16 August 2019
Posteado en : Interview
"Talks with other experts and learning about the point of view of the other side of the Mediterranean is a very enriching experience"
Severino Falcón, coordinator of the “Improvement of the Tunisian research and innovation system” project and chief technical adviser of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities tells us about his experience during his initial months in Tunisia: his first mission and his first experience living abroad.
How long have you been in Tunisia?
How have you adapted to this country?
To answer this question, I must stress that it is my first mission. So, in the beginning, I went carefully, but as the days have gone by, adapting has been easy, smooth and comfortable. A critical point was having an apartment to live in. Once you have accommodation, if you are happy living there, it makes it easier to adapt. In the case of Tunisia, having a small Spanish community to rely on was very helpful.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
First of all, my family. But with new technologies and transport, the distance is not such an issue.
Another difficult issue is speaking Tunisian and … running. Outside the capital, there are plenty of nice places to run. But the city of Tunis is not very attractive for running.
The people here are the easiest aspect. They are very friendly.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
Yes. It is my first experience.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
We are doing a project with defined activities. This makes it easier to know what to do. It’s new to me, and during the last six months, my daily routine has been focused on helping to get the project up and running. For this, the experience and advice of Raphael, project manager, and each supervisor, team member and an expert who participated, have been very important.
In the past I was on the other side of the project, that is to say, convening and tracking projects of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the State Agency for Investigation.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid?
Basically, my relationship with the FIIAPP is through Yessica, the technician who manages the project, who I talk to and send emails to every day. I work with her to find ways to include the activities proposed into the project’s framework. It isn’t easy, since ideas often come up that are not feasible (such as changing the direction of a mission). Nancy joined us recently, and she is helping with mission logistics and travel for the experts. In short, the relationship, at least on my part, is very good… Now you will have to ask Yessica and Nancy.
And with your colleagues in Tunisia?
I have a great relationship with the work team.
I speak to my counterpart every day and we get on well. With the project leader of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique (MESRS) too, though, although she is close by, since she has been appointed director general of research we have to organise meetings well in advance.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
In view of my previous answers, I only have one answer to that question. Very good.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Every week and even every day is different. From the time you spend alone to the times when you can’t keep up with your work and social engagements.
For the time being, having conversations with other experts and learning about the point of view of the other side of the Mediterranean is a very enriching experience.
07 April 2017
Posteado en : Reportage
Since 2015, FIIAPP has managed the project to support the Tunisian Ministry of Justice in the democratic transition process.
In December 2010, in the centre of the Tunisian capital, a pivotal moment in the country’s recent history occurred. Near the city’s main square, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor of fruits and vegetables, was stopped by three municipal police officers and asked to pay a bribe whilst he was selling his goods. Mohamed refused and the police confiscated his produce and cart. That same afternoon he went to the governor’s office to demand that his property be returned but received no reply. So he decided to buy a can of gasoline and some matches and then lit himself on fire inside the municipal government headquarters.
Mohamed’s flames ignited the tensions of the Tunisian people, and the square filled with shouts of hope. Thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand the rights they had been denied under the regime of Ben Ali. After several weeks of citizen demonstrations, the party was dissolved.
Since then, Tunisia has been undergoing a democratic transition. In 2014 the constitution was ratified and the first free and democratic elections were held, in which Habib Essid of the Nida Tunes party was named prime minister.
European project to support the ministry of justice
The European Union applauded the advances of the Tunisian democratic transition and made a commitment to provide support throughout the process. One example of this commitment is the project to support the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, which began in 2015, is being funded through the European Neighbourhood Instrument and managed by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP).
The aim of this project is to support the Tunisian judicial system in the democratic transition process and to define the structure of the Ministry of Justice and the General Council of the Judiciary. The resident project manager in Tunisia, Ángel Llorente, describes the situation at the start of the project, “passing from an autocratic regime to a democratic system with liberties, it was necessary to change the most important laws because, in the Ministry of Justice, a series of competences previously converged that should be exercised by an independent judiciary empowered with autonomy and its own budget”.
Currently the project is at its mid-point. A first phase has already been completed involving a study to learn the prior situation and thereby identify the needs on which to base the design of future implementation of public policies. An advocate in the superior court of justice of Murcia and the project leader, Javier Parra, explained that one of the tangible achievements to date is the preparation of a five-year plan for the insertion of information technologies.
But the results of the project are not just relevant during the two and half years of its execution; it is hoped that these steps taken will be the motor of a much deeper change in the structure of Tunisian judicial bodies. One example of this is the five-year programme of objectives to be achieved in the next five years. The advisor to the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and head of the mission, Najet Ben Salah, explains that “we are committed to getting results; we have objectives that are already included in an overall action plan, and we hope that these results can be achieved in the next five years”.
