Interview to Hortensia C Diez, European official.

Malabo to Brussels.

This is a journey that goes through many stages. From a manufactured home in a residential compound of Spanish cooperation agency (not created as such until last eighties), through the first EU delegation in Equatorial Guinea. A journey that does not end for the moment, but stops for now at the Robert Schuman European Square. Where currently working as a staff Hortensia C Diez for the European Commission in the general directorate of budgets.

When, where and how, start your African experience in development aid?
It begins in 1988 when I went to work as an expert of what would become later what we know today as Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation (AECI). It was in the mission to Equatorial Guinea. And it was at that time the most important important the African continent. And I think it still is. It was at that time 12 million euro budget Spanish foreign ministry and about 200 employees. I stayed at this agency 3 years, and then the EU decided to open a permanent delegation to Equatorial Guinea. This one was a much smaller delegation than the previous and with only 7 permanent members. In this delegation I stayed 5 years practicing administration and management of projects and budgets.

How was back to Europe?

Back in Europe, I was engaged in aspects of cooperation related to the programming and evaluation of aid, which I think is a key issue to improve the effectiveness and acceptance of cooperation.

Having briefly reviewed his career by that period in Equatorial Guinea in which managed resources and projects. Could you explain how they are developed the activities of these two agencies (AECI ‘Spanish Development Agency’ and European Commission delegation).  And also perhaps the differences in the activity and procedures of each of them.

The Spanish cooperation, for historical reasons had an approach based in services, and direct aid; it means a strong commitment in health and educations policies, by providing technical assistance directly in the field.

On its side, European aid was implemented in a different way, by supporting large infrastructure projects (roads, water supply) and macroeconomics aid, i.e.  exportation compensation for some products (mostly cocoa) and governance support.

Consequently, Spanish cooperation involved a great number of -expatriate- experts working along the country while EC delegation had a limited number of persons working closely to the Equatoguinean administration.

As you told me that after this experience in Africa, you kept in touch (occupied) with a Spanish NGO that works there. And also you specialized in the field of cooperation and project management, professionalizing your career. From your expert point of view on cooperation, I would like to ask you a few questions about the “African issue”.

What do you think are the challenges (or problems) facing the Africans to leave the vicious circle of support / cooperation / poverty / misery?

How should be addressed these difficulties and threats, by Africans and the international community?

From my point of view, the governments of African countries should take responsibility for their situation; the implementation of democracy is a sine qua non condition to reach national agreements and to improve the management of its resources and good governance. External aid should be only a support under conditionality.

It is the international development cooperation a fish or the fishing rod, that will makes possible, shaft out of hunger?

I would say that international cooperation should act as a lever, providing training, support and … fishing rods if necessary, depending on the situation of each country, but always looking to the future of independence and democracy.

What do you think about the impression sometimes given by the cooperation aid or partnership? As political and manipulative, seeking targets beyond help. As cases in which, money and providing grants programs of any country can obtain privileges on access to oil wells or the resources available in the nation ? 

We should not be too naive about the generosity of cooperation. It is true that every action – and investment-called counterparts … The issue is the legitimacy of the counterparties and the balance of interests. Achieve more free, more developed and better forms of government benefits in the first instance to nationals of those countries but also those associated with them, that is, everyone in this globalized world.

BY: Eduardo García Canal


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Students of Foreign Affairs doing a project on Africa's current news.

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