• 16 September 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    South-South Cooperation. From and for the South

    According to the Ibero-American Secretariat General (SEGIB), South-South cooperation, in practice, is regarded as “a form of independent cooperation that offers strategic partnerships, under conditions of horizontality, between equals, to achieve common goals”.

    To celebrate the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, we interviewed SEGIB's Social Cohesion and South-South Cooperation Coordinator, Martín Rivero. His work is focused on the day-to-day aspects of projects from and for the South.

    What is South-South cooperation?

    It’s the horizontal cooperation that countries in the South, in the broad sense of the word, undertake among themselves to try to resolve some of their development dilemmas with solutions applicable to their most concrete needs.

     

    When did the trend of South-South cooperation get started?

    There are various ways of approaching this. On one hand, with a more complete chronology, covering more than 50 years of history. The 1954 Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Bandung is considered the start of South-South cooperation in the broadest sense.

     

    On the other, in the last decade and a half, let’s say from the start of this century, there has been a very significant intensification of the number of international events and South-South cooperation projects recorded on the planet. To give you an idea, in just the past five or six years there have been more international events and global conferences on South-South cooperation than in the entire previous 60 years.

     

    South-South cooperation has a very long history, going back to that Bandung Conference, and it passed a very important milestone at the Buenos Aires Conference in 1978 with the establishment of the Buenos Aires Action Plan, which will be 40 years-old next year.

     

    How many projects and countries has South-South cooperation moved in recent years?

    The Ibero-American Secretariat General, SEGIB, based here in Madrid, which includes 22 Ibero-American countries (Spain, Portugal, Andorra and all of Latin America, from Mexico to Chile, including the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries, i.e. Cuba and the Dominican Republic) represents the only region in the world that systematically records the South-South cooperation projects that take place.

     

    SEGIB has been recording them for eight years in the Ibero-American South-South cooperation report. This reflects all the South-South cooperation undertaken between countries.

     

    The latest cooperation report, published last year, recorded 580 South-South cooperation projects and more than 400 initiatives, which are smaller projects. So we’re talking about over 900 initiatives involving this type of cooperation in the region in just the past year.

     

    In the rest of the world, it’s very difficult to map it and establish precise data. We have estimations or national reports of what China, South Africa, or Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia or Turkey, might be doing. There are also very active countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which have a significant volume of South-South cooperation, but there are no regional records like we have in our Ibero-American region.

     

    Which countries lead in South-South cooperation?

    The six leading countries of the region are Brazil, which holds a prominent place, as well as Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Although, all Latin America countries have South-South cooperation projects, there is a strong concentration in these six countries, accounting for 90-92% of all projects.

     

    Another interesting thing to see in these SEGIB reports is that all countries receive South-South cooperation, which is a very characteristic element and something to highlight because we’re talking about horizontal cooperation. With this type of cooperation, often one country has greater weight, more power, more resources or a higher degree of relative development in a theme, but both participating countries benefit and learn from that process. In other words, the benefit is mutual, and it’s not a donor-recipient relationship, as was traditionally established. In South-South cooperation, equality is not just an ideological position but also a reality; in practice, both countries benefit.

     

    In addition, many countries can be very powerful but perhaps not have the same degree of relative development across the board. Therefore, many smaller countries can present opportunities for learning and benefits in areas that are very useful for other countries with a higher degree of relative development.

     

    I think we are going to see a greater intensity in the future, even South-North cooperation, that is, countries in the South who start to provide advising, aid, cooperation and technical solutions to more developed countries.

     

    Can you give us an example of successful South-South cooperation?

    There are always some projects that are nicer and more interesting than others. Speaking of Latin American, there are three clearly-identified thematic blocks: the social area, with poverty-reduction, education, health or housing policies; the economic and agricultural development area; and lastly, the one related to the quality of institutions, governance, transparency, tax issues, and all the rest.

    To give some examples of both extremes, in the social area, there is one underway in Brazil that we at SEGIB have particular affection for; it has to do with a network of 70 human milk banks in the region. In this network, women who produce more milk than they need for their own children donate this milk to children who aren’t getting enough to meet their nutritional needs, either because their mothers don’t produce enough milk or because they’re orphans.

