30 August 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Juan Antonio Aunión, from El País, explains his experience in the journalistic reporting workshop he led in Bolivia as part of the project against drug trafficking and human trafficking
Few jobs have such a frenetic pace as that of a journalist. Day-to-day urgencies rarely leave room for reflection on our own work, to think carefully about the things we fail at, the things we do well in, and especially about what we can do to improve. That is why I appreciate my work as a professor at the UAM-El País School of Journalism, because it forces me to reflect on all this. It is also why I accepted, without giving it a second thought, the FIIAPP’s invitation to lead the International Workshop on journalistic reporting on the prevention of drug use and human trafficking, issues that are so important and so serious that they deserve even more care and self-criticism when dealing with them in the media. The workshop was held in La Paz, Bolivia, in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of CONALTID and with the funding of the European Union and the AECID.
In that context, the most logical thing for me to do was to propose, from the beginning, a joint five-day reflection with the participants, about twenty professionals from the Bolivian press, radio and television. Precisely, the diversity of the group (not only because they came from different media, but also because some were very young, newcomers to the trade, while others were seasoned journalists with decades of experience behind them) ended up contributing enormously to the workshop. But it was also the main difficulty, solved, in any case, by the chosen format: brief presentations accompanied by many examples of reference texts, a format which allowed us to immediately put into practice all the ideas and techniques presented, along with a lot of interaction and a lot of dialogue.
This practical task consisted of writing a report about drug use or human trafficking. This enabled us to review the entire journalistic process, from the choice of topic, its development, documentation, field work, to the writing and editing (or in this case, proofreading). This way, we managed to delve deeper into fiction techniques that might enable us to present our work in a deeper and more attractive way, without ever losing sight of the strengths of any journalistic text: honesty, rigour, fact-checking each piece of information and giving the context needed to understand complex realities. That’s on top of striking the essential balance between professional distance and the sensitivity required when dealing with social issues in general, and drugs and human trafficking in particular.
Many of the problems that the students faced are the same ones Spanish professionals face in our daily work: how to approach the characters, how to present the story and make it attractive, what part of the information, obtained with great effort, to leave out to improve the end result, etc. However, others had to do with traits unique to Bolivia, which has its own working conditions and cultural environment, for example the bureaucratic written procedure necessary to request almost any official information. The answers that we all gave to these problems, at the peak of their experience and mine, were the most interesting part of the course, at least for me, and I think it also has a lot to do with the philosophy of the work that FIIAPP does in all the countries it is present in.
Apart from that, my objective for this course was to give the participants a series of tools to tell, in a slightly more attractive and familiar way, both the big stories, those large-scale events that the media relies on, as well as the small everyday stories, those that have to be covered at full speed, but which also deserve, apart from the essential rigour, all the care and affection we can give. Especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as those that have to do with drug use and human trafficking.
Juan Antonio Aunión, El País journalist specialising in social and educational issues
05 July 2018
"Only seven Spaniards live in Kyrgyzstan"
In this interview, José Maté tells us about his life in Kyrgyzstan. The Chief Inspector of the National Police, currently coordinator of the EU-ACT project in the Central Asian area, has previous international experience, since he has two stays in Guinea Bissau and Timor.
How have you adapted to this country?
Much better than expected. Before embarking on the project I searched for information on the internet about the country, its people, culture, gastronomy… and what little information I did find did not correspond with the subsequent reality.
Undoubtedly, Central Asia in general, and Kyrgyzstan in particular, are largely unknown to Europeans, since they are not tourist or business destinations. An example of this is that there are only seven Spaniards living here. However, it is a very interesting country, practically virgin, where more than 90% of the territory is mountains, some more than seven thousand metres high, and with people who are open to foreigners and the changes they may introduce.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to and the easiest?
The most difficult aspect for me has been the weather, because of coming from the Canary Islands and having lived in tropical places, here we have experienced winter days with temperatures of -27ºC.
The least difficult for me has been the change in the food; in Kyrgyzstan they have a completely different variety to Europe, with delicious and economical dishes. In fact, I’ve already gained weight, but since it is so cold I cannot play sports until summer.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No. I was in countries like Timor and Guinea Bissau, both poorer and with more complex idiosyncrasies. In that sense I can say that my quality of life here has been better.
What is your work like and your daily routine?
