who are born and live in a criminal environment, which is why Sofia asks: “How can they be expected to respect the rights of others if all their own rights have been totally violated? Nobody questions why adolescents in trouble with the law do not belong to the middle or upper classes, but to the poor. As a society, we are responsible for what is happening”, she insists.

     

    Most have been neglected throughout their lives . Some have serious psychological disorders and cannot distinguish between right and wrong”, explains Carolina, one of the centre’s psychologists. However, all the workers at the centre praise these teenagers’ resilience.

     

    “I have never been treated as well as at Piñeiro Hospital. What’s more, the old people were always waiting for us and when we left they were sad. We did art together and even did an exhibition of the works at Santo Domingo City Hall”, says Miguel.  Now, Miguel, thanks to the agreement between the Municipality of Montevideo and INISA and, above all, to his change of attitude, has found a job and will be able to meet the needs of his newborn son and those of his family.

  • 29 November 2018

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    The importance of more effective international judicial cooperation

    Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between justice systems at EL PAcCTO, reflects on the role and value of international judicial cooperation within the framework of the project

    Today, international judicial cooperation is a necessity for all countries. In particular, if we talk about the European system, we have gone from cooperation between states to cooperation between judges of states, without the need to go through a centralised control system of administrative authorities. In that regard, in Europe, we therefore have extensive experience based on a principle of integration.

     

    With the objective of developing this integration, at EL PAcCTO—a project financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, and in collaboration with the Italo-Latin American Institute and the Camões Institute of Portugal—we work to strengthen effective judicial cooperation with Latin America. The region is full of professionals—true professionals, for that matter—who work in their respective countries and who are highly competent. However, the structures they have for working in international judicial cooperation remain very dependent on cooperation between states. At EL PAcCTO, we can go as far as the will of the states determines, since it is an on-demand project.

     

    In any case, we are making a very strong commitment to facilitating cooperation systems, by increasing the acts of cooperation available to them. It is not about allowing them to help foreign judges or foreign prosecutors, but about giving them the best conditions to request help abroad: to open their borders to the world in order to receive information and investigate the crimes they are dealing with.

     

    We are working through several lines: for example, we are facilitating an update of international cooperation laws to give them access to the new techniques that inevitably arrive. The truth is that crime advances so fast, money moves so fast, and the perpetrators of crimes cross borders so quickly, that any attempt to continue with a scheme based on cooperation between states typical of the mid-twentieth century leads to few results.

     

    Organised crime requires being very up-to-date, and to achieve this, picking up the pace is very important. For this reason, we are working on the creation of joint investigation teams and other innovative cooperation techniques between states, and also in relation to cybercrime, because the existing forms of cooperation in this area, such as instant contacts between the state police and fiscal authorities, are in need of an update.

     

    We are also establishing a line of work that is being used by different nations to facilitate computer technical systems. In this way, the system users, i.e. the prosecutor or the policeman who is on the last corner of the state border, will have the mechanisms to not only get the information, but also the facility to prepare cooperation events with other states. All of this will be made simple, facilitating the work of all parties and ultimately promoting greater international cooperation between them.

     

    In short, EL PAcCTO is not based on training courses or on knowledge updates; instead we seek to have an effect which is as direct and practical as possible and, therefore, to learn by doing but also and, above all, by improving structures, systems and techniques.

  • 16 August 2018

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Large-scale corruption requires a global response and cooperation”

    Delia Ferreira is President of the NGO Transparency International and in this interview, she tells us about some advances against corruption as well as challenges that are still pending

    How can we bring about a cultural change in our societies regarding the phenomenon of corruption, so that it stops being seen as a natural phenomenon?  