    A second example is a system of managing transplants in the Southern Cone, the region between Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. It’s a very sophisticated and highly technical system that works very well in this region.

    Then there are a vast number of themes, for example, agricultural production, improving rice harvests at family farming level, and projects related to improving tax systems, the quality of public policies, training of civil servants, etc.

    In other words, the breadth of projects has to do with the region’s capacities, but also with the region’s needs. The countries of the region often demand solutions that are applicable to their specific reality. That is, they don’t seek the best solution in the world, because if they did, every country would always look for cooperation from the Nordic countries, Germany, or countries that common sense tells us are much more developed.

     

    Often we say: which are the countries that have recently developed a solution to the same problem I have but with the ability to make it successful? Sometimes one can have a fantastic solution, but later it can’t be used because it requires a great deal of resources and sophisticated technology. That famous international solution is of little use to me if it’s not applicable to my concrete reality because of my geographical characteristics, my language, my technological abilities, etc.

    Very often, there are interesting cases of countries that one associates with a particular problem and, precisely because they have this problem, they have developed the ability to combat it.

  • 22 July 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    Fifty-thousand people asked the Ombudsman to take action in 2015

    El Defensor del Pueblo es el organismo encargado de defender los derechos fundamentales y las libertades públicas de los ciudadanos.

    Se trata de una institución independiente que, como tal, desempeña sus funciones con independencia e imparcialidad, con autonomía y según su criterio. Además, el Defensor del Pueblo ha colaborado con la FIIAPP en diferentes proyectos de cooperación internacional. El último sobre la puesta en marcha de la oficina del Defensor del Pueblo en Turquía.

    Soledad Becerril, the Ombudsman since 2012, was the first woman to hold the office in Spain.  In this interview, she tells us what the work of the Ombudsman’s Office consists of:

     

    Do all citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office?

    All citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office, on a non-discriminatory basis and, we hope, without any type of difficulty. Because, for submitting their complaints, they have toll-free numbers they can call, they can write to us directly by sending a letter, come into the Ombudsman’s Office physically to explain their problem and, of course they can also do so via Internet, using e-mail or through our website.

     

    What types of complaints does the Ombudsman handle?

    Complaints about public administrations. The Ombudsman does not handle complaints between private citizens or private institutions or businesses.

    We also act through the corresponding ministry in the case of large companies that provide public services, such as telephony or transport, or, for example, matters related to banks, through the Bank of Spain. But we handle all types of situations and problems. In relation to disabled people, problems with local taxes, matters involving the national tax agency, waiting lists in hospitals, etc. In short, all types of problems and circumstances.

     

    Are all of the complaints in Spain brought before the Ombudsman handled in Madrid, or are there also branch offices in the self-governing communities?

    We cover the entire Spanish territory. There are also Ombudsman’s Offices in ten self-governing communities which have the capacity to act within the jurisdiction of the particular community.

     

    How many complaints are received each year by the Ombudsman’s Office?

    Around 20,000. And, a great number of them are submitted by individuals. Although groups, associations and institutions can also contact us.

    In 2015, in the annual report we present every year to parliament, we realised that 50,000 people had submitted documents requesting action from the Ombudsman.

     

    Are there priority issues for the Ombudsman’s Office?

    We don’t have priority issues. What we do is to try to identify situations that are more urgent than others. For example, if there is a person in an irregular administrative situation who is about to be deported and we are aware that there are also circumstances of vulnerability involved, very unique or very special ones, we act rapidly before the person is deported.

    If we are aware that a minor’s situation is very dramatic or very difficult, these situations are handled before other ones, but all issues are addressed.

     

    What are the main challenges facing the Ombudsman’s Office?

    The greatest challenge is to reach the greatest possible number of people and to ensure that the greatest number of people with a problem know how to contact the Ombudsman and can do so. That’s why the website is so important. To make us visible and make the population understand what we do, to be appreciated. This is fundamental, having the trust of citizens.

     

    Defensor del pueblo_Madrid
    Ombudsman´s office in Madrid

     

    What are the greatest difficulties?

    The same difficulties that all administrations, local governments, regional community governments or the national government have; budgetary problems related to getting more money allocated to assistance, social or health services.

     

    What is the role of the Ombudsman in other countries?

