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Statement by Clara Xifra Africa Desk Officer Catalan Fund for International Cooperation

Dec 4, 2012, 11:58 AM

(Issue of Friday, 30th November 2012)

Clara Xifra, desk officer for Africa and the Mediteranean at Catalan Fund for International Cooperation of Spain is on a working visit to The Gambia.

Bellow we reproduce a statement she issued shortly after her arrival in the country:

Contacts between Spanish and Gambia peoples date back hundreds of years. The Spanish came to the Gambia as explorers, missionaries, traders and more recently as tourists, and on the other side, as part of the western, so-called developed world, Gambians have been travelling to Spain mainly to find work, improve their economic opportunities and transfer resources for investment in businesses and support their families back home.

In the Catalonia Region alone, there are currently about seventeen thousand Gambians, disproportionately compared to about twenty thousand Senegalese immigrants. Most of these Gambians are gainfully employed, some married with Spanish citizens, raising children and contributing to the economic, social and cultural development process of our country.

This is a solid basis for us in Catalonia for the need within the limits our civil society and more formal state structures at the regional and lower levels of Government to reach out to the people of The Gambia in the context and spirit of North/South Cooperation and in partnership contribute to the cementing of the positive historic and cultural ties that have emerged between the two peoples over the years.

In pursuit of this objective and in concretising the different Memorandums of Understanding that have been signed between the governments of Spain and The Gambia, the Catalan Fund for International Development conducted several missions to the Gambia between 2010 and 2012, initiating and consolidating the process of acquiring a better understanding of the elements of Gambian society and culture that can be mobilised and built upon to the advantage of the diplomatic cooperation framework that already exists between our two countries.

Sixty percent of all Gambians living in the Catalan Region hail from the Upper River Region and as a cooperation program with considerable expertise and experience in the promotion of international local governance, local democracy and development principles and practices, Catalan Fund continues the search for wider avenues in building bridges and strengthening direct collaboration with the people of URR through opportunities provided under our cooperation policies on one hand and the current Gambian constitution, policies and laws which support regional and local development projects and programs on the other.

In this process, with the technical advice and backstopping of Governance Development and Management Services (GDMS), a Gambian independent consultancy firm, we are on the road to developing a regional project in URR which is focused on the strengthening of the governance structures and processes and service delivery capacities of the state and non-state Agencies and Actors in the region. A short term capacity building project has been designed in this endeavour through which an initial capacity assessment of beneficiary institutions was recently conducted.

The capacity assessment sought to establish levels of understanding and incorporation of principles and best practice experiences in the six critical areas of the legislative framework for decentralisation and local government reform, local governance policy and development in The Gambia, institutional governance procedures and mechanisms, human resources development, and management, financial planning and management, operations management and management of external relations.

This capacity assessment phase will be expected to be followed with a consolidation phase which will seek to fill the identified capacity gaps in the institutions concerned with training and orientation.

My mission to The Gambia this time is to attend the validation workshop of this capacity assessment exercise in Basse, update myself with the progress of the project generally and brief the appropriate Gambia Government Authorities at the national and regional levels on the state of the development cooperation programme which is evolving between Catalan Fund for International Development and the people of the Upper River Region.”

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