It is an interesting job but difficult to do. First I must establish relationships with a lot of project beneficiaries belonging to different ministries such as Health, Justice and Interior. Each of them has different formal requirements for cooperation, so the bureaucracy is sometimes exhausting. Then, you must design a work plan that meets their demands, but that is at the same time valid and realistic, that fits in with their needs and our possibilities.
After this, you must move forward with the proposed and agreed activities, which entails its own difficulties, since in this country only Russian is spoken and all the experts who collaborate in our activities must be European. In addition, I must monitor the results and follow-up on the activities. As you can imagine, I do not have time to do everything.
What is your relationship like with headquarters in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Kyrgyzstan?
The relationship with Madrid is daily, there are a thousand things that must be coordinated and achieved and without this understanding and support it would be impossible to carry out this project. Most of it takes place by email, which is nonetheless impersonal and formal, but because of the time difference it is the most useful.
With my colleagues here, the relationship is the simplest and easiest in the world, since I only have one colleague, Zhibek, who works at the desk opposite me. Even so, there are times when we communicate by email, especially when we want to say something urgent and the other one is talking on the phone.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Kyrgyzstan?
It is a positive experience because it gives me the opportunity to get to know this part of the world that I did not know anything about. It is especially interesting for my daughter, who is learning Russian in her new school and also lives with people from other cultures, religions, customs or ways of thinking; being told about something is not the same as living it.
21 June 2018
Teresa Salvador-Llivina has been the director of the COPOLAD programme since its first phase in 2011. The second phase of the drug policy programme, which focuses its annual conference on the gender approach, is currently being implemented
How do you value cooperation in drug policies within the framework of the COPOLAD programme?
The broad coverage of the programme in the 33 countries of the CELAC, has presented a significant number of opportunities for cooperation between the European region and Latin America, covering all drug-related policies. COPOLAD is the first European cooperation programme to do this. While the previous programmes focused on the sector and mainly on reducing the supply of drugs, COPOLAD is based on all the aspects included in the European Union’s 2013-2020 Drug Strategy and its 2017-2020 Action Plan.
That is, we have the opportunity to support the development of balanced, evidence-based policies. We can offer practical support aimed at concepts that have recently emerged in CELAC countries. This programme is truly a public health policy and we can disseminate very positive results.
In all these tasks, we receive key contributions from multilateral agencies, such as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD-OAS) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) as well as bi-regional NGO networks (RIOD and IDPC).
COPOLAD promotes the inclusion of a gender approach into drug policies. How do you see this progress and what are the main challenges?
From its first phase, COPOLAD has always been a programme committed to the inclusion of the gender approach. In fact, we devoted the annual conference of 2013 in Quito, Ecuador, to the gender approach. This conference was a first opportunity to review the situation relating to key aspects in this field. As a result of the conference, a report on the situation in the participating countries was published in 2014.
Since then, some progress has been made in the theoretical recognition of the need to incorporate this approach in all areas of drug policy. COPOLAD is now assessing that progress through a new report.
The third COPOLAD annual conference is also devoted to women and drug policies. What are the problems facing the institutions involved?
Firstly, the institutions responsible for developing these policies must ensure that the measures are based on evidence. Different types of quantitative and qualitative research must be supported to guide effective interventions that are sensitive to women’s needs and priorities.
Secondly, adequate planning is required to ensure that changes are implemented in the field. Alongside this, institutions have to offer training opportunities to ensure the development of the measures included in national strategies and action plans. These include, prevention with a gender perspective, programmes to reduce damage, measures for social inclusion and reforms in the area of justice regarding drug-related crimes committed by women
Finally, policy changes must be accompanied by appropriate budget allocations for the implementation of certain measures and services.
How can the gender perspective and the empowerment of women improve the effectiveness of drug policies? What needs should be addressed?
The drugs-related problems that women face are complex and affect different social groups. Not only those in vulnerable situations, but women of all ages and conditions. This complexity requires a comprehensive approach, and no policy will be complete, balanced, holistic and effective if it fails to take into account the risk factors that affect women and men differently,
What do you think are the best practices on gender approach in Europe, Latin America and in general?
Some promising examples from the EU and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have been presented at this conference. Some include the evaluation of benefits derived from changes in public policies, developed programmes or new services.
I would highlight the slow but significant progress made over the last five years. At this conference, some positive data on how the new policies are contributing to improving the lives of women are encouraging. In addition to the increase in sector programmes and initiatives undertaken by the countries and multilateral institutions present.
How do you see the role of civil society in facilitating the perception of the need for a gender approach in drug policies?