    Most countries in the European Union have ombudsman’s offices, as well as Ibero-American and some Mediterranean countries. We have helped them and assisted in training the teams working in these ombudsman’s offices.

    Most recently we were in Turkey for two years (through a project managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Commission). We showed them how we work in Spain and collaborated in training the staff there. In addition, we have an ongoing relationship of collaboration with the Ibero-American ombudsman’s offices, which follow the Spanish model.

     

     What has the Spanish Ombudsman’s Office contributed in Turkey?

    We provided part of the necessary training to its teams: how to handle matters, which areas they can take action in, how action can be taken, how to contact administrations, monitoring of legislation in force, respect for human rights… in sum, all of these fields.

     

    How are Turkish citizens benefiting from this project?

    Turkey is a very large country, with 80 million inhabitants; extending the action of the Ombudsman throughout the entire geography and to all Turkish citizens is going to take some time and a great deal of effort. But I hope that little by little they achieve it.

     

    Are there plans to work on more projects in other countries?

    If other projects come up, yes. We’ll do it based on requests for our help.

     

    What is the role of the Ombudsman in refugee issues?

    This is a very complicated issue because the procedures are quite convoluted, but the position of the Ombudsman is to carry out monitoring to ensure that Spain fulfils its commitments in this area. From the Ombudsman’s Office we speak out in favour of receiving, welcoming and integrating the people arriving in our country.

  • 10 July 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Searching for Cocaine at the Port of Callao (Peru)

    Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the EU project to combat drug trafficking in Peru, witnesses an operation conducted by the Peruvian port authorities at the Port of Callao.

    It’s 6:15 in the morning and we are at the entrance to the loading docks at the Port of Callao, around 25 kilometres north of Lima. There is a quite odd and steady flow of workers, stevedores, seamen, customs officials, contractors and other people that you really can’t tell what they do at a port, which employs over 5,000 people and is one of the largest ports on the American continent. One of the characters milling around the port approaches me and asks me for a cigarette, I offer him the last one in my pack, telling him to keep it and that I’m going to give up anyway. Oddly, it’s the same brand as he usually smokes, or so he tells me. The guy smiles and asks me where I’m from, I tell him that I’m from Iceland, that usually means that people will leave me alone and not bother me with talk about Barça and Madrid. It’s very early and I got up at 4:15 am.

    Here the days begin way before dawn and you never know when they will end, today is the second week of the course that we have organised on searching ships and shipping containers for drugs. Two German customs officials have come along to teach the primarily practical activities. From their height and build, it’s obvious that they are not from this land. Both the instructors and the students are excellent and have achieved some unbeatable results.

    It’s calculated that 60% of the cocaine that currently arrives in Europe comes from Peru. The majority of this substance is transported to its destination by sea. It normally arrives at the commercial ports and recreational harbours of Spain, Belgium or Holland. Drug traffickers are usually ahead of the curve in terms of techniques for hiding drugs. We have seen everything from clothing impregnated with cocaine, drugs hidden in the stomachs of frozen fish or in babies’ nappies – anything goes.

    No less surprising or dramatic is the situation faced by some people in Peru who become involved in this illegal trade, most due to need but others due to greed. From the poor farmer who is under a death threat to grow the coca plant (both he and his family) from the narco-terrorist group Shining Path; the young person forced to work in a chemical laboratory in the jungle to make base paste and who is a target of bombing by the army (something which is not reported in newspapers); the single mother who, to pay her bills, swallows 74 bags of cocaine and is arrested on arrival in Europe because she has been reported by the very same organisation that it trying to smuggle in other “drug mules” on the same flight and so wants to distract customs officials; to other more tragic situations that I prefer not to go into. It’s hard when you see the human faces involved in this business to get the ‘product’ to the end user.

    Of course, the protagonists of the previous paragraph are just cannon fodder for this business. In reality, the real beneficiaries of this illegal industry are the large criminal organisations, fiscal paradises and certain powers that be, which have no regard for the human repercussions of this issue.

    With a view to disrupting this illicit trade, the European Union has launched a project to support the fight against drug trafficking in Peru, led by FIIAPP, in collaboration its partners, the law enforcement agencies of Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Czech Republic. The objective of this project is to improve the air, land and sea drug interception capabilities, as well as improving capabilities for obtaining intelligence, investigating and prosecuting drug lords.

