Bogota, Columbia - Deputy Secretary Blinken participated in the fifth round of the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Partnership Dialogue in Bogota on April 27. Deputy Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Holguin opened the meeting with remarks. Commenting on the many areas of successful cooperation with Colombia, Deputy Secretary Blinken stated that progress since the first dialogue five years ago is “thanks to the courage and resilience of the Colombian people, who are translating steady economic and security gains into a strong foundation for shared prosperity and durable peace.”
Delegations from the two countries held discussions in five working groups expanding cooperation in the areas of democracy, human rights and good governance; energy; social and economic opportunities; environmental protection and climate change; and culture and education.
Among the many areas of deepened cooperation, the United States announced the following:
- Supporting the Colombian peace process with funding for OAS/MAPP: USAID will provide $800,000 to enable the Organization of American States (OAS) Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP) to support land restitution; reparation, truth, and reconciliation; justice, peace, and transitional justice; and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
- Supporting Colombia’s humanitarian demining efforts: In recognition of Colombia’s efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation, the United States will increase our support for humanitarian demining in Colombia by $5 million. Since 2006, the Department of State’s Political-Military Bureau has provided more than $21 million to enable military and civilian mine clearance operations, as well as the activities of other civilian organizations conducting victims’ assistance and mine risk education. In addition, USAID will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Post-Conflict, Human Rights, and Security on the design of territorial demining plans.
- Creating opportunities for Colombian women: In October 2014, in support of President Obama’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas Initiative (WEAmericas), Embassy Bogota organized a two-day, highly-interactive TechCamp that brought together more than 80 micro-, small-, and medium-size women business owners with local and international technology experts. The women learned about low-cost, technology-based solutions to address the challenges they face in growing their businesses.
- Humanitarian assistance: The United States funds programs in more than 25 municipalities strengthening local governments’ capacity to assist victims of displacement due to the conflict, by improving victims’ registration, coordination of access to services, psychosocial assistance, and assisting municipalities to tap funding mechanisms.
- Energy Cooperation: The United States and Colombia have had extensive engagement on energy since the last High-Level Partnership Dialogue. Some highlights include: an $18.5 million program with USAID and the Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency; support for the Ministry of Mines and Energy to develop new regulations under the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program and Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative, cooperation to advance the Connecting the Americas 2022 Initiative and the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, and cooperation with the Department of Energy on a number of topics, including the launch of the first Latin America and Caribbean Solar Decathlon in Cali.
- Promoting Education: The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund with support from Colombia’s National Training Service, SENA, will launch a U.S.-Colombia grant competition. This commitment to President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative will provide grants to stimulate new partnerships for U.S. higher education institutions and the SENA network that will increase academic mobility between the United States and Colombia. This will add a diverse new component to our already robust government-supported programs, including more than 200 U.S.-Colombian Fulbright participants annually. This is the first Latin American government commitment to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.
- Bilingual Education: Supporting President Santos’ Colombia Bilingue initiative, and in cooperation with the Colombian Ministry of Education, the United States has trained more than 800 public school teachers in English language and methodology. These teachers will reach tens of thousands of students with improved English skills. Additionally, 32 new English Access Microscholarship classes are launching in eight locations and will reach 630 talented, economically-disadvantaged, high school students with courses on English language, U.S. culture, and leadership.
- Creating Opportunities for Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Peoples: The United States supports many initiatives building educational and employment opportunities for Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples. The ongoing bilateral dialogue, the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan to Promote Racial and Ethnic Equality (CAPREE), incorporates civil society and private sector participation and includes the following programs:
- S. Department of Agriculture Cochran Fellowships: Five fellows will work with U.S. universities, government agencies, and private companies for two to three weeks to enhance technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing.
- Business Development: In 2014, Embassy Bogota arranged a train-the-trainer workshop for 24 technology teachers and employment advisors who train Afro-Colombian communities to improve their earning potentials through the use of technology.
- Workforce Inclusion: The $1.8 million Beca Scholarship program facilitates entry of qualified Afro-Colombian and indigenous youth into Colombian National Police academies, supporting higher education and careers in government. The program has produced more than 1,800 active police officers. In 2015, 520 new scholarships will be awarded.
- Martin Luther King (MLK) Fellows: The MLK Program has provided English language and leadership training to more than 230 Afro-Colombian university students from Cali, Medellín, Quibdó, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. Starting the program this year are 140 new MLK Fellows.
College Horizons Outreach Program (CHOP): CHOP has reached more than 100 African descendant and indigenous secondary school students with English teaching, mentoring, and academic advising to encourage students who show academic promise amid hardship to pursue higher education.