06 February 2020
We interview Cătălin Harnagea, director of RoAid, the Romanian development cooperation agency
RoAid is Romania’s international development cooperation agency, which combines the work of Romanian public institutions, civil society and the private sector, to foster global efforts to sustainably alleviate extreme poverty and support stronger democratic institutions in developing countries.
Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, also became an official development assistance donor (ODA) the same year. This was when the country joined the efforts by the international community to support the economic, social and political welfare of developing countries.
Cătălin Harnagea is the director of RoAid and we had the opportunity to ask him about the newly created agency.
Let’s talk about RoAid.
Ours is a very young agency. We have been working for a little over a year and a half, since spring 2018. We have now carried out some missions and started projects; and in addition to our agency’s goals with our partner countries, we also want to raise the profile of our work in the European Union, for example through our recent access to the Practitioner’s Network.
How was the agency set up and how has it evolved during this time?
Until two years ago, we had a special unit within the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose function was to develop policies and establish development cooperation priorities in Romania. Now, in collaboration with this Ministry and with other institutions, as well as formulating policies and priorities, we also implement these policies through our projects.
What can you tell us about the projects you are now managing?
Our projects are based on Romanian foreign policy priorities, which have very important objectives in the countries and regions around Romania, including the Black Sea region and the Western Balkans. In addition, there are specific opportunities and projects in Moldova, in Ukraine, and in Georgia. Also, in 2020 we hope to start working in Armenia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina and other countries in the region.
I would also like to point out that our thematic priorities are 100% based on the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda and, with this support, we are developing and implementing some projects in Africa, such as in the Congo in the field of energy, as well as others in Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In fact, we going to sign a trilateral agreement between the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the African Union.
We have also prioritised contact with other agencies such as KOICA, a Korean cooperation agency with which we have signed a memorandum of understanding and we have relationships with other agencies such as the Japanese JICA and, of course, European agencies such as those in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Spanish agencies, such as FIIAPP.
How do you rate your entry into the Practitioner’s Network, the network of European cooperation agencies?
We believe that it is a fundamental pillar to consolidate the implementation of development cooperation projects and, for us, this entry is very important because we want to understand what our strategic objectives are and which of these they consider to be the most important in the long, medium and short term.
23 January 2020
Manuel Larrotcha, the Spanish ambassador to Romania and Moldova since the end of 2018, receives us at the Spanish embassy in Bucharest
Could you give us a snapshot of Romania in 2020?
Romania is a little known country in Western Europe. Institutionally, its semi-presidential system resembles the French model. Its geographical location, bordering as it does the Black Sea, explains its geostrategic interest and importance. Things happen in this area, such as the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Moreover, Romania constitutes the current eastern frontier of the European Union. And it is important to see matters from the perspective of this end of the European territory.
Talk to us about the social context.
The social situation is stable. Romanian society is a traditional society: more traditional than the Spanish one, without a doubt. Things that we now consider part of our daily lives, such as gay marriage, have yet to be legislated for here. Socially speaking, apart from its traditional character, the welcoming and friendly manner in which Romanians receive foreigners is particularly noteworthy. They are a very hospitable people.
Romania’s Achilles heel is, I believe, its drop in population; five million Romanians have emigrated in the last ten years. Once the exodus began it has not let up. Unfortunately, the youngest and the most educated are the ones who most easily find well-paid jobs in Western Europe. Of those five million, one million settled in Spain. This situation has created a bottleneck, because the Romanian economy needs manpower. This ongoing drop in population is not helping at all.
And its economy?
Income levels still lag behind the European average. Consequently, they are still in the process of catching up with the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, the country scores well in terms of its natural resources; it has both gas and oil, not to mention a very powerful farming sector. And it has industry: Dacia cars, which are sold in Spain and, indeed, throughout Europe, are made here in Romania, along with a thriving auxiliary industry.
A very interesting market, the country offers many possibilities. Opportunities abound in the infrastructure sector: roads, motorways, railways, high-speed lines; practically everything needs doing.
Why do you think there is such a close relationship between Spain and Romania, regardless of the fact that we are EU and NATO partners?
This bond comes from way back: our common belonging to the Roman Empire, our shared Latinity and the linguistic proximity of Spanish and Romanian, etc.