For COPOLAD, according to the EU Action Plan 2017-2018, a constant dialogue must be ensured between the regional and international networks working in the field of drugs, involving civil society in the implementation and evaluation of the action plans as well as in bi-regional dialogues and cooperation programmes such as COPOLAD.
Therefore, we have a bi-regional network (RIOD) and an international one with non-governmental organisations, such as collaborating agencies. Through these, we try to support the increase in participation by civil society in each participating country
What should the focus of future initiatives regarding gender issues be?
The availability of data necessary to differentiate the specificities of drug-related problems between women and men remains limited, as is the evidence of the effectiveness of the responses made. In this context, the consideration of the gender perspective and the empowerment of women as a key element in drug policies continues to be a challenge that must be faced in practice and across the issues involved.
Therefore, research, evaluation of progress, allocation of necessary resources, training programmes and policy changes to ensure respect for women’s rights will improve their social, family, personal and health conditions. This requires a multi-sector approach capable of addressing the main challenges, ensuring coordination among agencies in which the public sector and non-governmental initiatives – led by civil society – ensure the implementation of strategies and programmes focused on equity, and provide services adapted to the individual needs of each girl and woman in our countries.
08 February 2018
"There is a lot to see in Kiev, many attractions. It is the unknown city of Europe"
We discover Kiev (Ukraine) with Manuel Marión, deputy director of the UE-ACT project seconded to the city. He tells us some anecdotes and about his work within the framework of this European Commission-financed project that is managed by FIIAPP and aims to improve cooperation against drug trafficking and organised crime.
How have you adapted to this country?
It is easy to adapt to Kiev, its a large city where you can find everything. In front of my house I can buy good ham – it is not as expensive as you would image given that it is an imported luxury – and I can also buy olive oil and oranges from Spain.
Kiev has lots to see, many attractions: ballet, theatre… it is the great unknown city of Europe. And it would be worth investing in renovating some of the old buildings that are in the same style as those in the centre of Vienna, where I lived for ten years.
For me it is an advantage speaking Russian, I can more or less communicate with people. Despite the political situation and the promotion of the use of Ukrainian, everyone speaks Russian. The people are affectionate, although they do have a hard time opening up. Most of my neighbours do not even say good morning when you meet them in the lift, unless you know them from somewhere. There is a culture of mistrust, people think that everyone else is a spy or an a government agent who wants to pry into their private lives.
What was most difficult for you and what was least difficult?
It has not been the cold that has been most difficult thing for me. Perhaps understanding the logic used to number the buildings and entrances. On one occasion I took my dog to the vet and I could not find the entrance because it was camouflaged, until I saw a small sign in Russian saying: “Yes, this is the door!”
Is this your first experience outside Spain?
I have lived in different countries for many years: El Salvador, Guatemala, Vienna, Ukraine, etc. with spells in Spain and short periods in the Balkans. Your first experience abroad is the one that marks you in a significant way. The poverty – sometimes it is more misery than poverty – that there was in El Salvador made a great impression on me. I lived in a very rural area. I was amazed to see so many boys and girls walking to a distant school in the mornings, wearing immaculate white shirts.
In Guatamala I lived in the capital and what worried me the most was my family’s safety. There were a lot of kidnappings, a lot of people were “finished”, as they used to say on the news when they murdered someone.
What is your work like and your daily routine?
I travel a lot outside Ukraine, to Central Asia as well as to Africa and Europe. I am abroad for about half the month. I attend meetings we organise as part of the project to discuss the drug problem, mainly in five countries: Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Ukraine, Pakistan and Tanzania.
We have an office in Kiev, where I work with two other experts. I prepare reports, read those written by our experts, I support their activities, etc. Everyday I use Skype, WhatsApp or Viber to talk to various experts and counterparts who are in other countries and, of course, with FIIAPP in Madrid. Email is my main work and communication tool.
I recently spent two weeks in Tanzania, coordinating a team of experts from various countries to assess their ability to investigate the growing trafficking of drugs – mainly heroin – that arrive by sea from Afghanistan and then come to Europe. I also looked at their policy on drug use and the treatment of drug addicts. Incidentally, there is a Spanish NGO there working on their rehabilitation.
What is your relationship like with headquarters in Madrid? What about with your colleagues in Ukraine?
Friendly, without any problems. I mainly spend my time working with María, the programme coordinator, as we have an almost daily “battle” against bureaucratic red tape.
