UNDP and Korea: supporting low-income communities in Colombia

11 Oct 2012

Low-income communities get better jobs through UNDP supported entrepreneurship programme

The following story was published in the Korea Herald newspaper on the 11th of October, 2012.

After over a year of fruitless job hunting, Dawin Perez no longer worries where his family’s next meal will come from.

With help from Korea and the UN Development Programme, Perez took part in a month’s training from a local employment and entrepreneurship support Centre in his hometown of Cartagena, Colombia.

“I couldn’t find work for a year and a half. Raising a family isn’t easy when there’s no money, but this opportunity was given to me and the program helped me change my life. I’ve been trained as a construction supervisor and I’m now working as a warehouse assistant in an important enterprise” 

Colombia bounced back quickly from the 2008 financial crisis to growth rates of around 6% per year. But not everyone benefits from the boom. In some cases, people with low-incomes and a lack of skills are being left behind.

Perez and other members of his Cartagena community face poverty, a lack of jobs and often, high crime. Like 230 of the 600 others who passed through the training, Perez and his family now have a chance at a better life through his new job at Cartagena’s largest oil refinery.

The Centre for employment and entrepreneurship (Cemprende) also helps match trainee’s skills with the needs of local business. Jorge Navia, of a Cartagena Public Service Sanitation Company, values the people the Centre refers. “I trust their pre-selection process; they refer good potential employees to us”.

Seven such Centres are in action across Colombia. Since 2009, over 21,000 have received training and small business development support, often including micro-loans. Over 2000 jobs have been generated.

The project in Colombia is one of eight worldwide that have been commissioned under a joint Korea-UNDP Trust Fund that was launched in 2009. Worth a combined total of $10 million, projects under the Fund help some of the poorest countries cut poverty, tackle the effects of climate change and work towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.

“From reports from Colombia, Haiti, Lao PDR and other countries it’s clear that projects under the joint Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund are helping people build better lives. This shows the kind of transformational impact that Korea and UNDP can achieve together. It also shows Korea’s increasing commitment to upping its development assistance” said Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, Director of the UNDP Policy Centre in Seoul.

The country is also playing a bigger role in tackling global development issues. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan recently joined the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel that will provide recommendations on a global development framework for when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and KOICA are hosting international development leaders at its annual ODA conference to discuss how implementation of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation that was launched in Busan last year will support the global development agenda.

“Korea is taking an increasingly important role in development” said Ms Blateau of UNDP Seoul. “With this increasing role, both in the field and internationally, and with the clear, growing interest in Korea’s development experience from developing countries, there is much more we can do together worldwide”.

It seems that many more like Darwin Perez are set to benefit from Korea’s assistance in future.

By UNDP Colombia and Matthew Taylor (UNDP Seoul Policy Centre).