    At the time of writing this post, as part of one the project’s activities, we are working at the Port of Callao alongside the institutions responsible for drugs seizures at Peruvian port, namely customs, police, public prosecutors and coast guard.

    As I said at the start, in the morning we build a profile of suspicious ships and containers, then we later carry out the practical search activities on them to see what we can find. For example, the port intelligence unit passed us some information about a container carrying frozen corn, passion fruit pulp and Rocoto pepper (very spicy) to Spain. Come on! As if there isn’t enough corn in Spain or it is cheaper to bring it frozen in a refrigerated container from Peru – it just doesn’t make sense. So we set the container aside to be searched. The students on the course disassemble the container’s refrigeration system and check the load and, indeed, among the corn and passion fruit pulp we find a suspicious box containing a security seal and instructions on how to apply it. This means that at some point between Callao and Spain, this container would be opened, loaded with cocaine and the new security seal would then installed. An investigation is currently ongoing into who placed the new security seal inside the container and into other issues relating to the container’s origin and destination. Curiously, a worker from the loading area in which the container was stored has disappeared and no one seems to know where he is.

     

    At the end of the day we attend a debriefing session, where everyone explains what they have learned and how it can be replicated in their units. The idea behind this project is that every time you train someone, that person in turn conveys the knowledge gained to other members of the department to which they are assigned.

    As night falls, our day’s session comes to an end and we make our way back to Lima, in rush hour traffic it will take us at least another hour to get home. Tomorrow we will begin again at dawn, I wonder what we will find…

    Gerard Muñoz Arcos – Coordinator of the EU-ENLCD Project (Videoblog)

  • 18 June 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    The cooperation and development fair

    EUROsociAL, the European Commission programme for social cohesion in Latin America, participated in European Development Days in Brussels.

    The year 2015 is key for cooperation. Declared the European Year of Development by the European Union, its mid-point coincided with its flagship event, European Development Days, which brought together people from five continents in Brussels with a significant African presence (an exception to the logical European majority), dozens of public institutions (also with a clear European Union majority), bilateral agencies and international bodies, fewer DNGOs than expected, and a small but media-covered presence by the private sector, with special attention to Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation championing health issues.

    Three auditoriums, 16 laboratories (or small conference rooms), 5 meeting points, 44 stands, 4 press areas and 2 television broadcasting sets, numerous cameras and a good turnout, without reaching the attendance levels of ARCO or FITUR to give a close-at-hand example. In short, a true cooperation fair.

    But beyond the staging, it was possible to learn a great deal from others and to invite them to take an interest in the themes that EUROsociAL proposed in Brussels: Europe and Latin America, their cooperation relationship, social cohesion policies, and the reality of the two regions during the crisis and at the present time. An interesting thematic and geographic “exception” in an agenda more focused on Africa and Asia and on sectors such as migration, health and food safety.

    As far as the rest was concerned, the theme of inequality was very important, and here the FIIAPP also participated along with think tanks like ODI and DIE, and the World Bank; gender equality with the presence of AECID; reproductive rights; the Ebola crisis; food safety with an impressive stand by the FAO (including planters made of rubber tyres made in Guatemala); and the fresh proposals of young international leaders.

    Constant foot traffic (with a look that was more white-collar than NGO) peppered by musical performances, photographic exhibitions, improvised interviews… an event with a paperless spirit in which the technological assistance was lacking (or failed) as the WiFi was not up to the deployment arranged by the organisers, as the participating institutions are called in Brussels.

    This decisive year for development will bring us another three milestones: the third conference on development financing (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13th-16th July); the special summit on sustainable development (New York, 25th-27th September), where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are to be approved, and the summit on climate change (COP21, Paris, December).

    As for the #EDD2015 tweets, they’re already talking about 2016.

    By Enrique Martínez, EUROsociAL communication and visibility officer

  • 07 May 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Health, for all

    Going to the hospital in Popayán, in Colombia, can turn into an odyssey costing up to 100,000 pesos (€35), a luxury most people can't afford.