14 May 2015
Posteado en : Opinion
FIIAPP employee Diego Blázquez tells how he faced the challenge of rolling out policies in Tunisia aimed at empowering persons with disabilities in a period of social and political convulsion.
When I arrived in Tunisia during the Christmas season in 2011, every aspect of life in Tunisia was political: how women dressed, how men wore their beards or hair, which mosque you went to, which radio station you listened to or newspaper you read… and also the issue of disability. The challenging context of the political transition and the vulnerability of disability policies, previously under the direct supervision of Ben Ali, resulted in disability ceasing to be a government priority. Nevertheless, in this same context of the Revolution, new organisations of young people with disabilities soon emerged that wanted to denounce previous abuses, reform existing institutions and, similarly, there was great dissent within the large classic organisations, new associative leadership structures being built, new demands for participation and transparency…
I left the country a year ago. I lived and worked there for two years and four months as a expert from the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP). I had the tremendous professional and personal good fortune to live through practically all of the political transition from inside the Tunisian government and in direct contact with the country’s civil society, and more specifically with one of the most vulnerable groups: persons with disabilities.
I arrived in Tunisia in a privileged position as a resident advisor of a European Union project: a twinning, in the jargon of the EU. This is an institutional cooperation instrument of the European Commission, managed in Spain by the FIIAPP, which aims to encourage conciliation of government management and public policies among EU neighbouring countries. In my case, it was a question of developing inclusion policies for persons with disabilities in the new framework of the United Nations Convention.
I took advantage of the Christmas 2011 break to move and bring my family over. By early January, all five of us were there with the sensation of embarking on an adventure in all senses, despite being only two hours away from Madrid by plane. During those weeks we lived through the worst winter weather on record since Tunisia started collecting meteorological data, including the biggest snowstorm in the interior of the country in 40 years. It would turn out to be an omen that things were not going to be as easy as we thought.
After a very rough start in which we really couldn’t establish effective communication with our partners in the Tunisian government, little by little we were able to start orienting the work through a series of pilot projects in the areas of inclusive education and employment programmes. The progress we made was mostly thanks to the action of a group of civil society organisations which, following the model of the Spanish CERMI, formed a powerful lobby. This made it possible to regularise the employment situation of the workers in the nearly 300 assistance centres for persons with disabilities in Tunisia and make a pact with the Ministry of Social Affairs regarding a new stable financing structure based on quality objectives and indicators.
That moment was unquestionably the turning point in the project, as it made it possible to create a new environment because, despite the difficulties and discussions, a new basic structure had been generated.
Nevertheless, the overall context again made things difficult when the first wave of political violence hit in 2012. This would end six months later with the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a human rights lawyer and secular left politician, although perhaps in international terms the best known episode was the attack and destruction of the United States Embassy.
Personally, these experiences brought back memories of my childhood during the Spanish political transition. Seeing my children enjoying days off from school as a result of these situations reminded me of myself enjoying similar moments in Spain in the seventies. I wasn’t able to see the worry in my parents’ eyes then, as I hope my children didn’t see mine in these moments.
Finally we managed to create a national strategy document on disability; we formed a group of some 30 people to address the reform of special education, and we carried out pilot projects for this reform in five schools in Tunis and its metropolitan area. We included inclusive education for parents, mothers and teachers, educational inspectors in the pilot projects, and we gave opportunities to many people, like Kauser.
In the case of employment policies for persons with disabilities, we tried to break their marginalisation in the labour market by putting them in contact with companies, improving vocational training programmes, and raising awareness among business owners about the advantages of diversity in the workforce. The experience of Spain’s Inserta Foundation was key in this sense. And we trained a small socio-occupational team in each province to assist persons with disabilities in a coordinated manner.
Despite all of this, many things were left undone, but I left Tunisia with the satisfaction of knowing that I had done all I could in a very difficult context that the Tunisians shared generously with me and my family.
I left Tunisia with a great love of the country, of its people, its climate, its culture, its streets… And with the bittersweet feeling of wanting to participate even more and better in this spirit of reform that filled me two years and four months ago when I first arrived in the country. The future of Tunisia is the future of all of us who live on the shores of the Mediterranean. That’s why I suffered along with the Tunisians when the marvellous El Bardo museum was attacked. And that’s why I want to use these lines to invite everyone to support the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution by getting lost on its beaches, in it mountains, on its deserts this summer. Sharing its archaeological and natural riches. Drinking a glass of Kurubis wine or Celtia beer while watching the millenarian blue of the Gulf of Carthage, and in this way to help consolidate the liberty and dignity of our neighbours in addition to our own.
Diego Blázquez is an expert from the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP). You can also read this article in Planeta Futuro.