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Brussels, 28 October 2011

EU - Colombia: main areas of development cooperation

During his visit to Colombia between 31 October and 3 November, European Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will visit key projects to assess results on the ground and progress of EU – Colombia cooperation.

EU relations with Colombia are based on the Cooperation Framework Agreement between the EU and the Andean Community countries, which was signed in 1993 and came into force in 1998. Considering the protracted internal conflict Colombia is facing, EU cooperation defined as a general objective to support the country's search for peace, a pre-requisite to any form of sustainable development.

Colombia receives support financed under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). The European Commission supports projects in Colombia by bilateral and regional cooperation, as well as through thematic budget lines. For the period 2002-2006, the Commission focused its cooperation on projects supporting the peace process.

The priorities for 2007-2013 for Colombia are the following:

1. Peace and Stability, including alternative development: In this area the EC aims to promote sustainable human development, reduction of illicit activities (in particular drug production and trafficking), creation of areas of peaceful coexistence and the development of the public sphere, by promoting peace dialogues and sustainable socioeconomic development as a means to resolve conflict. Close to 70% of the overall envelope, i.e. 112 million Euros, is allocated to this area. At present around 73 million Euros has been committed.

The main programmes already adopted (Regional Development, Peace and Stability I and II, New Peace Territories, totalling 65 million Euros) concern support to local development and peace building initiatives in 186 municipalities in 10 rural regions directly or indirectly affected by the internal conflict. The main direct beneficiaries are civil society organisations and local authorities in these regions. At this stage of implementation some 10,700 families are benefitting from productive and alternative development projects. Also 3,500 children and adolescents are directly targeted by projects tailored to their needs.

2. Rule of law, Justice and Human rights: Through support in this sector the EC aims to strengthen the rule of law by means of a more effective legal system, safeguarding human rights and promoting good governance. For this area 2/3 of the foreseen budget allocation of 32 million Euros has been committed. The ongoing programmes focus on the legal attention to victims of the internal conflict, in particular in relation with their access to justice, promotion of their rights, truth and integral reparation, including land restitution.

The adopted programmes intend to strengthen the ordinary criminal justice system and the transitional justice system, thus benefitting the overall population of persons recognised as victims of the internal conflict, estimated at around 4 million.

3. Productivity, competitiveness and trade: Cooperation in this priority area aims to increase the country's capacity to integrate into and take advantage of the global economy. On the other hand programmes in this area are supporting local economic development through the insertion of small producers in local and regional markets, as well as through the active participation of civil society networks in the design of local development policies. All funds under the 2007-2013 strategy have been committed.

At this stage of implementation, regional markets, in particular in rural areas, are being supported by the Local Economic Development project (6 M€) benefitting some 120 small rural enterprises. In addition in 6 regions the European approach on territorial development "Leader" has been implemented, and 230 public and private officials have been trained in local economic development issues. Moreover, key Colombian public institutions have been linked up to broadly recognised civil society networks, allowing those to participate actively in policy formulation processes.

At national level, the Trade Related Technical Assistance to Colombia project (4.6 M€) has been working mainly within Colombian institutions related to national quality system, promoting the international recognition of accreditation of Colombia (ONAC), creating the National Metrology Laboratory and the creation of the National Institute of Metrology. Additionally, steps have been taken to protect competition, intellectual property, and corporate social responsibility.

The recently adopted programme for the dairy sector (8.6 M€) will support the implementation of the national policy designed to improve and strengthen the sector competitiveness, to diversify production, expand markets and improve small farmers' income. Some 400,000 small producers depend of the sector's strengthening.

Examples of EU funded projects

Third Peace Laboratory – Montes de María

The Peace Laboratories are comprehensive EU-supported programmes that aim to contribute to peace and stability in the country and to address the root causes of the internal conflict in Colombia. Social cohesion and economic development have been the guiding principles of EU cooperation in the affected regions.

The Third Peace Laboratory in the region of Montes de María covers over 440 civil society organisations and close to 12,600 people; 3,500 of them internally displaced persons. The EU has invested around €8 million in the region since the start of the programme.

In the context of this programme two emblematic projects will be visited:

In his visit to Carmen de Bolívar, Commissioner Piebalgs will assess the development of the rural production unit Finca Montemariana, which is a good example of how the EU is helping to promote small and medium sustainable production in the region. More than 750 ha. has been planted on the "Finca Montemariana" model (It include environmental type projects, advanced productive agroforestry arrangements and proposals for recuperating traditional peasant production systems with a focus on food security). This model will be replicated by the Ministry of Agriculture in the entire region.

In San Juan Nepomuceno, the Commissioner will be presented with a sample of production initiatives carried out by Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. These initiatives resulted in getting products like sesame, banana, yam, yucca, fish, honey and crafts to the local and regional markets. These initiatives not only generated employment and income in rural areas, but also promoted the reconstruction of social networks that had been affected by the violence. Overall in the "Socio-economic Development" component of this programme, 2,500 families and 25 Agro-technical institutions (with over 4,400 students and teachers) were involved.

The visit to Montes de María also includes the village of El Chengue with concrete examples of land restitution and rural development initiatives. The issue of reparations to the victims of the internal conflict and land restitution, which is part of the related government strategy, remains at the core of EU concerns in the region.

Project in support of local peace building and economic development in the La Popa district of Cartagena: "Agentes autoconstructores de paz"

This project, which receives an EU grant of €430,000, aims to support poverty reduction in the La Popa district of the city of Cartagena. In this zone an estimated 75% of the population lives below the poverty threshold and 40% of them in conditions of extreme poverty. Only a limited number of the Afro-Colombian population has access to public services such as water, electricity or health care.

This EU-funded project supports initiatives undertaken by civil society organisations to generate economic and social opportunity for around 250 families in La Popa. Initiatives include training activities and the creation of micro-enterprises, as well as support to the strengthening of local capacities and socio-psychological support for the most affected population.

The project, implemented by the Centro de Cultura Afrocaribe foundation, with the support of the Cartagena municipal government, has in just two years benefitted 248 families, setting up some 200 small businesses. In 2010 alone, the project gave rise to 28 individual production initiatives, two cultural projects and three production associations, and to the implementation of 24 training activities.

At the same time a thorough analysis of the La Popa district has been performed in order to support the municipality in drafting the Integral Development Plan, covering the needs of the most vulnerable population.

Apart from the programmes above, 2011 is the year of the start-up of other significant cooperation initiatives, such as the recently-signed "New Peace Territories" programme, which aims at consolidating the experience under the Peace Laboratories in the areas of rural development, local capacity building and reconciliation processes. This programme has an overall budget of over €30 million.

Another project in the justice sector is providing ongoing institutional support for the Colombian Criminal Justice System with a contribution of €7.4 million.

Finally, a support programme has been allocated for the dairy sector, to help ratify and implement the future trade agreement between Colombia and the EU.

Development and Humanitarian Aid

The EU Humanitarian Aid office (DG ECHO) currently earmarks €12 million per year (including aid to Colombian refugees in Venezuela and Ecuador). The population targeted is that affected by the armed conflict (frequently in rural zones under armed disputes). ECHO also commits additional funds to respond to natural disasters. DG ECHO has allocated €160 million to humanitarian operations in Colombia since 1994.

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