Colombia: Marginalized groups increasingly involved in local governance

22 Mar 2012

image Photo: UNDP/Colombia

Bogota, Colombia – Efforts to engage Colombia’s traditionally marginalized Afro-descendants and indigenous people in local government accountability processes are beginning to pay off, with increased involvement in oversight mechanisms and improved public trust.

Twice a year, through a constitutionally-established mechanism, the Public Accountability Process, or Rendición Publica de Cuentas, citizens meet with their local representatives in an open venue to review public expenditure reports against development results achieved every six months.

While Afro-descendants and indigenous people make up 15.5 percent of the country’s population, they have been traditionally marginalized, and their participation in the Public Accountability Process has been minimal.

Over the past four years, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working with local authorities where these populations are present, resulting in some 3,500 people participating in the bi-annual process, during which citizens can question their local administrators and hold them accountable to agreed plans.

In the northern regions of La Guajira and Santander, the central region of Cundinamarca, and the Pacific coast cities of Cartagena and Quibdó, UNDP has provided training programmes to more than 20 civil society organisations, to increase their understanding of municipal and regional level planning and implementation processes.

Now, in some towns, the increased participation has meant larger venues are needed for the public meetings. Where previously a single room was used, the local government now hosts the meetings in large town halls and public spaces with projection screens.

More than 45 municipality staff, including high level officials, also participated in separate training programmes on how to make public information more accessible, improve transparency in their planning and budgeting processes, and produce the bi-annual reports in a user-friendly format.

UNDP also promoted knowledge and experience-sharing opportunities between civil society organizations from different regions, and provided assistance in reviewing the bi-annual reports.

For more information:

Marco Stella, Programme Analyst, Democratic Governance Area (marco.stella@undp.org), tel. (+571) 4889000

Ana Patrica Polo, Transparency Adviser, Democratic Governance Area (ana.polo@pnud.org.co), tel. (+571 4889000)