• 16 May 2019


    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Rafael Ríos

    Rafael Ríos, coordinator of A-TIPSOM: the fight against people trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria, explains how he has been adapting to the country, what his daily routine is like, and what it is like to work as a FIIAPP expatriate.

    How long have you been in Nigeria? How have you adapted to this country?


    I arrived on 16 July 2018. When you arrive in a new country, as you can imagine, it is not always easy. I remember hearing about other projects, from other colleagues who had been in or were in other countries, who said “the beginning is always the hardest”. For me this has been a bit simpler, or less complicated, and I’ll tell you why. In this country we already had the embassy staff, and they helped us with everything from the outset, arriving in the country, accreditations, looking for accommodation, the office, etc. We spent almost four months in a small office that they kindly lent us until we were able to move. I wish you could count on this kind of support every time you started a project.


    What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?


    The hardest part was perhaps the second week. During the first week everything is frenetic, you have so many things on your plate… But the second week was like coming back down to Earth. That’s when I really started to realize where I was, and the step that I’d taken. Such a long project with so many important challenges. The easiest thing was perhaps meeting people, dealing with the Nigerians, who I think are happy people who enjoy their country and who, in general, welcome newcomers quite readily.


    Is this your first experience outside of Spain?


    No, it’s not. Belonging to the National Police gives you opportunities like this, discovering other countries and destinations, doing what you enjoy and what you know best. Previously I’d done different jobs in African countries, on short-term missions in Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, as well as in Europe, in Italy to be precise.


    In light of this, is this proving to be very different to your previous missions?


    The concept behind this mission is quite different. This one is long-term and involves a permanent deployment in another country plus working as an expert for FIIAPP .  It’s something else entirely, and it’s a big professional challenge for me, since what we are trying to achieve with this project is very alluring, and at the same time very ambitious .


    What is your work like, your daily routine?


    Honestly, I think it’s not that different. Here, because of the hot weather, you get up and start work quite early. We get to the office, have meetings, go out to the different places we need to visit as part of the project. Usually we have lunch at the office and return home in mid-afternoon.


    Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?


    As I said, it is a job that requires a lot of contact with one’s counterparts,which means you are often out of the office, and I find that quite interesting.


    What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid?


    Great! I would say that, in addition to having a great professional relationship, we talk every day, we share ideas, etc. We have even created bonds that are enabling us to achieve better results in the project, of that I am sure.


    And with your colleagues in Nigeria?


    The same. Several months on, the team in the field has been growing, with Nigerian personnel, which helps us a lot to understand their way of working, what they’re like, their customs.


    How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?


    It is very positive so far. I think it is helping me to understand how an institution like FIIAPP copes with so many projects and with the scope of the work it does. The training, its structure and its values are enabling me to acquire knowledge. When you belong to an institution like the National Police, sometimes you focus so much on your professional life that you do not realize how work is done elsewhere, so the project is helping to train me both professionally and personally .


    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?


    Well, I could tell you several, but I’ll just say that I like saying good morning and learning new words in a dialect called Hausa, and in the building where we work I usually see two young people who like to teach me words like that: good morning, let’s go, go ahead… and it makes them laugh when they hear me pronounce them… Inakwana, which means good morning, is part of the day-to-day.

  • 09 September 2016


    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Cooperation is such an enormous ocean that an individual contribution can seem insignificant”

    El día 8 de septiembre, se celebra el Día del Cooperante.

    The 8th of September is the International Volunteers Day.

    Thousands of professionals, through their work, are fighting against poverty, for sustainable development and a fairer world. Nearly three thousand of them, according to the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), are Spaniards.

    One of them is Santiago García-Noblejas, Chief Inspector of the National Police. He has worked on international cooperation projects with the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) since 2002 and, as he himself recognises, has been interested in the international sector for nearly his entire life.

    In this interview, he tells us about his experiences with FIIAPP and his experiences in the world of international cooperation.

    How many countries have you visited whilst working on FIIAPP projects?

    With FIIAPP projects, just three. I have implemented projects as a coordinator. At first, I was called a PAA, which means Pre-Accession Adviser, and later I was called an RTA, Resident Twinning Adviser. The two titles refer to the coordinator of Twinning projects in the field.


    In which countries?

    I started in Slovenia, from December 2002 to December 2003, with a very short but very nice project that turned out quite successfully. In fact, the results have lasted over time, as the bilateral relations with the country have continued. We could talk of the sustainability we hear so much about now.

    Later, from June 2004 to June 2005, I was in Lithuania with another short but very nice project.

    And lastly I was in Bulgaria, where the project had a larger scope, with a duration of two years, from June 2006 to June 2008.

    What were the objectives of each of your projects?

