Canada announced last week that it will contribute $57.4 million in development funding to Colombia to help the nation recover from more than a half-century of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
Authorities in Ottawa outlined five initiatives for the distribution of funds, each of which will receive a percentage of the overall sum. “We want to support Colombia in this process because we think it’s time for reconciliation and it’s time for peace,” Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s international development minister, told The Globe and Mail.
- $20 million, over three years, will go to essential service delivery at the local level for the communities most ravaged by violence.
- $18.9 million, over five years, will go to efforts to protect and compensate victims of the conflict in the cities of Tumaco, Quibdó, and Buenaventura.
- $12.5 million, over five years, will go to landmine removal in up to 10 municipalities.
- $4.5 million, over four years, will be added to an already-established financial program dedicated to developing microfinance and credit among rural farmers (which includes a goal to raise the financial literacy of some 3,000 women)
- $1.5 million, over three years, will go to improving childhood access to education in the department of Caquetá.
Canada’s pledge is the latest in a series of international commitments. In February, about six weeks before Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos missed a self-assigned March 23 deadline to reach a final agreement with FARC, President Barack Obama committed $450 million to Colombia once an accord is signed.
“Just as the United States has been Colombia’s partner in a time of war, I indicated to President Santos we will be your partner in waging peace,” said President Obama at a White House briefing in February.
Though this sum is more than the United States is scheduled to give the nation in 2016, it is in line with the annual average that Washington has funneled to its closest South American ally since 2000. Combined, the last two U.S. presidents have sent at least $10 billion as part of “Plan Colombia,” and the new pledge would fall under a new “Peace Colombia” initiative.
The United Kingdom has also stressed its support for the peace process. In April, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond visited Bogotá and Cartagena and noted his government’s ongoing contributions to Colombia. Highlighting the nation’s experience in end hostilities in Northern Ireland, he said that London had supplied £9 million over the past 16 months to fund various post-conflict objectives.
He also revealed that funding would continue, especially in terms of promoting innovation, for the next half decade. “Our support extends further to areas of shared prosperity and bilateral trade,” said Hammond. “This year, we will contribute £1 million to ‘prosperity fund’ programs, which promote Colombia’s economic development, and £20 million on science and innovation through the Newton Caldas Fund over five years.”
In February 2015, President Santos also signed an agreement with the World Bank to create a fund of at least $38 million meant to aid war-torn communities in Colombia. The program was said to be a “multi-donor” fund that was supported by the Swedish government.
Photo: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House in March 2016. (Credit: Pete Souza)