There were no diplomatic relations with Romania when Franco was in power. But when they were eventually reopened in 1975, Spanish companies began to discover some very interesting markets here. Obviously, when Romania entered the European Union, there was a considerable population movement of Romanians to Spain. Accordingly, there are many ties between the countries, ranging from human, economic and social to historical and cultural. All of which serves to strengthen a not only very intense, but also a very complete, relationship.
What is Romania’s role in the European Union?
Romania was one of the last countries to enter the EU, along with Bulgaria. It is particularly concerned with avoiding any widening of the gap that exists between Eastern and Western Europe within the EU. This can be achieved by maintaining or increasing the financial resources allocated to social policies (which include the cohesion policy) and to the Common Agricultural Policy. There is no doubt that Romania needs support. lt needs solidarity and cohesion within the Union and the rest of the member countries are also under an obligation to provide this solidarity. We, the Spanish people, saw how, in the 1980s and 1990s, Spain underwent considerable changes owing to the generosity and solidarity received from our European partners.
What role did cooperation play in Romania’s accession to the EU?
Development cooperation, understood in the classical sense of the term, had nothing to do with it. However, if what we mean by this is cooperation as technical assistance and twinning-like programmes, Romania benefited from these long before 2007. After the dictatorship of Ceaușescu, this country was in an awful state from all points of view, including the administrative one. Its administrative capacity was practically non-existent. This meant that during the entire pre-accession period Brussels had to provide Romania with what is called capacity building. Technical assistance proved to be one of the best tools to achieve this.
Romania gradually created groups of public officials with management skills: first to develop programmes, then to properly manage them and, thirdly, to account for how the financial flows that had been allocated to those programmes had been managed. Accordingly, Brussels made a big effort in Romania with twinning programmes, in which FIIAPP was always very active.
Even so, I think that Romania still has some way to go in this area. There is a lot still to be done, for example, with respect to infrastructure: there are very few motorways in relation to the country’s size and population.
Nonetheless, do you think twinning has been beneficial?
I think it has. You only get out of it what you put in. And I believe that they generate, not only economic, but human and social, wealth as well.
I was very much involved in a twinning programme in Turkey and I can assure you that there are hundreds of gendarmes in Turkey today who are doing their job a lot better than they would have if it had not been for these kinds of EU programmes in which FIIAPP has been, and continues to be, the executive arm.
Moreover, I had worked with FIIAPP before.
I worked with FIIAPP for three years in the Rabat Process; a process in which Spain played a very prominent role. In fact, our country continues to be present in the steering committee for that process. In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 we managed to get Brussels to allocate funds to this initiative and to involve the European Commission in the north-western Atlantic migratory routes. I found it a very positive experience. We organised loads of meetings, in Brussels, in Ouagadougou and in Madrid. I worked a lot with FIIAPP staff.
During those years, I noted the ease with which FIIAPP engaged with the Administration. And the guidelines to which FIIAPP worked were in keeping with the Spanish authorities’ migration policy at that time, which made engagement between FIIAPP and the Administration relatively easy and always very positive.
12 December 2019
Posteado en : Reportage
9 December is International Anti-Corruption Day and ARAP Ghana, a project managed by FIIAPP, is accompanying Ghanaian institutions in their fight against this crime
INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY
The United Nations has established 9 December as International Anti-Corruption Day. The purpose of this international day is for the media and the organisations involved to contribute to raising awareness of this problem among the public at large.
By corruption we mean “the abuse of power, of functions or means to obtain an economic or other benefit.” If we refer to the etymological origin of the Latin “corruptio”, we find that the original meaning of the term is “action and effect of breaking into pieces.” Corruption is a scourge which, as stated in the United Nations Convention against Corruption, approved on 31 October 2003, threatens the stability and security of societies and undermines justice. As its Latin root indicates, it “breaks apart” both the institutions and the ethical and democratic values of the societies that suffer from it.
In addition, it is a transnational phenomenon in which organised crime usually takes part, resulting in other types of crime such as trafficking in human beings and money laundering.
To combat it, it is essential to promote international cooperation and technical assistance and, for this international cooperation agents such as FIIAPP play a key role.