Every country has its customs, and the truth is that in Ukraine when you ask for a formal invoice everyone runs a mile. It is impossible. And I have to tell María that I urgently need some services or materials but they will not give me an invoice…
The team is Marta, Iván, David, and Mónica. They are all very nice and efficient in trying to help out. I should also mention Ana and especially Sara, who are a great help in the personnel department. I have worked with both of them for over ten years on other FIIAPP projects. I must also not forget Charo, in FIIAPP’s communications department.
How would you evaluate your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate in Ukraine?
It is a unique opportunity. Due to my frequent trips I do not spend much time in Kiev and I would like to get to know more about its culture, its beauty spots, museums, theatres and its surroundings. Kiev allows me to practice my Russian, which I have been studying for ten years. I travel to many Russian-speaking countries with the project and I am really pleased that I can speak their language. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and those times still have a great influence on the country, you have to live in these cultures to get to know them well.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?
One thing I noticed when I first arrived was seeing grandfathers and grandmothers working. Elderly people, retired people, their pensions are tiny and they cannot live on them. They have to keep on working at whatever they can, until they cannot work any longer as they are too old: they sell fruit, vegetables…so they can scrape together a few grivnas to live off.
At the bottom of the stairs in the metro stations there are old women “watching” to ensure everything is going well. The building caretakers are usually grandmothers, aged 70 or older. And it is impossible to see how they can do their job…The caretakers in my building – there are four who work in shifts and they work day and night – they subjected me to an interrogation to see who I was.
I was also struck by the fact that people are usually very reserved and seem sad. Although – and it can be contradictory – they like to party, just like we do, and there is a lot of night life, although not until as late as in Madrid. I really like salsa music and dancing and few cities have so many venues with Caribbean music and people to go dancing with.
06 October 2017
Posteado en : Opinion
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, transparency and the exchange of information, 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.
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.
 BEPS Inclusive Framework
 Standard on transparency and exchange of information
Isaac Gonzalo Arias, Director of Cooperation and International Taxation of the CIAT
02 March 2017
We interview Javier Vega to learn about his experience on the African continent.
In our second article in the series on FIIAPP Expatriates, we interview Javier Vega-Barral, project officer of Application of the Rule of Law in the Horn of Africa and Yemen since 2016.
The objective of this project is to strengthen capacities and regional cooperation in counter-terrorism in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, focussing on training of the State security forces and their relationship to the rule of law. The project led by FIIAPP, as the European Commission’s delegated entity, includes the participation of agencies from the United Kingdom, France and Italy, and enjoys the support of the Ministry of the Interior (Secretariat of State for Security-SES), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and the Ministry of Justice.
We talk to him about the project and his personal experience on the ground.
How was your arrival in the country?
I had already been in Nairobi for work, but as part of a short mission. So I already had some idea of the new environment, but obviously that idea was just a small slice of what it really means to be living in Nairobi.
Despite having been informed about my new field assignment in advance, I couldn’t help feeling that there was something I needed to finish before departing. I left my family behind during the first months to prepare for their arrival, but in parallel I was deeply involved in the different project tasks.
I arrived at the Nairobi airport at night, with the project manager (from the Ministry of the Interior) waiting to pick me up. It was raining hard that night, a typical rainy equatorial night. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but it was the first and only night of torrential rains that I had experienced up to then. It marked the end of the “long rains” season, which was especially unrelenting in 2016. But since then, almost all precipitation has been sporadic and has not kept drought from having been declared recently in a good part of Kenya, including Nairobi.
In those first months, I devoted myself exclusively to setting up the project office, establishing relationships with institutions to reinforce the work started by the project manager. I spent my free time arranging my definitive living situation and preparing for my family’s arrival.
What was the hardest thing you faced upon arriving?
The work we do on the ground by definition requires us to be multitaskers. So, at the same time as I was working with the experts on the content of the project, as a FIIAPP representative my main responsibility was to set up the project office and maintain strict control over the allocation and use of project funds.
That task is not just logistical but also one that involves intense institutional relations work. Due to the very nature of the activities and of the project, it’s impossible to separate institutional and personal relationships.
The professional profile of the various people involved makes it a closed and restricted circle in which you have to generate a significant level of trust before the institutions we want to work with will open their doors to us. We can never forget that we are foreigners and that in a matter as delicate as counter-terrorism, establishing a relationship of trust is an urgent and key task for being able to implement what the EU has entrusted to FIIAPP.
