UNDP Colombia honored for work to build peace, end poverty

Jul 17, 2013

Washington—US Friends of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today presented its annual Julia V. Taft Award to the  UNDP Colombia Country Office in recognition of its vital work to end conflict and tackle poverty and inequality in the Latin American country.

“I am proud of the work our colleagues are doing in Colombia and am delighted to see the Country Office recognized through the Julia Taft Award,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark told a reception here. “On my visit to Colombia earlier this year, I saw for myself examples of UNDP’s work at the national and local levels and was deeply impressed.”

Five decades of armed conflict in Colombia—the longest-running war in Latin America—have produced one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations. Widespread violations against civilians included extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and land theft.

In 2012, the Government of Colombia and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group agreed to a peace process, which is ongoing in Cuba. UNDP Colombia has supported the peace talks as well as efforts to document abuses, support victims, and facilitate access to justice for thousands of Colombians.

“All of the Americas will benefit from a stable, peaceful, equitable Colombia and it is deeply encouraging to receive this award in appreciation of our work,” UNDP Country Director Silvia Rucks said in accepting the award, presented by National Democratic Institute President Kenneth Wollack. “It is also a tribute to donors from the international community who make our work possible.”

“A peace agreement will not magically end the many types of violence that affect Colombia. But it will lay the groundwork for a more inclusive and peaceful society.”

In 2012-2013, in close coordination with the UN Country Team, UNDP was requested by Colombia’s Congressional Peace Commissions to organize 18 regional fora to gather input from civil society on the issues on the peace agenda, ranging from rural development, to illegal crop substitution,  to victims’ rights.  Subsequent consultations, requested by the Government and the FARC rebel group, have focused on land issues and political participation.

More than 7,400 participants representing some 3,324 organizations have taken part in these processes, drafting 1,464 proposals that senior UN officials have conveyed to peace negotiators.

Throughout the years UNDP has provided technical and legal help to the government to document more than 1,600 massacres, over 173,000 murders, and some 77,000 cases of forced displacement that occurred during the war.  Legal aid has been provided to nearly 10,000 victims while some 220 UNDP-supported legal and psychosocial workshops have helped victims across the country.

In some parts of Colombia, UNDP experts have helped exhume remains, providing evidence in the investigation of more than 9,400 missing person cases. A national missing persons’ register has been established with UNDP help. Other legal changes, such as enactment of the 2011 Victims and Land Restitution Law, aim to provide reparations by 2014 to more than 400,000 people who had land stolen.

Some 27,400 living victims have received justice from the UNDP-supported Ombudsman’s Office, while 75,000 people have now received compensation for suffering resulting from various crimes, landmine contamination, or the loss of family members.

With a significant presence in remote, conflict-affected areas and offices in 11 departments, UNDP Colombia also oversees major programs aimed at reducing poverty—which is most acute in rural areas—supporting good governance, and promoting inclusive, equitable economic growth.
In addition, UNDP coordinates international cooperation on transitional justice through a Basket Fund supported by Belgium, Canada, the European Union, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and others.

About the award

The Julia V. Taft Award is presented annually by a panel of prominent private citizen and development experts--formerly constituting the US Committee for UNDP—to a UNDP Country Office that has demonstrated the impact of teamwork to build a more democratic, prosperous, peaceful, and secure world in a particularly challenging location.

The award was established in 2009 in memory of Julia Taft, an active member of the US Committee for UNDP, now US Friends of UNDP, before her untimely death from cancer in 2008.

A leading authority on humanitarian and international development issues, Julia Taft served as the Assistant Administrator and Director in the Bureau of Crisis Prevention & Recovery at UNDP from 2001-2004. She served as Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, & Migration from 1997-2001, and as president and CEO of Washington-based NGO alliance InterAction from 1993-1997.

She also served as USAID Director of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance. The Julia V. Taft award was presented to the UNDP Country Office in Sudan in 2009, the UNDP Country Office in Haiti in 2010, the UNDP Country Office in Afghanistan in 2011 and the UNDP Country Office in Tunisia.

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