Colombia’s change of government in August 2022 offered a new policy context, in which there is some openness to independent social accountability and policy monitoring initiatives. Fresh efforts to promote the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Agreement and strategic public policies for the development of the Pacific region have offered a window of opportunity for ARC’s partners and counterparts.
How ARC works in Colombia
ARC works with ethnic organizations, citizen oversight committees (veedurías ciudadanas), and CSOs in the development of initiatives for independent monitoring of public policies and programs, and in action research to contextualize, analyze, and share learning about the implementation of these programs and policies.
Combining our skills with the agendas of our partners and allies, we provide technical assistance, and conduct our own policy research.
ARC’s Bogotá-based researchers, Mariana Cepeda and Helmer Quiñones, work alongside our partners and allies in Colombia, with additional support from ARC director Jonathan Fox.
Our partners and allies in Colombia include:
- Corporación Viso Mutop
- Ethnic Commission for Peace and Territorial Rights, member of the IEANPE – Special High-Level Forum with Ethnic Peoples of the Peace Agreement
- CONPA (Consejo Nacional de Paz Afrocolombiano) – National Afro-Colombian Peace Council
- ONIC (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia) – National Indigenous Organization of Colombia
- Grassroots organizations and local leaders in Tumaco, Department of Nariño
- FISCH (Foro Interétnico Solidaridad por Chocó) – Inter Ethnic Solidarity Forum of Chocó
- ACADESAN (Consejo Comunitario General del San Juan) – General Community Council of San Juan
Members of Tumaco Despierta, a citizen oversight committee (veeduría ciudadana) monitoring public works financed by a multilateral development bank. Long-promised water and sanitation infrastructure is vital for Afro-Colombian communities on the Pacific coast.
Source: Tumaco Despierta
1. Support for and action research about citizen monitoring
Citizen oversight of public water and sanitation works in Pacific Coast
Much of ARC’s work in Colombia engages with the Pacific region. The government’s national strategy for the region, Todos Somos PAZcífico, includes a number of projects financed by loans from international financial institutions. The Petro government has committed to social investments in the region.
ARC works with the broad-based, officially recognized citizen oversight committee Tumaco Despierta on monitoring public infrastructure works in their Pacific port city near the border with Ecuador. One key focus of Tumaco Despierta’s monitoring is Plan PAZcífico: Water Supply and Basic Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Delivery Project-P156239, financed by a World Bank loan.
ARC researchers Helmer Quiñones and Mariana Cepeda have also been monitoring the Plan PAZcifico: Water Supply and Basic Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Delivery Project-L1156, financed by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Both the multilateral development banks and the Government of Colombia have committed to citizen engagement in these projects. These monitoring activities have also formed part of ARC’s other work on monitoring World Bank citizen engagement.
Indigenous communities discuss the development of an ethnic perspective for the implementation of the Peace Accord in indigenous territory in Toez, Cauca, with support from Corporación Viso Mutop.
Source: Corporación Viso Mutop
Support to social accountability initiatives for the implementation of the Peace Agreement
A fundamental pillar of the 2016 Peace Agreement was the creation of Development Programs with a Territorial Focus (PDETs). The Ethnic Chapter of the agreement intended to ensure the representation of and oversight by indigenous and Afro-Colombian social organizations in the implementation process. Neither element of the Agreement was fully implemented during its first five years.
Since 2018, ARC has worked with the Inter-Ethnic Solidarity Forum for Chocó (FISCH), a coalition of black, indigenous, mestizo, social, youth, women, rural and urban communities in the north of the Pacific region. FISCH emerged in 2001 as a mechanism for the protection of communities, organizational strengthening, and definition of regional strategies to overcome social and armed conflicts.
ARC first supported FISCH in 2018 in a series of territorial and community follow-up activities for the implementation of the Chocó PDET. ARC and FISCH are collaborating again in the design of a Transparency Observatory to monitor the implementation of both the PDET and the Ethnic Chapter.
Action learning collaborative
Since late 2021, ARC has supported an initiative for collective learning between grassroots activists around the world who work for transparency and accountability, promoting the exchange of experiences between frontline community organizers who have had to pivot, retrench, or reinvent themselves in response to multiple, overlapping challenges. The General Community Council of San Juan (ACADESAN) has participated in this initiative, together with organizers in Guatemala, India and the Philippines. ACADESAN was one of the first ethnic-territorial organizations that advocated for the collective titling of Afro-Colombian land.
2. Research on policies and programs
Research on citizen oversight committees and Todos Somos PAZcífico
Rooted in the citizen monitoring work with Tumaco Despierta, a 2022 ARC Working Paper provides an overview of Colombia´s official system of citizen oversight committees. Mariana Cepeda describes how since 2003, citizen oversight committees have been an official government process, a participatory mechanism designed for citizens to monitor government projects and programs. Although they are a widely known about, there has little information about how they actually work in practice, their impacts, and the factors that lead to their success. The Working Paper, El Control Social en Colombia: Un Balance sobre las Veedurías Ciudadanas, reviews official data, some collected through freedom of information requests, and presents a case study of Tumaco Despierta.
Implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Agreement
In 2022, ARC supported the publication of The Ethnic Chapter of Colombia’s Peace Agreement Five Years On: An Independent Assessment, timed to coincide with the change in government. The assessment was carried out by the advisory team of the High-Level Forum with Ethnic Peoples (IEANPE), an official mechanism for monitoring and promoting the cross-cutting Ethnic Chapter. Written by ARC researcher Helmer Quiñones, and published in both English and Spanish, the Accountability Note documents how the lack of implementation of the Ethnic Chapter has prolonged the armed conflict and systematic violence against ethnic peoples.
Assessing Todos Somos PAZcífico
ARC is assessing lessons from the government’s implementation of development projects funded by the multilateral development banks in Colombia’s Pacific region, with a special emphasis on Todos Somos Pazcífico. This study is intended to inform more effective design and implementation of public policies.
Budget information and peace agreement monitoring
ARC is partnering with a technical advisor to carry out a study of the official budget information systems that help monitor the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The main purpose of this study is to identify its opportunities and limitations for informed public participation.
ARC's publications on Colombia
Delivering Collective Afrodescendent Land Rights: Mutual Empowerment in Colombian State-Society Coalitions 1995-2003. (Helmer Quiñones, Noah Rosen, and Jonathan Fox, 2022).
Monitoring Without Control? Citizen Overight Committees in Colombia and Ecuador (Héctor Manuel Gutiérrez Magaña and Mariana Cepeda Villarreal, 2022)
The Ethnic Chapter of Colombia’s Peace Agreement Five Years On: An Independent Assessment (Helmer Quiñones Mendoza, 2022)
A cinco años de la implementación del Capítulo Étnico del Acuerdo de Paz en Colombia: Un balance independiente (Helmer Quiñones Mendoza, 2022)
El control social en Colombia: Un balance sobre las veedurías ciudadanas (Mariana Cepeda Villarreal, 2022)
La rendición de cuentas desde arriba versus la democracia: El caso de la Procuraduría General de la Nación de Colombia (Charles H. Roberts, 2021)
Top-down Accountability vs. Electoral Democracy: The Case of Colombia’s Inspector General (Charles H. Roberts, 2021)
Citizen Participation in Auditing in Latin America: The Future Agenda (Marcos Mendiburu, 2021)
Citizen Participation in Latin America’s Supreme Audit Institutions: Progress or Impasse? (Marcos Mendiburu, 2020)