CORRUPTION IN GHANA
Corruption continues to be a problem that has permeated all sectors of Ghana’s society and economy. With its devastating effects, it impedes sustainable development and is a threat to human rights. It could be said that corruption has been identified as one of the main causes of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment. In the particular case of Ghana, the prevalence of corruption has resulted in poor provision of services and a lack of access to other basic services such as health and education. Corruption is also a threat to Ghana’s democratic ideals, in particular the rule of law, justice and equality before the law.
According to the 2018 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Ghana ranks 78th out of 180 countries.
THE ARAP-GHANA PROJECT
The Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (ARAP), funded by the European Union and implemented by FIIAPP, has been supporting the efforts of the Ghanaian government to reduce corruption for three years.
The aim of the project is to promote good governance and support national reform, in order to improve accountability and strengthen anti-corruption initiatives throughout the country. To this end, it works together with the relevant government institutions and other national strategic partners while at the same time improving accountability and respect for existing legal structures.
In addition, it acts as a support programme for the government in implementing the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP), Ghana’s national anti-corruption strategy ratified by Parliament in 2014, which aims to create a democratic and sustainable Ghanaian society based on good governance and endowed with a high degree of ethics and integrity.
ANTI-CORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY WEEK
In light of this problem, from 2 to 9 December Accra, the country’s capital, held the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Week (ACT) in which the Government, the public and private sectors, academia, the media, civil society and the general public all took part. The week was organised by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) supported by the ARAP programme.
The purpose of ACT Week was to create a platform for assessing the impact of the NACAP in the first five years of its implementation and strengthening the commitment of the implementing partners in the remaining five years of the NACAP; to raise awareness among Ghanaians of the perverse effects of corrupt practices; to advocate for sustained collaboration and inter-institutional partnership in the fight against corruption as well as for the need to provide adequate resources to anti-corruption agencies; and to promote the use of international cooperation instruments in the fight against corruption.
The week included a large number of activities, both nationally and regionally. These included the international forum on money laundering and asset recovery, international cooperation in legal and other areas; the forum on integrity for youth; the NACAP high-level conference; the presentation of integrity awards; and the observance of international anti-corruption and human rights days.
The work of ARAP will continue not only during the week but every day until the end of the programme in December 2020, because the fight is not just for one week, but for every day of the year.
Text created with the collaboration of Sandra Quiroz, communication specialist of ARAP Ghana
20 June 2019
The French Ambassador to Bolivia, Denis Gaillard, talks about the country and the project to fight drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia
The project, managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Union, AECID and FIIAPP, includes the participation of Spanish and French specialists from the Civil Guard, the National Police, judges, prosecutors and institutions managed by CIVIPOL, such as the Gendarmerie.
What is the strategic importance of Bolivia to France and the European Union?
All of Latin America is important for France because there is a strong cultural and intellectual relationship between us, and we are all Latin countries, so we have much in common. In Latin America as a whole, Bolivia has a very specific role because it is a country where France has a major presence.
There is a close relationship between the two countries, and we are very happy to be able to help this country which is in a very difficult economic and social situation, being the poorest country in Latin America.
So, it is a country with problems, but it is trying to face them. We are happy to help them.
What would you highlight about French and European cooperation in Bolivia?
It is very important that European cooperation takes into account what each country does. There is very good cooperation and close coordination among the European Union and the actions of Member States.
What is special about Bolivia?
In relation to the economy, it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, but it also has the highest growth, so there is hope that things will change. Last year there was a lot of progress in education, health and infrastructure, where there were many very positive changes. It is never enough, but there were some major developments.
Regarding politics, general elections for the presidency and parliament are scheduled for October; this will be an important moment for dialogue and democratic participation. So we are anxiously waiting for that moment.
Do you think that Bolivia is a unique country in Latin America?
That’s right. Bolivia and Paraguay are the only countries that are landlocked. They have no access to the sea, and this puts them in a peculiar situation.
And it is also pluri-national – it comprises several communities, mostly of indigenous people – making it very special. In addition, its policies are adapted to this situation and taken into account, which is very positive and important.
What do you think the project contributes to the country?
Drug trafficking is important for the entire region, not just this country. So it is vital for the country to address this problem very seriously and with a lot of dedication. We are pleased to be able to participate and be partners in a project to fight drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia. This project enables us to fight drug trafficking effectively, by applying joint strategies drawing on many services from the Bolivian institutions that are also involved in the project. It is also important to have a communication network for these services. I believe that this project has helped to promote dialogue and collaboration, to ensure that they work together effectively.
