Back Home After the Petrad Fellowship: Interview with Celica Hernandez from Bolivia

Country: Bolivia
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Every year, RWI offers support for individuals to attend a course run by Petrad in Stavanger, Norway, on petroleum policy and natural resource management. Candidates are chosen from 17 countries, including two in Latin America: Bolivia and Ecuador. The course is open to civil society leaders and senior government officials.

During 2012, Celica Hernandez of Bolivia became a Petrad fellow, spending eight weeks in Norway learning, exchanging experiences and completing assignments aimed at addressing real challenges in her country. Celica is an expert on hydrocarbons management from RWI’s civil society partner FundaciĆ³n Jubileo, where her work included providing technical assistance and advice to the Bolivian Ministry of Hydrocarbons and the National Oil Company, YPFB.

Now back in Bolivia after the course, Hernandez told us about her experience and the relevance of this course to her future work.

Q: Can you tell us about the structure of the course and the topics included?

A: My course focused on public policies in the hydrocarbon sector. What we looked at specifically was how to build an energy policy in the country, so we could then begin to develop a legal framework for the sector. By the end, we had a complete picture of what an energy policy should include, what kind of legislation should be enforced and what should be the minimum requirements for the bidding process and the contracts signed.

We even carried out a practical exercise in which one team took the role of ministry representatives and the other team took the role of oil companies. We played out the bidding process and negotiated the contracts. It was very interesting because we had to take on different roles and put ourselves in the shoes of other actors.

The course also required us to identify a problem in our own country and to develop a possible solution based on our training. The issue I used was Bolivia’s lack of a regulatory agency to carry out oversight of the National Hydrocarbons Company, to supervise the dissemination of information [such as contracts and costs of production] and to verify if the company's work is based on industry best practices. They gave me a lot of information, presentations and readings to develop this assignment.

Q: Which countries were the other participants from? Did you get to share your experiences?

A: There were 49 participants from 28 countries: from Africa, Asia, Latin America, they were very diverse and this made it extremely interesting. The course really promoted exchanges between us. We were teamed up with colleagues from other countries so we could discuss how things were done elsewhere. Others would say, “In my country, the oversight body is in charge of this, but not that.” These kinds of examples allowed me to develop an actual proposal that outlines how an oversight body should work in Bolivia.

Q: How do you think this will help you in your work?

A: I think this was definitely a very relevant and worthwhile experience. Even though I already had a technical base, learning about others' experiences and perspectives really complemented and enriched the knowledge I had and gave me a clearer and much wider view on the whole value chain of the industry and issues of transparency. The richness of the information and the academic approach has been incredible. Also, the quality of the teachers, as well as the other fellows was extremely high; I was truly impressed and I have taken a lot from them back home.

Claudia Viale is RWI Latin America Research Assistant.