By Liliana Rodríguez Burgos, director of the CCNGO, Colombian member of Forus.
The Colombian Confederation of NGOs - CCNGO, platform of the Colombian CSOs, with support from Forus, brought forward a social monitoring exercise on the role of the International Co-operation in Colombia to recognise its current action.
The "Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation" was taken as the monitoring's reference framework. Its central objective is to:
... maximise impact and promote participation and knowledge sharing on the application of the agreements on the four principles of effective co-operation: i) ownership by countries, ii) focus on results, iii) inclusive partnerships, and iv) transparency and accountability, all to ensure development and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals...; these principles being the basis which allows and requires the periodic and systematic review of the "Role of International Co-operation Agencies" in the democracies in which they operate.
The CCNGO proposed a first "Social Monitoring Exercise", with the objective of:
"Recognising the scope of the current role - political and financial - of the International Co-operation in Colombia, specifically of the United Nations System - UNS, the German Co-operation Agency GIZ, and the Delegation of the European Union in Colombia"
The social monitoring assessed:
First, the implementation of the four principles governing the International Development Co-operation by some of the Co-operation Agencies in Colombia. The findings provide hints for all social actors to review, reflect on and discuss the future of Co-operation Agencies in Colombia and globally.
Second, the follow-up on the public resource contracting processes under the National Development Plan 2014-2018, with the European Union Delegation, the United Nations System (8 Agencies) and the German Co-operation Agency - GIZ.
Finally, we made reflections on the role of Co-operation Agencies, recognising their importance in countries such as Colombia, where their role as "guarantor, companion and facilitator" of social action, of development and of incidence of social organisations, is currently being overlooked.
Equally, their silence (complicit or politically correct?) is surprising considering the weakening of the conditions conducive to CSO being actors of development, peace and in democracy, in their own right.
In addition to the above, it is also convenient for governments to channel public resources through Co-operation Agencies. For governments, the convenience is in avoiding all the processes indicated in the country's public contracting law, with ample advantages for co-operation agencies and immense disadvantages for social organisations.
No less important, is the fact that the International Co-operation ceased to be a partner and ally, and became either a contractor or contracted, which weakened relations between equals, and hence made its role as a guarantor of "Political and Social Dialogue" more difficult. It went from being a "promoter" to a contractor, to focus all of its efforts on delivering goods and services directly to citizens, and to move away from promoting good results for the States, to having to comply with them.
Furthermore, the Co-operation Agencies show little commitment to the four principles of Effective Development Co-operation, in particular to the principle of transparency and accountability. They fail to adhere to this principle when administrating and spending public funds since they exercise their right to the inviolability of property, assets and archives. However, in an era in which we demand the right to access information as a fundamental principle of democracy, and when, moreover, as an organised civil society, we demand that governments are held accountable in relation to public funds and decision-making. It is not legitimate for International Co-operation Agencies - the focus of this monitoring exercise and the recipient in the period 2015 - 2017 of public funds of more than US$1.18 million from the National Government - to take cover behind private law and not account for the action taken using those funds.
This reality and the discoveries made with the social monitoring together form the fundamental basis for the "dialogues between peers" that the CCNGO began and is still holding with public bodies, control agencies, organised civil society and International Co-operation Agencies. The objective is to bring public attention to the issues that CSOs are regularly observing and dealing with in their day-to-day work.
CSOs have been displaced and the action that they were taking in territories and with communities is now being led by international co-operation actors with the power, reputation, and supposed financial muscle to meet the corresponding requirements imposed by both public actors and Co-operation Agencies.
The challenge, as much for the CCNGO as for the national platforms and global networks like Forus, is to change this reality that weakens and reduces the visibility and legitimacy of the action of the organised civil society, putting the survival of that society at evident risk.
This action does not end with the social monitoring supported by Forus. Instead, it becomes a very important step towards achieving transformation benefiting the sector. At the CCNGO we have decided to share and explain the findings of the monitoring along with other actions that we are gradually implementing. This makes it even more important to change the stereotypes and preconceptions of the public actors, of private corporations and of International Co-operation Agencies in relation to the nature and work of the CSOs. In order to do so, we are working on updating the narratives of the sector, moving from that image of welfare, reliance and charity that some development actors still have to a very different understanding in which CSOs are peers and allies of development. The contributions that CSOs make are evaluated on the basis of their knowledge, learning and the value they offer; this is in contrast to actions of other actors and it is important, moreover, because it puts the emphasis on the social, on rights, on social transformation, on communities and individuals. These are narratives that affirm the spirit, role and work of CSOs.
I warmly invite you to read, share and carry out similar social monitoring exercises that will allow us to conduct regional comparisons in order to amplify voices and make an impact regionally and globally. You can find the study here: