Building Capacity in the Most Isolated Colombian Communities

USAID’s Regional Governance Consolidation Program in Colombia helped build local capacity in public administration, health and education.

The Regional Governance Consolidation Program in Colombia, known as CIMIENTOS, worked in 21 municipalities that had been conflict zones during the civil war. The MSI-implemented project ensured that women played a key role in local planning and rebuilding efforts and was based on a local partnership model that cultivated community buy-in.

MSI experts helped mobilize and strengthen local grassroots social organizations and regional- and national-level organizations to instill best practices in isolated and underdeveloped territories.

The projects funded 129 projects to improve infrastructure in education and health, bringing together government officials and community members. A total of 124,026 Colombians directly benefited from these projects, of which 50% were women, 11% afro-Colombians, 6% internally displaced persons and 3% indigenous.

Our approach to building local capacity was based upon working with local partners and responding to emerging needs. It generated trust among participating communities and local authorities, dispelling fears of reprisals for working with a foreign aid program.

CIMIENTOS´s operational approach made it possible to work where no previous Government of Colombia agency had established a presence in rural villages in the municipalities of El Tarra, La Vega de San Antonio, La Gabarra, San Juancito, San Pablo, San José del Tarra, and Culebritas.

MSI experts’ training and technical assistance resulted in 18 local governments increasing their score on the Municipal Performance Index and Ranking, an annual evaluation by the Government of Colombia. The index measures progress made in health and education, the quantity of resources invested, the state of municipal finances and other factors. Read about a municipal’s index success to the left.

When the project started, local governments relied on national resources or royalties for 80 percent of their budget. The majority of municipalities did not even collect local revenues. The project helped update municipal revenue codes and establish tax and revenue collection procedures, resulting in 21 municipalities increasing their own sources of income.

The average increase of sources of income since CIMIENTOS was 20 percent in Bajo and Medio Atrato region, 55 percent in Catatumbo,16 percent in Sierra Nevada, and 60 percent in Montes de María. Municipal revenues increased dramatically in Acandí (47%), Hacarí (91%), La Playa (134%), Ocaña (74%), San Onofre (100%) and San Juan del Cesar (65%).

In 29 municipalities, mayors and municipal security councils were trained on the government’s security planning method, acquiring tools to plan, manage and respond to citizen security needs. More than 25 mayors were empowered as the lead authorities delegated with greater control over municipal policing functions working in coordination with the police and the armed forces.

CIMIENTOS and Corporación Infancia y Desarrollo organization helped design a methodology for improving institutional response and management of intra-family violence in Catatumbo and Montes de Maria. The Ministry of Interior and Justice of Colombia adopted this method for strengthening the Family Commissions and the ministry´s nationwide work to prevent and manage domestic violence.

One of the most serious problems in isolated and conflict-afflicted areas was the large population that lacked identification documents, entitling them to basic rights. With CIMIENTOS support, the National Registrar provided identity cards to 19,314 people in Catatumbo and Bajo and Medio Atrato, making them eligible to vote and to have access to social services such as health, education and housing.

More than 4,500 people were trained in the management and monitoring of healthcare delivery, and 9,374 people in isolated rural areas received medical attention through USAID-funded health brigades.

In the 21 municipalities, MSI staff trained 9,981 students and 1,041 teachers to improve scores and teaching on national standardized tests As a result, on the 2010 national test, average scores in Montes de Maria in almost all subjects were above the national average. In Chocó, the two schools in Carmen de Atrato achieved the highest scores of the whole department.