04 April 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
We interviewed Pansy Tlakula, the High Commissioner in South Africa for the right of access to information, during the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, in which EUROsociAL+ also participated.
How important is the right of access to public information for human rights and democracy?
Access to information is the key to enjoying other rights. You cannot enjoy social and economic rights without the right of access to information; and, moreover, it is also important for the right to vote. For all these reasons, it is fundamental to the human rights system.
From the historical point of view, what has been the importance of this right for South African citizens?
In this case, it is important to bear in mind the country’s sad history with apartheid and racial segregation. That is why, in 1994, when the people became free, one of the first things done was to make sure that the “culture of secrecy” ended. One of the first laws we adopted after gaining freedom promoted access to information.
Can we highlight any relevant cases relating to public information that have been historically important in South Africa?
I think the most important case in this regard occurred last year. Several civil society organisations had asked the political parties to disclose the source of their funding and, initially, they refused. Then, an organisation called Right2Know took the case to court, which determined that the right of access to information is fundamental to the right to vote. In order for citizens to exercise the right to vote, they must be able to access information about the financing of political parties.
EUROsociAL+, the programme financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, has presented its experience in supporting the Transparency Network in Latin America (RTA) at the conference. In Africa, there is a plan to create a similar network. How do you think the creation of a similar network on the continent would be beneficial?
I think the network is very important and the collaboration between countries in Africa and Latin America is significant because it is South-South cooperation. For example, these past couple of days, when we held our first meeting on establishing the African Network of Information Commissioners, our colleagues from the Latin American network explained how they had established their network.
Let’s talk about gender and the right of access to information: How important is this right for women in South Africa and throughout Africa?
I think it is very important for women throughout the world, for example, if we look at the rights related to reproductive and sexual health; in this case, women and girls cannot benefit from these rights if they do not have enough information. If they knew about it, they would be able to face the specific health challenges that these issues entail.
And some of them can be easily resolved by giving women access to information, so this year, at the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, we gave a presentation on the importance of access to information for vulnerable groups: on how this impacts women and people with disabilities. Personally, I believe that access to information has a positive impact on everyone, including vulnerable groups.
14 March 2019
Posteado en : Reportage
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.
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.
16 August 2018
Posteado en : Entrevista
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.
31 May 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
A number of projects managed by FIAPP are taking part in the European Development Days 2018, with gender equality as the overarching theme
“Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development: protect, empower, invest” is the slogan chosen for the European Development Days 2018, which will be held next week in Brussels. On 5 and 6 June, the capital of Europe will also be the capital of development.
This is because, this year, the days organized by the European Commission have gender equality as their central theme. As well as promoting the participation of women in the various forums, this edition hopes to make this a safer, more open and more inclusive world for all of them.
The most important development event in the world, which is open to the public, will pack 500 meetings into two days, in which more than 2,600 speakers will take part. Among them will be 7 Nobel laureates and 100 world leaders. FIAPP will also be attending the European Development Days (EDD) to represent four of the projects that it manages: EUROsociAL+, Bridging the Gap, Triangular Cooperation and EUROCLIMA+.
The EUROsociAL+ programme promotes cooperation and dialogue between the European Union and Latin America on promoting public policies to improve social cohesion and reduce inequality in Latin America.
However, for Enrique Martínez, Communication technician for the programme, “these public policies are only effective when they attack the inequality gap between men and women, a challenge and a goal that are strongly etched into the EUROsociAL+ DNA”.
This is why, in Brussels, the programme is sharing three advances in gender equality policies, in Paraguay and Mexico and, at the regional level, in Latin America. In addition European transfer on this subject.
The executive director of the Social Cabinet of the Office of the President of Paraguay, Mirta Denis, the executive secretary of the Mexican Institute for Women, Marcela Eternod, the director of Fundación Género y Sociedad, Ana Isabel García Quesada, and the French State Counsellor, Marisol Touraine, make up “100% female EUROsociAL+ panel as a contribution to this collective journey to full equality”, said Martínez. In addition, the round table discussion will be opened and closed by Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development.
The Bridging the gap project is also taking part in the 2018 European Development Days, with a session on Women on the rise – no one left behind!, organized jointly by the EU Social Protection Systems Programme and the NGO Light for the World. This is the presentation video:
The aim of this session, according to Carmen Serrano, the project’s communications technician, is to “show that, in spite of the two-fold discrimination that disabled women face, they are spearheading sustainable development in low-income countries”. Four women will therefore share their experiences of gender and disability issues based on the different viewpoints tackled by the three viewpoints structuring the session: Social protection, leadership and entrepreneurship, and access to work and economic empowerment. It will be moderated by Hisayo Katsui, a researcher into and expert teacher on disabilities.