What is the strategic importance of Bolivia to France and the European Union?
All of Latin America is important for France because there is a strong cultural and intellectual relationship between us, and we are all Latin countries, so we have much in common. In Latin America as a whole Bolivia has a very specific role because it is a country where France has a major presence.
There is a close relationship between the two countries, and we are very happy to be able to help this country which is in a very difficult economic and social situation, being the poorest country in Latin America. It was the poorest country in Latin America, so it is a country that has problems, but it is trying to face them. We are happy to help them.
What importance do you think French and European cooperation have in Bolivia?
It is very important that European cooperation takes into account what each country does. There is very good cooperation and close coordination among the European Union and the actions of Member States.
What do you think of the efforts being made by Bolivian institutions to reduce drug trafficking and related crimes?
I think there is real dedication. Bolivia is in a somewhat unusual situation due to the traditional use of coca. But, taking this issue into account, the country is strongly committed to fighting against drug trafficking, which is a tragedy for people doomed to rely on this as their only means of survival. So there is a real effort, but it is never enough. The borders are difficult to control and the traffickers are quick to react – when they cannot get through one way, they look for a different route.
A constant and comprehensive strategy is essential. And that is why the European Union’s help is necessary, and what this project is about.
What achievements would you highlight from the project?
The dialogue is the most obvious result of the first phase, which will be completed this year, 2019. There has been a lot of collaboration, and not only among the Bolivian services responsible for fighting drug trafficking. Contacts have also been established with other countries in the region to share information. Drug trafficking is not just a domestic problem, it is also a regional problem for Latin America and an international problem for Europe and Spain, which is the port of entry for drugs into our continent.
We are also very pleased that this programme is being related to other activities that already exist, such as everything that the United Nations is doing on alternative crops to drugs.
Do you believe that a second phase of the project will be necessary?
I think so, firstly because the first phase always starts a little slowly. You have get to know one another, understand how you all work, who is in charge of what … We have reached the end of the first phase and it would be a shame to leave things half finished. So it is very important that we have a second phase and that this second phase starts soon, so that there isn’t even a momentary breakdown. It is important that we keep the same dynamic; this means that we would be able to start immediately with a very effective group.
How do you think the results will contribute to improving the quality of life for the public?
We have to achieve a change in the lives of the people involved in the drugs trade. They have to have another way to work and survive. Bolivia is more a country of transit than of consumption, so this has a direct impact on the local population.
There are other countries in the region – such as Chile or Argentina – where consumption is developing a lot, so those countries have a different problem of helping people who are involved in drug use.
Here, the main problem is the drug transit and the economic activity surrounding it. We have to see see how we can change the economic situation and give the people other options.
30 May 2019
We interviewed Jérémie Pellet, general director of cooperation agency Expertise France, FIIAPP's partner in numerous projects and a member of the Practitioners' Network
What is Expertise France? What is its job?
Expertise France is the French public international cooperation agency. It was created in 2015 by merging several operators together. It works in four major fields; in the field of democratic governance: economic and financial; in the field of peace, security and stability; in the field of human development: education, health, social protection; and in the field of sustainable development: climate, agriculture and energy.
Why is the joint work of institutions like the FIIAPP and EF so important?
Expertise France and the FIIAPP are institutions that share the same objective: to support public policies and support the development of the countries of the south with a good governance plan. So, we already work together on many projects. Nowadays, Expertise France and the FIIAPP share a dozen projects. We strive to be an allied actor in Europe. So, we seek to collaborate with agencies like us, capable of mobilising expertise in different countries, particularly public expertise, our main reason for being, both of the FIIAPP, in Spain and Expertise France, in France.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of working together?
To start with, the advantages of working together are that our approach is not only national but also European, with different ways of working and, obviously, this is extremely advantageous, since we require European funding, and theEuropean Commission is very interested in international development agencies working together.
The drawbacks are, essentially, coordination difficulties because everyone has their way of working and procedures. One thing we can certainly do to improve is to work on this issue to make coordination more fluid and effective.
How do you think France contributes to these projects? And Spain?
