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) refused negotiations with the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). 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. The ‘basic agreements’ of these talks are public. One of the agenda points on which the two parties have already reached consensus is political participation. This means 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. However, the vast majority of these reforms were not adopted by Congress in 2015.
Also, local elections will take place in 2015, during which more than 2,000 government officials such as mayors, governors, councilors 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 programme (WPR Programme), the NIMD-Cordaid Programme for Democratic Dialogue for Environmental Security (PDDES), and a new initiative together with the Colombian government that focuses on the political participation of the youth.
Through the WPR Programme NIMD will continue to support the women branches of all political parties in Colombia in order to strengthen their political skills and remove barriers to increase their participation.
The PDDES programme brings together civil society actors and political parties around the democratization of environmental governance. The programme is implemented together with Cordaid and is being carried out in Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The third project, which is jointly executed with the Ministry of Interior in Colombia, aims to develop a strategy that combines technical, administrative and financial efforts to stimulate the political participation of young people.
In addition to these programmes NIMD also offers direct bilateral support to the political parties in areas such as the capacity building of think tanks, candidate selection and the improvement of communication with civil society. This is one of the reasons why NIMD has opened a local office in Colombia in 2014.
In July 2016, NIMD was chosen by the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP to help select experts that will form the Special Electoral Mission that was agreed upon during the peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba. The Special Electoral Mission will study and give recommendations on the reforms of the current electoral system in Colombia. Read our press release on the exciting news here.
Strengthening women in political parties in Colombia
In Colombia, violence against women has increased considerably in recent years. According to the newspaper El Tiempo, every six hours a Colombian woman is abused due to the armed conflict in the country, and a daily average of 245 women are victims of some type of violence. While there has been very little documentation of the violence used to impede women’s participation in politics in Colombia, violence against female leaders of social movements is common.
Since 2011 UNDP, NIMD and International IDEA have worked with women and political parties in Colombia via the Democratic Strengthening programme. At the individual level, this work has included supporting the nomination of candidates, the promotion of women in legislative benches and commissions, and the creation of meeting spaces for elected women and social organizations. More than 1500 women took part in these activities.
The political parties received technical support to assess and reform their internal rules and regulations.