Colombia’s political background
In 2014, Colombia went through two electoral contests. In March, a new parliament was elected (using the gender quota of 30% for the first time), and in July, after a second round, Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected as President. These events produced a polarized political landscape: On the one hand, new political parties (like the Democratic Centre, led by former President Uribe) refuse negotiations with the FARC, whereas on the other hand Santos achieved his second presidential term based on the campaign promise of reaching a final peace agreement with the FARC-EP before the end of 2018.
At present, peace talks between the government and the FARC-EP are still going on in Havana. Some time ago, the government and the FARC-EP made the “basic agreements” of these talks public. One of the agenda points on which the two parties already have reached consensus is Political Participation, meaning that political inclusivity will be an important aspect of the peace process. It is expected that the negotiations will come to a successful conclusion in the near future.
It has become clear in recent years that Colombia needs to reform its democratic institutions to make them more inclusive and political parties more representative and disciplined. This becomes even more urgent in the face of a possible peace agreement with the FARC-EP. Therefore, the national government presented a proposal for political reform in September 2014, including issues such as congressional closed lists, the elimination of presidential re-election, implementation of the “zippered list” and compulsory voting, among others. However, the vast mayority of these reforms were not adopted by Congress in 2015.
Also the local elections will take place in 2015, during which more than 2,000 government officials such as mayors, governors, councillors and deputies will be elected. This situation poses a challenge to the political parties, both in terms of representation as well as candidate selection.
The approach of NIMD in Colombia
In 2015, NIMD’s activities in Colombia will focus on three programmes: The UNDP-NIMD-IDEA Respect for Women Political Rights (WPR) programme, the NIMD-Cordaid Programme for Democratic Dialogue for Environmental Security (PDDSA), and a new initiative together with the Colombian government that focusses on youth political participation. Furthermore, NIMD will offer direct bilateral support to all political parties in areas such as the capacity building of think tanks, candidate selection and the improvement of communication with civil society. For this reason, among others, NIMD has opened a local office in Colombia in 2014.
Through WPR, NIMD will continue to give technical assistance to the women branches of all political parties in order to strengthen their political skills and remove barriers to increase their participation.
The PDDSA programme brings together civil society actors and political parties around the democratization of environmental governance, with a special focus on the electoral platforms for the local elections in the programme’s focus areas (for further information, see separate webpage on Reconstruction Programme).
The project jointly executed with the Ministry of Interior in Colombia aims to develop a strategy that combines technical, administrative and financial efforts that strengthens the political participation of young people.