Action Research in Colombia

Since 2017 ARC has collaborated with civil society advocacy networks grounded in community-based efforts to bolster their independent monitoring of government policy commitments. The focus is on the implementation of the Peace Accord measures related to rural development and large-scale projects funded by multilateral development banks. This agenda prioritizes issues that affect Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.

Background

Since 2017, ARC has been supporting Colombian advocacy networks that are grounded in community-based organizations. They focus on monitoring government policies and that affect Afro-Colombian communities, indigenous peoples, and family farmers.

ARC provides technical support to strengthen independent monitoring of policy and public sector decision-making at local, national and international levels. ARC contributes to strengthening spaces for participation and citizen oversight by collaborating in the design of project proposals and providing technical assistance geared to ethnic spaces and organizations, local leaders, grassroots citizen oversight committees (Veedurías Ciudadanas), and national civil society organizations.

The goal of this joint action research is to support coalitions that urge the Colombian government to implement its 2016 Peace Accord, with a focus on its commitments to participatory rural development reforms (Points 1 and 4). ARC also works with counterparts grounded in organized communities to monitor projects funded by multilateral development banks with major social impacts.

group of people

Caption: Members of Tumaco Despierta, a citizen oversight committee (Veeduría Ciudadana) monitoring one of the public works financed by multilateral development banks. The water and sanitation work is vital for improving the basic water and sanitation infrastructure for Afro-Colombian communities on the pacific coast.
Credit: Tumaco Despierta

How ARC works in Colombia

In Colombia ARC provides technical assistance to our collaborators, by (1) working with consultants who they trust, and (2) offering direct advisory services for specific initiatives. We also conduct our own policy research, which combines our skills and the agendas of our partners and allies in the country.

ARC’s Bogotá-based researcher, Mariana Cepeda, works alongside our partners and allies in Colombia. Additional support is provided by ARC director Jonathan Fox.

Our key partners and allies in Colombia include:

How ARC works in Colombia

1. Support to citizen monitoring and action research efforts

Citizen oversight of public water and sanitation works in Pacific Coast: ARC supports the Colectivo Justicia Racial, to develop and carry out projects in the Colombian Pacific region, which is majority Afro-Colombian. The broad-based, officially recognized citizen oversight committee called “Tumaco Despierta,” has been monitoring public infrastructure works in Tumaco city with support from partner Justicia Racial and ARC. One key focus of their monitoring is the ‘Plan PAZcífico: Water Supply and Basic Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Delivery Project.’ This specific project is being financed by a World Bank loan. This project is part of a National Strategy called Plan “Todos Somos PAZcífico” which is also financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). This falls under ARC’s support for monitoring of multilateral development bank civic engagement commitments in practice.

Network of citizens monitoring government agriculture policies: ARC works with Corporación Viso Mutop, to support a network of local citizen monitors from different regions to track the implementation of Government policies on the substitution and eradication of crops declared illicit.

people meeting in Colombia

Caption: This picture was taken during a workshop with members of indigenous communities to discuss the development of an ethnic perspective for the implementation of the PNIS in indigenous reservations with support from Corporación Viso Mutop. The workshop was in Tóez, Cauca, a region of Colombia primarily inhabited by indigenous communities.

Credit: Corporación Viso Mutop

Since 2016, Viso Mutop has been accompanying communities affected by policies of forced eradication and government promises of support for crop substitution. This includes monitoring implementation of the National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS: Programa Nacional Integral de Sustitución de Cultivos Ilícitos) and of the Development Plans with a Territorial Focus-PDET, both prioritized in the Peace Accord.

2. Research on programs and projects with national impacts

Monitoring potential risks of the government’s land registration program: This research has focused on identifying potential risks from the implementation of the multipurpose cadaster system’s national policy specially in ethnic territories-including the role of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Research on veedurías ciudadanas (citizen oversight committees): ARC’s Colombia-based researcher Mariana Cepeda’s original research on veedurías ciudadanas (citizen oversight committees) is forthcoming. Since 2003, veedurías ciudadanas have been an official Colombian government process for citizens to monitor government projects and programs. Though they are a widely known participation mechanism, there is little information on how they actually work in practice, their impacts, and factors that lead to their success. ARC’s research includes an examination of publicly available data (some gathered via information act requests) combined with a case study of the broad-based citizen oversight committee called “Tumaco Despierta” (described above).

3. Participation in forums and events

On November 19, 2020 ARC director Jonathan Fox participated in the virtual celebration of Colombia’s National Accountability Day organized by the Colombia’s Vice Presidency and the Administrative Department of Civil Service and whose audience included several hundred public officials. During the panel discussion with a renowned Colombia Journalist, Mabel Lara, Jonathan talked about ways government agencies can improve their perceived credibility, build public trust, enhance their accountability processes, and increase citizens involvement in public issues. He emphasized taking a user-centered approach to information, improving dialogue with citizens to develop policies, and reducing the risks of reprisals of citizens to participate.

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