    In Slovenia and Lithuania, the projects were focused on the creation of international cooperation structures within the European Union, therefore within these two countries we worked on creating the future SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request and National Entry) office, which is a type of cooperation office that exists in each of the Schengen countries. The office works to streamline urgent police cooperation that is established in the Schengen space. Above all, we worked on the creation of the European Police (EUROPOL) office in Slovenia.

    In addition, the project helped, first, to make sure that the country complied with the European standards required at that time and, second, to provide training to the police officials who were going to be assigned to the EUROPOL national offices cooperating with the rest of the countries.

    In Bulgaria the project was much more technical, because it was really a matter of training the Bulgarian officials on the Schengen border control procedures. At the same time, the project helped with computerisation of the system that had been in use in the country up until then for screening people, the Schengen Information System (SIS).

    How did you get interested in this type of project and in institutional cooperation?

    The truth is that there is no one single motivation. In my particular case, I have had an international inclination since I was very young. I was a bit frustrated because my parents couldn’t afford trips abroad. When I was 15, 16 or 18, there was no Erasmus programme; there weren’t the possibilities that exist today.

    I’ve always had that itch, and I’ve always wanted to get out there, go beyond.

    And I achieved it thanks to my talent for languages and international public relations, and the fact that my family gave me its support and has always been willing to follow me on these adventures. I knew that by leaving my normal professional circle, I was going to enjoy a prestige that, at that time, wasn’t easy to attain…

    Santiago García-Noblejas con su equipo de trabajo en Lituania
    Santiago García-Noblejas with his work team in Lithuania


    How did your relationship with FIIAPP projects start?

    It was a bit of a coincidence. They had proposed that I work on another European Union project in a Caribbean country that later didn’t pan out. So, at that moment, the Directorate-General of the Police was starting to work on Twinning projects, and FIIAPP was there managing the budget and providing logistical support to the work of the experts participating in these projects. Since I wasn’t going to the Caribbean project, they offered me the one in Slovenia. I found it very exciting and I don’t think it took me even five seconds to say that my bags were packed and I was on board. Even in the first meeting that we had, FIIAPP was present.

    At that time, I didn’t know about FIIAPP; I knew Eva Suárez, who was the officer managing the project in Slovenia. She helped me tremendously because she was a great organizer and, for me, the face and the soul of the Foundation. Thanks to Eva, I became much closer to FIIAPP, the project with Slovenia turned out very well, I met tons of people at FIIAPP, and since then have had professional and personal relationships with many other workers.

    What would you like to highlight about all these experiences in international cooperation projects?

    I can’t put it into words, believe me. Personally, it has meant becoming a person with abilities, ideas and a level of development that I feel completely satisfied with. I credit a big part of my personality and my current happiness to having worked in the international cooperation.

    Because it’s given me the opportunity to learn about countries, cultures, people—some good, some bad, others fair—to summarise… cooperation has made me grow as a  person.

    What is clear is that I have a different perspective on problems and situations, to a great extent, I think, thanks to having been exposed to the influence of other cultural norms and ways of working. It’s very difficult to explain it. It would take a book to explain all of this.

    What is your assessment of international cooperation?

    The assessment is great; the thing is that it’s like a vast sea, where a small contribution from an individual can seem insignificant or of little value when taken on its own.

    However, these types of international cooperation relationships, what they do is open up many roads and facilitate many tasks that come later.

    And I’m going to give you an example: whilst I was at my last destination as an attaché of the Ministry of the Interior at the Spanish embassy in Romania, the European basketball championship was held in Slovenia; so I proposed to the Slovenian Minister of the Interior the idea of assisting the Spanish citizens, and those of other countries participating in the championship, who were going to come to see the matches. The idea was to establish a cooperation mechanism in which police from Spain and other countries would work with the Slovenian police to provide direct support to the security needs of the citizens arriving as tourists to watch the matches. We implemented it, and it was phenomenal to the point that the idea was used again at the European football finals in Bucharest and at the world basketball championship in France. For me, that’s an example of international cooperation. The citizens got an additional public service, paid for, moreover, by their taxes, outside of their country.

    Now you’re working on getting involved in a new FIIAPP-managed project in Myanmar. Where are you with that?

    Well, we’re working and negotiating. We’re going to have meetings with the beneficiaries, the Myanmar police, and with the European Union delegation to coordinate and clarify some issues that still aren’t nailed down.

    My hope and dream is to be able to start the project there and for people in Myanmar to learn about the Spanish.

    In this case, the project is very broad. Following the philosophy of the new democratic government now in power in the country, we are going to participate and assist in the comprehensive process of reforming the country’s administration.  In our case, we’re going to collaborate in the process of reforming the country’s police, by orienting it towards offering a public service. Because up until now, the police were directly linked to the army; it was a police force very focused on protecting the state but not on protecting citizens. It’s a question of establishing a series of democratic controls over the police and giving them training that is more oriented towards respect for human rights.