PREPARING FOR PEACE
A signed peace accord between the government of Colombia (GOC) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) did not happen on March 23, 2016, as had been anticipated. This reality evidences the fact that both parties are still far from seeing eye to eye on critical issues for establishing lasting peace in Colombia. The negotiations continue with no established timeframe for their conclusion.
While disappointing, the GOC and USAID remain committed to preparing Colombia for peace. Up-to-date information systems remain a critical priority to promote land reform. For example, this quarter, the Land and Rural Development Program (LRDP) helped the Agustin Codazzi Geographic Institute (IGAC) launch an internal electronic information platform that allows the entity to quickly assign and follow up on all land restitution-related information requests and court orders. This system enables IGAC to comply with legally mandated restitution requests 50% faster than before, promoting a higher quality and more effective land restitution process. In addition, resolving the secondary occupant issue remains a priority for regional peace and the reduction of conflict over land. In this regard, we provided valuable information to 536 secondary occupants in Cesar, Montes de María, and Meta regarding their legal rights.
Sixty-six of these received legal representation to help move their cases forward, which will result in greater land security for families in need and a more sustainable restitution policy. Finally, preparing the newly established land and rural development agencies for peace (e.g., the National Land Agency and Rural Development Agency) remains a priority for LRDP. For example, we are providing technical assistance in the creation GOC to identify parcels that are currently registered under the now-defunct Colombian National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCORA). This methodology will allow the GOC to successfully register these parcels in the name of the new National Land Agency.This quarter, we analyzed 60 parcels and determined that 56 are viable for transfer. We will continue this activity next quarter by reviewing more than 400 parcels in total, thereby helping increase land available for the Land Fund.
The assistance we provide to promote land reform and rural development demonstrates our relevance to the GOC. With or without a peace agreement in place, we are providing needed support to national and regional government entities to help modernize and streamline processes needed for true reform to occur. Critical work for promoting peace is underway and will continue during the next reporting period. Priority activities include the following:
- Direct support for formalization campaigns. We are planning for the implementation of a formalization pilot activity in Ovejas (Montes de María). This pilot will establish best practices and lessons learned, facilitating massive formalization in other municipalities throughout Colombia, which is essential for lasting peace.
- Support the expansion of Colombia’s multipurpose cadaster. The GOC identified the multipurpose cadaster as a critical initial step to implement development policies in conflict-affected regions. We are providing direct support to this initiative, working closely with the National Planning Department and IGAC. Maximizing the viability and use of a multipurpose cadaster is essential for territorial governance and resource management.
- Direct support to modernize information systems. We have progressed 60% in the construction of the Land Node, a web-based platform that links the databases of land-related agencies, permitting the exchange of information in real time. We are also preparing to support the Superintendence of Notary and Registry (SNR) to digitalize millions of files in several departments across the country. This is a critical step for enhancing the Land Node, streamlining land restitution and formalization processes, and reducing the time it takes to promote land reform.
Building relationships based on trust and confidence is essential for achieving positive development impact. During the quarter, we spent much time and effort engaging the newly elected governors and mayors in the five regions where we work. Today, these new officials—who took office on January 1, 2016—have a solid understanding of the type of assistance available to them through the various USAID implementing partners in the regions, particularly LRDP. Buy-in from local authorities is essential for the successful implementation of project activities.
We provided targeted technical assistance to local governments in the construction of their municipal and departmental development plans. Working together with local counterparts, LRDP staff ensured the inclusion of cross-cutting land reform and rural development initiatives, as well as territorial peacebuilding efforts, in local government planning over the next four years. Based on our extensive knowledge and experience in various regions, we provided a strong foundation for the new officials to build on. Through these initiatives, LRDP is well positioned to continue providing assistance to the implementation of the development plans in the coming years and to prepare local governments for post-conflict initiatives.
PROMOTING PROJECT COORDINATION
We demonstrated our leadership in coordinating among the various USAID implementing partners in the regions where we work. Taking the initiative in Montes de María, we hosted a project coordination meeting to promote dialogue and synergies between the various USAID projects operating in the region. This helped orient USAID’s new Rural Finance Initiative on the realities of working in Montes de María, on where the various partners are active, and on what each one is doing. Participation by USAID’s Program Office in this meeting highlighted its importance and helped establish a model for project coordination for application in other regions. We also played a key role in project coordination efforts in Cauca—again, in close coordination with USAID’s Program Office.
Establishing synergies across technical areas and ensuring that implementing partners avoid duplicating efforts are important. However, project coordination also spans across other areas. For example, LRDP played an important role in providing security support and guidance to other implementing partners, such as USAID’s new Rural Governance Activity and the Rural Finance Initiative. Sharing best practices, contacts for transportation services and overall intelligence about the security situation in the regions where we operate is important for promoting the safety of other projects’ staff. We will continue to play a leading role in project coordination in our five focus regions.