     

    The fact that corruption is normal is a central problem in our societies. Corruption appears when it is installed structurally as the normal way of doing business or to get aid or whatever you need from the State in the way of services. This is a problem that has to do with rebuilding certain agreements about the basic values of a society. For years these agreements have been broken as has the understanding about what was good and what was bad in societies.  Even if one analyses what the perception of a very small child is about what is fair or unfair, it is much clearer than the perception that this child is going to have when he (she) permeates social criteria over the years. We must work hard on education and discuss  again what is acceptable and what is not, because, when corruption becomes the norm, there is no longer an effective antidote, because in the fight against corruption the partner that we really need is a society that is mobilised, citizen by citizen, aware of what should be allowed and what should not.  Conditions must be created to promote or channel that social energy. 

     

    What are the challenges for international coordination in the fight against corruption from examples of global institutionalised corruption like the Lavo Jato case?  

     

    Large-scale corruption, like the Lava Jato case, poses different challenges for the justice system than the corruption cases seen previously, however big they were in monetary terms, because this is a global phenomenon and, therefore, requires a global response and cooperation, not only at the country level but also between all agencies.  This is one of the problems faced by the justice system when it wants to investigate these cases. Not only access to banking information, tax information, information on money laundering organisations, which should be made far easier for the judges and prosecutors who are investigating, but also the need for international cooperation. 

     

    This is why the procedural rules must be changed in many countries and the international conventions on fighting corruption must be altered, because we continue to face this type of problem in a situation in which money is moved from one country to another with a mouse click on a computer, in a matter of seconds, and it disappears off the radar.  Here, we are confronted with the same mechanisms for dealing with the government as we had in the 19th century: the judge prepares an official letter that goes to the government, the government sends it to the government of another country, which sends it to a judge, and that judge says that he lacks a detail and returns it, and months go by, if not years, before the information is obtained. Also, if the money moves from one country to another, or from one social structure to another, or to another fiscal paradise in a matter of seconds, it is impossible to follow its trail, which is essential for investigating corruption. 

     

    Recently , an Anti-Corruption Legal Aid Centre (ALAC) was inaugurated in Chile, with the support of EUROsociAL+ , a programme managed by FIIAPP. What is the value of this centre for allegations of corruption and how will it serve as a link between the State and citizens?  

     

    ALACs already exist in our chapters in over 60 countries. The idea behind these centres is to support victims of corruption or those who know of cases of corruption and want to report them and do not have the legal or judicial support needed to do so.  ALACs have allowed us to trigger allegations of corruption in many countries around the world, because it is no longer an individual citizen but an organisation that is linked with the Public Prosecution Service and can channel the complaints and follow them through. 

     

    In many of these countries what we have are agreements with their bar associations that allow us to have top-level legal advice from lawyers who work on the cases pro bono and provide, through ALACs, contact with those who want to go to court and do not know how.  Also, these ALAC centres have provided us with a great deal of information on how corruption operates in the countries, direct, first-hand information that would have been difficult to gather otherwise, since corruption operates in total secrecy, receipts are not handed out for corruption except in exceptional cases in which a record was kept of the accounting, as happened with Odrebrecht, which had a section of the company devoted to these structured operations. 

     

    To what extent does corruption have different effects on women?  

     

    An important sector in which to find a gender difference is in relation to access to services and allowances that are linked to petty corruption. This is because women are responsible for care-giving tasks and, therefore, we are the visible face that is requesting the aid, because poverty has been feminised and the poorest sectors are those that need the cooperation of the State in the provision of those services. 

     

    Another factor that specifically punishes women, or does so in a more substantial manner, is the area of exchange currencies. In many petty corruption cases, sexual favours are demanded or they give rise to situations of harassment in which women are victims twice over.  

     

    The corruption barometer, which is one of International Transparency’s measuring tools, shows that in the region, areas of public policy like health, education and social plans are perceived as being the most corrupt or the most prone to corruption, and these are the areas clearly linked to care-giving tasks and requesting allowances.  So, corruption has a different effect on men and women. 

     

    The other two areas of the state in which different effects can be observed are the police and the courts. When the police and the courts are affected by corruption, the women who have to resort to them in cases of discrimination, domestic or gender violence, femicides, rape or harassment face the fact that, when they defend their rights in an area dominated by corruption, instead of finding protection and a guarantee of these rights, they end up being victims. 