    A European citizen takes an average of 15 minutes to reach a doctor, but in Colombia territorial dispersion represents a barrier to ensuring access to healthcare services. The city of Tambo, the country’s second largest in surface area, is one such example. There, in an area of 3,280 km2 with some 60,0000 inhabitants (94% in remote rural areas), there is one doctor for every 7,500 inhabitants, well below the national average (15 per 10,000 inhabitants). And from one community, it can take several hours, on horseback or in a car, to reach the closest medical centre. Under these conditions, reaching the hospital in Popayán, the capital of the department, can turn into an odyssey costing up to 100,000 pesos (€35), according to Eduardo Villa, physician and manager of the hospital of Tambo. A luxury beyond the reach of most of the inhabitants of one of the poorest departments of the country, in which the average per-capita income is 250,000 pesos[ii] (€100).

     

    These factors explain, in part, the city’s dramatic perinatal mortality rates in recent years: 34 per 1,000, double the national average and nearly 10 times greater than in Spain. When he arrived at the hospital in 2012, Dr Villa decided to address this problem by seeking the support of key stakeholders in this mainly indigenous and rural territory: traditional doctors and midwives. This meant adding the experience of Western medicine to the experience and ancestral knowledge of midwives. Dr Villa created groups for exchanges and training with the aim of improving monitoring of pregnant women, and prevention and detection of high-risk pregnancies. Luis Amaro, midwife and traditional doctor, was a member of one of these groups. He’s been attending births in isolated indigenous communities, day and night, all his life. Since he’s started participating in the midwife group, he now quickly identifies high-risk pregnancies and sends the patients to the hospital.

     

    Another initiative launched by the hospital was the opening of a “hotel for pregnant women”, to facilitate early admission of women with high-risk pregnancies at no charge. The result of these two measures combined is noteworthy: in less than three years the perinatal mortality rate in the city fell decisively, approaching zero.

     

    This module represents a new paradigm for Colombian health policies and aims to achieve “quality access to healthcare services”, in the words of Fernando Ruiz, the Deputy Minister of Health, “so that problems are mainly resolved at the primary healthcare level”. The model is focused on family and community medicine, for care that is closer to patients, understands their social context, and puts the accent on pro-health and preventive healthcare. To do this, 5,000 family doctors will be trained over the next 10 years. The model also aims to reduce territorial gaps in healthcare through the opening of clinics closer to the population, the creation of “mobile health brigades”, and a system of incentives for family doctors in remote areas. Implementation of the new model is already underway in the department of Guainía after a three-way negotiation with the local authorities and indigenous representatives. In 2015 it will be implemented in other departments to achieve full coverage in the territory by 2016. The opening of another 15 university programmes in Family Medicine is also anticipated.

     

    EUROsociAL, the cooperation programme of the European Commission with Latin America for social cohesion, supported the Colombian Ministry of Health in designing the model, sharing the experiences of France and Brazil in the area of healthcare in remote areas, and that of the United Kingdom, Spain and Mexico in the area of family medicine. The aim is to ensure the right of all citizens to healthcare so that in within a few years the success of El Tambo is not the exception in Colombia.

     

     

    Peggy Martinello, Senior FIIAPP Expert in the EUROsociAL Programme

    [ii] Source: Colombian National Administrative Department of Statistics, 2013Principio del formularioFinal del formulario

  • 27 April 2015

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    Posteado en : Radio

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    The FIIAPP combats piracy and counterfeiting in Ukraine

    April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day. We at the FIIAPP are marking the day by talking about the EU-financed project we are managing in Ukraine for strengthening their intellectual property system.

    Since April 2014, we have been managing an EU-financed cooperation project, also referred to as a twinning, in Ukraine which aims to address the market for pirated and counterfeit goods there. The country is plagued by intellectual property crimes ranging from illegal downloading of movies to counterfeiting of medicines.

    Under the umbrella of this project, Spanish and Danish experts on the subject will show their work protocols to the Ukrainians. The ultimate objective is to provide greater security to citizens of the country and reduce the current levels of impunity. Results are being achieved already. One of them is the draft law on “Copyright protection on the Internet”.

    Learn about the project in detail by listening to our weekly radio show on Radio 5 (RNE), ‘Public cooperation around the world’. Our two cents worth in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day.