• 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

  • 06 October 2017

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Challenges for tax administrations in Latin America

    The director of Cooperation and International Taxation of the CIAT describes the great challenges faced by tax administrations in Latin America

    Perhaps “diversity” is the term that best fits Latin America (LA), both due to the geographical, economic and cultural differences between the countries and the inequality in the level of development of their inhabitants. It is not an easy task to define common challenges for their tax administrations (TA). The region has world-class TAs and others that have significant shortcomings, so that it is the mission of the Interamerican Tax Administration Centre (CIAT) to work toward reducing the significant gaps in their levels of development.

     

    Although there are some regional standardisation tools – forms, manuals, proposals – in the area of taxation policy, there has been little success with standardisation. For example, the CIAT-BID-GIZ Tax Code presents a regional model that is intended to motivate reforms that will “level the playing field”. In international taxation[1], transparency and the exchange of information[2], leading to a standardisation process that arises from global initiatives. This process is a challenge for the region. However, it grew out of the experiences of developed countries and not LA. This process could be called “imported standardisation”.

     

    LA TAs have improved mainly thanks to the use of technology and greater political support from their governments. According to data from the CIAT, since the 60s, the tax revenue of LA central governments has shown a positive trend, rising from 9.7 (1960) to 16.2 (2014) GDP points, with the latter value the highest recorded in that period.

     

    The great challenge faced by the TAs consists of “making + out of -“. To do this, it is necessary to direct efforts to the areas in which there is a risk of non-compliance, with the aim of classifying them, preventing them from occurring or managing them. The challenge consists of strengthening various processes and integrating them into one single platform, e.g., access to information and its handling, a taxpayer register, tax current accounts, billing systems, taxpayer service, investigation, auditing, recovery, collection, cooperative compliance initiatives, etc. In this area, the use of advanced technological solutions makes the difference. So as not to fail in the attempt, it is essential to have proper planning, where the critical departments must act in coordination, even with players outside the TA.

     

    Isaac Gonzalo Arias, Director of Cooperation and International Taxation of the CIAT
    Isaac Gonzalo Arias, Director of Cooperation and International Taxation of the CIAT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Properly monitoring tax incentives contributes to the previous proposal. According to data from the CIAT, in LA they represent on average 4.6 GDP points (2012), which is a significant figure. In addition, the proper application of agreements to prevent double taxation is a challenge. This last topic is not important now everywhere, although the countries of LA are gradually extending their networks.

     

    Strengthening the legal infrastructure is an unresolved issue for many LA countries. At the present time, tax planning is sophisticated, leaving a very thin line between avoidance and evasion. It is complicated for the TAs to apply general and specific anti-abuse rules. In addition, it is appropriate to propose strategies for avoiding litigation and to pay attention to the capacity of the courts that handle tax-related cases.

     

    To face these challenges, political commitment, dialogue and cooperation between peers, international support, investment in resources for the TAs and, above all, tax transparency are indispensable. Within this framework, the cooperation agreement signed recently by the CIAT and FIIAPP to promote the exchange of experiences, knowledge and good practices between the TAs of the European Union and Latin America and between Latin American administrations as part of the EUROsociAL+ Program offers an opportunity to LA TAs.

     

    [1] BEPS Inclusive Framework

    [2] Standard on transparency and exchange of information

     

    Isaac Gonzalo Arias, Director of Cooperation and International Taxation of the CIAT

  • 18 May 2017

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Weak strong institutions

    Public policy evaluation in Latin America.

    Some time ago I had the chance to talk to an investigation official of the national police of a Latin American country at a meeting I was invited to attend as an evaluator.

    A great deal is being done in this area through the technical support of institutions, including Spanish ones, whilst scrupulously avoiding the application of “models” from other countries to a national reality that is totally foreign and extremely complex. The United States, for example, has focused particularly on the issues of drugs and youth gangs. In Spain, we have great experience, and here I can mention, for example, the work done in Guatemala to reduce the number of crimes against life and amount of violence against women.

    The official I was speaking with said that, in his country, the police are under great stress, that they’ve been doing their job under great pressure for several years, and that many of them would like to leave the field and get a university degree or do something else or, at least, have a better system of shifts that would give them more down time.

    He also told me that they had learned that a small number of criminals commit the vast number of crimes, and that if there are, say, 10,000 homicide victims annually, these could be attributed to some 1,000 aggressors. That is, with a little investigation, with good police instincts and better coordination between prosecutors, judges and law enforcement, the problem of citizen insecurity could be handled much better.

    “Don’t leave us on our own”, he said, worried about the low level of support they had internally and the idea that these issues could cease to be a cooperation priority. That’s probably the way things are seen by some people who are tired of supporting an institution that we can characterise as weak-strong-absent-present.