  • 02 August 2018

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Are we already carrying out twinning projects in Latin America?

    Gerard Muñoz reflects on the parallels between twinning projects and his experience in coordinating the project to fight against organised crime in Peru

    Are we carrying out twinning between public administrations in Latin America, as the practice is known in the European Commission?

     

    Formally no, but we have a series of very similar projects which could be considered as a pilot. Of course, these are an opportunity for the European Union to transmit their values and influence, especially in these times of turbulence and disagreement between the big blocks.

     

    The negotiation of the new EU multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027 may be the time to introduce this topic into the cooperation agenda, with FIIAPP as a major player due to its extensive experience in this area.

     

    Its technical characteristics make it a very useful development mechanism for middle-income countries in Latin America. Of course, it needs to be adapted to a very diverse reality at a sub-regional level, finding positive conditionalities regarding participation. We shall see.

     

    What is twinning? 

     

    According to the European Commission, twinning is an EU mechanism for institutional cooperation between Public Administrations of EU Member States and beneficiary or partner countries, with the aim of achieving concrete mandatory operational results through peer to peer activities.

     

    In countries in the process of joining the EU, such as Serbia or Macedonia, twinning between administrations focuses on providing support for the transposition, implementation and application of EU legislation, the famous acquis communautaire. This is to ensure that that when they become full members of the EU, they can operate normally following the European legal standards in sectors such as the administration of justice, security, transport, consumption, public health and intellectual property.

     

    Since 2004, twinnings have also been implemented with some of the EU’s strategic partners such as the Ukraine and Turkey. Within this framework, the mechanism aims to improve the capacities of the public administrations in these countries by training their staff and supporting the reorganisation of their structure. It also supports the approximation of national laws, regulations and quality standards to those of the European Member States, within the framework of cooperation or partnership agreements signed with the EU.

    A similar experience in Peru 

     

    In Peru over the last four years, FIIAPP has carried out activities similar to twinning through a project to fight organised crime, with similar aims. The project focused on components that correspond to the expected results. A series of activities were carried out that include workshops, training sessions, expert missions, study visits, internships and specialist technical advice.

     

    Over this time, more than 2,600 Peruvian civil servants have been trained, 109 courses run in 64 different subjects, 34 technical assistances provided, and 13 internships organised in Europe. This has involved the mobilisation of more than 200 officials and employees in the public administrations of the Member States and an on-site team was responsible for the project.

     

    The twinning is based on executive learning and sharing best practices, as has been the case in Peru in terms of intelligence, investigation and judicial processes. All this in order to improve the Peruvian State’s capacities in fighting drug trafficking and organised crime.

     

    To give an example, after 4 years of work, the Peruvian authorities are obtaining record figures regarding interventions and the dismantling of organised gangs dedicated to drug trafficking and international organised crime. To cooperate on this achievement by the Peruvian public administration, the project introduced new research approaches based on intelligence and the implementation of new technologies. This was accompanied by legal changes and the fostering of inter-institutional and international work. Professional and personal exchanges between officials are here to stay, facilitating information swaps and problem solving between Peru and the EU.

    Opportunities and challenges

     

    It should not be forgotten that the EU is Peru’s main trading partner with which it has significant common interests regarding strategic sectors such as telecommunications, mining, hydrocarbons, fishing, agriculture and natural resources. Improving the rule of law and security in Peru is therefore a challenge the country shares with Europe.

     

    In this sense, it is worth reflecting on the power of positive conditionality mechanisms associated with the effective introduction of the reforms stemming from the framework of the projects or programmes implemented by the EU. We have been and continue to be inspired by the twinnings that have yielded such good results.