However, said Serrano, “The aim of presenting “Bridging the Gap” at this great European event is not just to share experiences but to create a dialogue and reflection on the role of women with disabilities in their communities”. This is why they have chosen to use the format of a Brainstorming lab. For 75 minutes, there will be constant interaction between the speakers and the audience so as to collect inputs and ideas on how everyone can create awareness among those around them of the contribution that women with disabilities can make to society.
The Evalúa project, which seeks to promote Public Policy Evaluation in Latin America and the Caribbean, will attend the EDD’s for the first time to talk about some of the results obtained since its inception in 2014.
The project coordination team will attend this international cooperation forum to present one of its most recent projects, the results of the evaluation of the Costa Rican Gender Equality Policy. Also, the management, led by the Ministry of Planning (MIDEPLAN) evaluation team, will be represented by Ericka Valerio, from the Evaluation and Monitoring department.
The project is part of the ADELANTE programme, which aims to improve integration in Latin American and Caribbean countries and to contribute to their reaching their development goals (SDG). The EDD will be an important place for presenting the major conclusions and recommendations of that public policy evaluation and the planned use of this evaluation as an input to the following stages.
According to Alina Orrico, a project technician, “It is especially important to take part in this event, in which there are much fewer Latin American experiences than from other continents and, above all, because it is taking place in a year filled with emotions, demands and allusions to the need to present tangible answers that will guarantee gender equality.”
EUROCLIMA+ is the European Commission’s regional programme to promote environmentally sustainable development in Latin America. This action benefits the most vulnerable population groups, focusing in particular on gender, the impoverished rural population and indigenous peoples.
During the event, a video will be projected on Gender and Climate Change and an information map of Latin America will be drawn using gender-related information.
EUROCLIMA+ helps countries to develop their Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs to the Paris Agreement. NDCs reflect the commitment of the international community to facing up to the effects of climate change.
According to Alexandra Cortés, an expert in Communication and Visibility for the programme, NDCs “promote the inclusion of climate action in a policy framework that can lead to economic growth and social development, in addition to protecting the environment and climatic resilience”.
05 April 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
In the last stage of the journey with EUROsociAL+, we head to San Vicente del Caguán to attend the inauguration of the NAF
The municipality of San Vicente del Caguán has been particularly affected by armed conflict. Its inhabitants are trying to free themselves from the stigma of living in a ‘land of guerrillas’. The town was at the heart of the El Caguán demilitarised zone—–where the army would not enter–—during the Andrés Pastrana administration, something which allowed FARC to consolidate is influence in the region.
We are now heading there to inaugurate an NAF. The three-hour journey from Florencia passes through idyllic landscapes peppered with military roadblocks. Stories of armed conflict are inevitable: “presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped making this same journey, three days after Pastrana broke off contacts with the FARC”, “the parliamentarian Diego Turbay was killed here a few minutes before arriving at the town of Puerto Rico”.
A car crosses our path, a strange manoeuvre which puts us on our guard. The suspicious vehicle has changed lanes to access a farm. False alarm. These are new times, but past fears have not abated. There are still FARC splinter groups who have not abandoned their weapons.
Taxes for development
The NAF is located in a citizen coexistence centre which offers services to vulnerable people: a family commissioner, police inspection, coordinating council meetings, a victim assistance unit, and so on. The mayor of San Vicente del Caguán, who opposes the peace agreements, is currently in Europe to see the lessons learnt in Northern Ireland first-hand. A total of 53% of the population of Caquetá voted against the agreement, so reconciliation has a long and difficult road ahead.
We are met by Cecilia Collazos, the acting mayor and social development secretary. In her view, tax fraud is mainly due to a culture of avoiding paying taxes: “rather than difficulties understanding the tax system, what there is here is a culture of non-payment and hiding real income in order to avoid taxes. The peace agreements have brought some changes, but there is still extortion, there are still splinter guerilla groups in the area. Real peace is achieved through projects, investment and employment”.
For Cristián, who studies accounting, the NAFs are very useful for his future career: “the accounting component focuses mainly on taxation, and the NAFs give us the chance to offer guidance to people with low incomes and so they can then be competitive in a market like San Vicente del Caguán, where there are a lot of businesses and lots of accountants are needed”. For Cristián, it’s obvious that development and taxation go hand in hand: “if we want social investment, we need to contribute by paying taxes. It will be difficult and we will encounter a lot of opposition at the start, but we will gradually provide a good service for the well-being of communities”.
The creation of the NAF is met with satisfaction from the business sector in San Vicente. This is the message we get from César Augusto España, coordinator of the Business Services Centre at the Chamber of Commerce of Caquetá: “We are three hours from Florence, where the DIAN (Colombian National Taxes and Customs Directorate) has its offices, and the NAF will expedite the process of fiscal formalisation in all municipalities”. España argues that “there is resistance to paying taxes due to limited access to public services and the scarce presence of the State. A full 98 per cent of companies in Caquetá are micro-enterprises and tax revenues are low, but the peace agreements are starting to stimulate the economy: in 2017, these companies grew by 34%”.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Despite the many obstacles, Hernando Vásquez, District Director for the DIAN, is optimistic about the new state of affairs: “I have been to almost 80 per cent of municipalities and I have encountered more receptivity. The public are asking us to assist and guide them in voluntarily meeting their tax obligations”.