Both France and Spain have numerous cooperation projects, which account for an important part of their international activity and their diplomatic activity in matters of international cooperation. They have worldwide geographies whose priorities are not necessarily the same due to historical differences. Spanish international cooperation focuses mainly on Latin American policies, whereas French international cooperation is more involved in helping the poorest African countries mainly in West Africa. However, this does not alter the fact that we now face global climate, security and development issues that need support in different parts of the world. Ultimately, we complement each other because we each contribute what we know best as well as our cooperation expertise.
How valuable is the European cooperation network, the Practitioners’ Network, to European cooperation?
Practitioners’ Network is a body that brings together European Union state agencies involved in delegated and cooperation fund management. It is now the recognised interlocutor for the European Commission. The proof is that we and the Commission have entered into a very important association agreement between the Commission and each Member State agency, to make these agencies the primary delegated management agents for the European funds. It is now an acknowledged body with real technical competence, which is obviously valuable for the agencies as well as for the European Commission, which has a partner to which it can address such issues.
I believe that our main value and the work we have already undertaken and that which still needs to be accomplished is to further strengthen coordination between the agencies in the Practitioners’ Network. Because we will be effective, among ourselves, and will be capable of showing the European Commission that working with Member States’ agencies is an added value.
In my opinion, the European Commission expects us to be able to show that we are really effective, which is why I believe that the network of the Practitioners’ Network should continue to develop good practices, standardising agencies and establishing new procedures.
16 May 2019
Rafael Ríos, coordinator of A-TIPSOM: the fight against people trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria, explains how he has been adapting to the country, what his daily routine is like, and what it is like to work as a FIIAPP expatriate.
How long have you been in Nigeria? How have you adapted to this country?
I arrived on 16 July 2018. When you arrive in a new country, as you can imagine, it is not always easy. I remember hearing about other projects, from other colleagues who had been in or were in other countries, who said “the beginning is always the hardest”. For me this has been a bit simpler, or less complicated, and I’ll tell you why. In this country we already had the embassy staff, and they helped us with everything from the outset, arriving in the country, accreditations, looking for accommodation, the office, etc. We spent almost four months in a small office that they kindly lent us until we were able to move. I wish you could count on this kind of support every time you started a project.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The hardest part was perhaps the second week. During the first week everything is frenetic, you have so many things on your plate… But the second week was like coming back down to Earth. That’s when I really started to realize where I was, and the step that I’d taken. Such a long project with so many important challenges. The easiest thing was perhaps meeting people, dealing with the Nigerians, who I think are happy people who enjoy their country and who, in general, welcome newcomers quite readily.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No, it’s not. Belonging to the National Police gives you opportunities like this, discovering other countries and destinations, doing what you enjoy and what you know best. Previously I’d done different jobs in African countries, on short-term missions in Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, as well as in Europe, in Italy to be precise.
In light of this, is this proving to be very different to your previous missions?
The concept behind this mission is quite different. This one is long-term and involves a permanent deployment in another country plus working as an expert for FIIAPP . It’s something else entirely, and it’s a big professional challenge for me, since what we are trying to achieve with this project is very alluring, and at the same time very ambitious .
What is your work like, your daily routine?
Honestly, I think it’s not that different. Here, because of the hot weather, you get up and start work quite early. We get to the office, have meetings, go out to the different places we need to visit as part of the project. Usually we have lunch at the office and return home in mid-afternoon.
Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
As I said, it is a job that requires a lot of contact with one’s counterparts,which means you are often out of the office, and I find that quite interesting.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid?
Great! I would say that, in addition to having a great professional relationship, we talk every day, we share ideas, etc. We have even created bonds that are enabling us to achieve better results in the project, of that I am sure.
And with your colleagues in Nigeria?
The same. Several months on, the team in the field has been growing, with Nigerian personnel, which helps us a lot to understand their way of working, what they’re like, their customs.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
It is very positive so far. I think it is helping me to understand how an institution like FIIAPP copes with so many projects and with the scope of the work it does. The training, its structure and its values are enabling me to acquire knowledge. When you belong to an institution like the National Police, sometimes you focus so much on your professional life that you do not realize how work is done elsewhere, so the project is helping to train me both professionally and personally .
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Well, I could tell you several, but I’ll just say that I like saying good morning and learning new words in a dialect called Hausa, and in the building where we work I usually see two young people who like to teach me words like that: good morning, let’s go, go ahead… and it makes them laugh when they hear me pronounce them… Inakwana, which means good morning, is part of the day-to-day.