     

    To cite just one example, in the case of Peru, the project has promoted legislative change to fight effectively against money laundering, a real problem in this Andean country. This recently formalised change could see key indicators improve to such an extent that, at some stage, the door would open to OECD membership. With its access, Peru will be able to present itself to the world as an open, stable market economy with a clear and reliable legal foundation. This will have a bearing on in its negotiating capacity, positioning the country at a regional and international level. At present, the European Union is technically and financially backing Peru’s entry into the OECD.

     

    Other positive developments, much needed in the region, include the improvement in access to universal public health and the increase in tax collection to meet the State’s expenses. Twinning projects and programmes can be linked to the reforms and results obtained in these sectors.

     

    Given the regional and sub-regional disparity in Latin America, the challenge for the EU is to choose the countries and sectors to deal with in twinning, offering high-quality technical cooperation that is attractive to the various countries. In fact, the regional programmes in Latin America, which currently cover several sectors, such as EUROsociAL+, COPOLAD, EUROCLIMA+ and El PAcCTO can be good instruments to accompany the EU delegations in their selecting of sectoral priorities for twinning in the region.

     

    It will not be easy to adapt this instrument and perhaps it should be reinterpreted given the diversity of middle-income countries. However, it ought to be given a chance, if only to reflect on this when allocating funds from the new European Union budget.

     

    Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the project to fight drug trafficking in Peru 

     

    * The definition of twinning has been taken from the European Commission website

  • 07 December 2017

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    Posteado en : En primera persona

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    EUROsociAL+, looking for answers

    If one thing characterises EUROsociAL+, it is seeking answers to the questions posed by Latin America

    “When we had the answers, they changed the questions”, said Pelayo Castro referring to a graffito discovered by the Ecuadorian poet Jorge Enrique Adoum and made universal by the Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti. This catch-phrase, quoted by the European Union Ambassador in Costa Rica at the opening of the EUROsociAL+ meeting in San José, laid the foundation for the three days of discussions and exchanges in the capital of Costa Rica.

     

    Because, if one thing characterises EUROsociAL+, it is seeking answers to the questions raised by Latin America. The answers are to be found in Europe and in Latin America, and in Costa Rica they were transformed into reality with significant commitments to fighting gender violence, social dialogue and regional development.

     

    Also, in this third stage of the Latin American social cohesion programme, we would like to be part of the answers. This means being more strategic, once again placing social issues on the European-Latin American cooperation agenda and contributing to ensuring that countries meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why we demanded even more strongly that actions be implemented to support public policies that have a real effect on reducing the inequality gap in the region.

     

    The initial meeting was not only inspiring because of the discussions, it also presaged an unforgettable cultural moment that occurred during the first annual meeting of the third stage of EUROsociAL. Creativity laboratories gave a voice to the different realities existing in the Latin American countries through children and young people at risk of exclusion, the struggle of the LGBT community, and the situation of those who are in detention, who, through poetry, painting and photography expressed their wish to be part of a society that offers them the same rights and the same opportunities as anyone else.

     

    It was a meeting filled with symbols, from the word Freedom, which was the name given to the Metropolitan Park where the meeting began, to the former prison known as “La Peni”, which has now become the Children’s Museum and which we visited on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day. The best way, therefore, to end these lines is the prologue written by Kennly Garza, subdirector of the Vilma Curling Comprehensive Care Centre, for the book of poems written by the inmates of this prison, entitled Luna compartida” (Shared Moon). In the prologue, entitled “Alquimistas de significados” (Alchemists of meaning), Kennly calls our attention to some of these allegories: A women’s prison is an uncomfortable, antagonistic place; the unsuspected arrival of cherubim brings on a smile. At the back, the whispers of five hundred writers disturb our conscience when we know we are part of these stories. A scene of losses and grievances, it is also an island of warrior women whose stories deserve to be told before the River Cañas claims its own. Until then, here is the tribute of their words, transparent and direct, warning that while there are women in prison writing about inequality, talking about freedom will never be easy or commonplace, it is an urgent debt that only applause does not endorse”.

     

    Enrique Martínez is the communications manager for the EUROsociAL+ programme