Another factor to consider is the fact that the EU is a relatively new actor in the region in terms of security issues. To overcome this unfamiliarity with the EU, it was essential to deploy recognised experts. These experts are from their same professional world and are capable of sharing common experiences, but with different perspectives and approaches, and, ultimately, capable of providing added value to their daily work.
Lastly, I would highlight the fact that, as this is a regional project, we cover an area of 5.7 million km2 with a population of 250 million inhabitants with racial, ethnic and religious differences which are often a source of conflict. This work of forming personal relationships implies the need for direct familiarity with the region and the people, and for maintaining contacts over time.
Being located in Nairobi helps to maintain these contacts, the face-to-face aspect, which is so important in local cultures for generating the necessary bonds of trust, and it requires an absolute availability to travel in the region. Due to the region’s infrastructure, these trips can often turn out to be more gruelling treks that you can imagine.
And the easiest part?
I don’t think anything has really been easy, but it is true that we are seeing good acceptance and a positive first assessment of the efforts of the EU, through FIIAPP, and of Spanish public administrations and the member states involved in the implementation of our activities.
On a personal level, I have to say that a Spanish passport opens many doors, or at least keeps them from closing. The reasons are various. Without a doubt, the fact that we have not had a historic presence in the region, the image of our society as an example of coexistence and overcoming backwardness or limitations, and even the positive image associated with the athletic achievements of the last decade, which I call “sport diplomacy”, positively affect our image, and that makes it easier to approach third parties.
How do you rate the experience of working as an expatriate?
Personally, and while it sounds less glamorous, I believe that we expatriates are first and foremost immigrants and that, as such, we face similar situations regardless of the reasons we had for leaving our country. In turn, migration conditions today are totally different; communication media makes it so that, thousands of kilometres away, people can maintain relationships on an almost daily basis with the reality of their country of origin. The expatriate or emigrant becomes an expert on Skype, Whatsapp and FaceTime connections.
In turn, the Internet makes it possible to stay in contact with Spanish society itself. I think that is extremely important, as one of the risks of being far from Spain is that we concentrate on our daily work and forget that we also represent our institutions, and for this reason, it is essential to take the pulse of Spanish and European societies.
Professionally, being abroad is an experience that I can only recommend; it allows contact with other cultures, but also helps you to acquire the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, which on a professional level means you to have more rapid and flexible responses to the unexpected, especially when working in international or multicultural environments.
And how do you rate doing this through an organisation like FIIAPP?
Working with FIIAPP means having access to the best professionals in the Spanish public administration, and thereby strengthening the presence of Spain, even in places where we previously have not had a significant presence, but which are geo-strategically very important for the EU as a whole and therefore also for our country.
Re-establishing security in the Horn of Africa and strengthening the rule of law should not be considered remote matters, as the impact on Spain can be direct. To illustrate, the majority of maritime traffic from Asia passes through the Red Sea and the waters of the Horn, and places like Valencia and Barcelona are some of the main destination ports for these Asian goods. Likewise, we all have heard about the problems that affected the Spanish fishing fleet some years ago in the Indian Ocean and which led to implementation of Operation Atalanta. Piracy in the region is closely linked to the phenomenon of terrorism. Terrorist recruitment in the Horn of Africa is also worth highlighting, not only in order to operate in the zone but also in order to combat it in the Sahel, and Libya in particular. Therefore, the challenges facing the states of the region are major, which, no doubt, adds relevance to the support provided by FIIAPP.
We would like to know more about the human side of your experience. Is there anything else you want to tell us?
Apart from my activity in FIIAPP, I had the opportunity to become familiar with some associations that focus on promoting employment for single mothers. As is the case all over the world, children are always the most vulnerable members of society. But in Africa this situation is, if possible, even more severe. It’s not rare to see destitute five- to ten-year children wandering the streets. Their powerlessness makes them particularly vulnerable to all types of abuses, and begging becomes their principal means of subsistence. The factors that lead to this situation are various, but in many cases these are the children of single mothers with no employment prospects.
In the area of Kangemi, a slum area, there is an association that does noteworthy work to support mothers, but also children, by increasing household income. An association called Mama Africa started a sewing workshop for women to develop basic skills that will give these women access to employment and to financial resources. Thanks to the efforts of this association, their work can be purchased in a shop located in the Kangemi neighbourhood, and it is also starting to become available in several shops in Nairobi.