    Weak in terms of the strategic direction, given that many bodies work on the same issues in an uncoordinated way: criminal investigation, prosecutors, judges, prisons, institutions that fight against organised crime… Strong, because at times these institutions think the only acceptable answer for society is the incarceration of young people; this accomplishes nothing except filling up prisons, where, on the other hand, there are few rehabilitation programmes to help them abandon the cycle of violence. Absent, because the police and judges are never where they’re needed, and they don’t reach many places where criminals are still being lynched. And, lastly, present, because the government is eager for media coverage and to demonstrate that citizen insecurity is its great priority, without us knowing what that actually means.

     

    Public policy evaluation

     

    That’s why it’s necessary to improve our diagnoses by using tools like public policy evaluation to be able to improve programmes and address these challenges that generate such contradictory responses from institutions.

    And we have an extensive experience working with many institutions to be able to introduce evaluations as a requirement in implementing cooperation programmes for institutional reform. And we have also generated the necessary trust, which will enable us to conduct not only qualitative analyses but also quantitative ones, with baselines and surveys after several years.

    At first glance, it seems easier to quantify the impact of aid in the case of social programmes or poverty-reduction programmes, which are where these types of evaluations have traditionally been done. However if we observe carefully from the institutional standpoint and, more specifically, from one of capacity building, there are many interesting options.

    If the programmes are designed from the start with the objective of being evaluated, we could predict their impact on police performance; to give an example, the impact of one type of training or another, and eventually, the impact this has on institutional change and crime reduction, which is the important thing. It would also be a great advance, and we’re capable of doing it, to learn what effect the training of criminal investigation units has on the impunity variable. That is, in terms of how much our cooperation helps in terms of solving cases and the ability to bring them to trial.

    That way the institutions themselves will be more aware of the limitations and opportunities that exist for carrying out larger-scale reforms and for gradually building a new culture of institutional development.

     

    Miguel Angel Lombardo works at FIIAPP on South-South cooperation for public policy evaluation in Latin America.

  • 23 September 2016

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    The Ombudsman’s Office as a participant in international cooperation on human rights

    Carmen Comas-Mata, director of the advisory board of the Ombudsman's Office, talks to us about the importance of cooperation.

    In my extensive experience in charge of international relations at the Ombudsman’s Office, which is also the national institution concerned with human rights under terms of the United Nations Organisation, I have been able to see the importance of cooperating in human rights first-hand, not just to merely ensure that the beneficiary countries achieve certain minimum standards of respect and protection for these rights but also to enhance the prestige of Spain abroad.

     

    People talk of “Brand Spain” to showcase to the world the successes achieved by our athletes and companies. But we shouldn’t leave it there: over the past 40 years, Spain has been an example of respect for human rights, and we can show the world how we had an exemplary transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, where we accepted a constitution that establishes the citizen as a subject of rights and established effective mechanisms for their protection. One of the main players in this transition was an extra-judicial institution, the Ombudsman’s Office, which is responsible for ensuring that public administrations respect these rights. Moreover, it is one of the institutions of this type with the most power in the world.

     

    Therefore, I feel especially proud of having been able to help enhance the image and prestige of my country by working in cooperation with human rights in countries of the former Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan and Armenia, and in other ones closer to us, like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, most recently Turkey. Through EU Twinning projects, with the invaluable help of FIIAPP, we have helped to start or have strengthened other ombudsman institutions. The importance of sister institutions collaborating wholeheartedly in the same direction, improving action procedures, learning from one another, and thus being able to better serve citizens, the only reason for our existence, is something I understand to be unimpeachable and very positive.

     

    One of our priority objectives is, of course, Ibero-America. The expansive force of human rights has made everyone see the need to intensify collaboration with the ombudsmen in other countries, especially those in Ibero-America by holding meetings within a new organisation that took the name Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO). Its purpose was, and is, to lay the groundwork for fruitful international cooperation, particularly in countries that share a common culture and past. That cooperation is expressed and made concrete through the implementation of practical and effective programmes for training specialised personnel and promoting the establishment and solidity of the ombudsmen in all of the nations in the Ibero-American community.

     

    There is work being done in areas as important as immigration, human trafficking, youth, women and prisons. Precisely this field, that of cooperation in prison matters, and ultimately, the care of Spanish prisoners abroad, is one that can benefit most from Spanish cooperation. It is necessary to make our sister countries in America see that ensuring that sentences are served under humane conditions is as important as fighting crime. This is one of the most important duties we have today.

     

    We also work with countries in the Mediterranean region. The Arab Spring represented a threat to the incipient ombudsman institutions that were being created, but in some countries it is also turning out to be an opportunity to better adapt to international standards. Cooperation with these countries takes place through the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen, the purpose of which has always been to give strength and consistency to the ombudsman institutions of the Mediterranean basin, as a secure channel for affirming democracy in the area, as well as to initiate action consisting of international collaboration to cooperate within the framework of the good neighbour policy.

     

    The ombudsman is the friendly voice that listens to us, informs us and, if possible, helps us to improve our lives and solve our problems; and, above all, it is the last hope of dozens of people whom public authorities — culpably, intentionally or accidentally — have passed over them like bulldozers.

     

    Let’s not forget that we are all citizens, whether Spaniards or foreigners, and therefore strengthening our institutions here and there with cooperation projects means strengthening our system of freedoms.