Long-lasting peace and economic development are what the inhabitants of Caquetá most long for. A fertile, hospitable land with enormous potential for rural tourism and agricultural development, with a real desire to show that its fate is not sealed and that things can be different. It is now up to them to take the necessary steps to regain security and social cohesion.
It is also up to the institutions, who must forge a new relationship between the State and citizens based on reciprocity, a process in which civic-tax education will be enormously useful as a communication channel between the two.
Citizens and institutions both know that if they wait for the other side to do something, the vicious cycle of ‘not paying taxes-scarce public services-mistrust of the State’ could go on forever. To find a way out of the labyrinth of the post-conflict, it is necessary to move forward decisively with our sights set on a better future.
Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Expert in Democratic Governance for the EUROsociAL+ Programme
Read the first two parts:
15 March 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Education is a key factor in transforming the tax culture in those regions most seriously affected by the armed conflict. We continue our journey with EUROsociAL+ in Caquetá (Colombia)
The National Taxes and Customs Directorate (DIAN) in Caquetá knows that coercion will not get it anywhere, what it needs to do is convince. With only ten auditors, there is no way it can be breathing down every taxpayer’s neck. It needs to build bridges. It needs carrots as well as sticks.
The tax incentives created to promote formalisation and investment must therefore be accompanied by better tax information and assistance for citizens, as well as a good dose of education on the social purpose of taxes and public spending. Teaching children about taxes from an early age can make this process sustainable, and over the long-term, contribute to voluntary compliance with tax obligations.
For several years, the DIAN has been promoting meetings with children and young people on tax culture in schools in Caquetá and it holds tax services events to raise awareness of its role and get closer to the public. New opportunities are arising to consolidate and multiply these efforts through universities in the form of the Tax Assistance Hub project (NAF in its Spanish acronym).
University as a bridge between the DIAN and citizens
Last November, EUROsociAL+ – the European Union’s regional cooperation programme with Latin America – organised a workshop at the University of the Amazon in Florence dedicated to promoting post-conflict tax culture strategies. It was attended by tertiary education institutions and DIAN sections from the Areas Most Affected by the Armed Conflict in Colombia (Zomac).
The University of the Amazon is a unique institution. It is the only public university in Caquetá. It is strongly committed to the peace process, the environment and sustainable development.
Its Public Accounting Programme has joined the post-conflict challenge by creating a Tax Assistance Hub (NAF), an information point where university students give free tax and accounting advice to people with low incomes and micro entrepreneurs.
Trained by the tax administration, the students dedicate as much time as necessary to citizens, listening to their problems and concerns. They generate trust and help them understand the tax system and improve their small businesses.
NAFs are a bridge between the DIAN and the public. This experiment, devised in Brazil, is now present in more than 450 universities in 10 countries. In Colombia, 43 universities have joined, 20 of them in ZOMAC areas.
In the past 4 years, EUROsociAL has been supporting the expansion of this initiative by sharing experiences. The workshop in Florencia gave the opportunity to share lessons learned that can be applied to the post-conflict.
Young people as drivers of change
Hernando Vásquez, District Director with the DIAN sees the NAFs as a way for young people to transform the current situation: “The NAFs are an opportunity to generate trust in the tax administration and create civic awareness about taxes. What better way to give future accountants, administrators and lawyers a real view of what is happening?”.
The students attend campus every day and also visit business in Florencia and the surrounding municipalities. This allows them to see the reality of the post-conflict and the opportunities that peace brings for the development of the region.
One of the NAF students tells us about their experience: “Caquetá was badly affected by the armed conflict. We now have the opportunity to get to places that were inaccessible until now, and make Colombians from other regions and foreigners see that Caquetá wants to give the best of itself. Paying taxes means contributing to ourselves”.
And the student continues: “Business owners had the excuse that they shouldn’t pay taxes due to the armed conflict. But those excuses are no longer valid. We have gone to NAFs in some of the most difficult places such as San Vicente del Caguán or Cartagena del Chairá, where people are preparing for the law to be enforced more stringently. We need to show what taxes are used for and for farmers or businesspeople to see that taxes build roads to make their work easier”.
This reality is not alien to that of other areas affected by armed conflict, areas that share their experiences at the workshop. Natalia is another of the young people working in the NAFs in ZOMAC areas, in this case in Ibagué: “It’s really rewarding to help someone in need, someone who doesn’t know how to read or write, let alone use a computer, and for them to go away happy with their new knowledge“.
Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Expert in Democratic Governance for the EUROsociAL+ Programme