A Progressive Agenda
On August 7, 2010, President Juan Manuel Santos took the helm of a nation that has recently undergone great change and experienced significant progress. President Santos is continuing to move Colombia forward on the path to peace and prosperity through domestic policies that promote economic growth, national unity and social development. President Santos has achieved several milestones of his progressive agenda, including:
- Three new Ministries have been created: Labor, Justice and Housing.
- In June 2011, a bill providing reparations for victims and specific measures for land restitution was signed into law by President Santos. As a result, the government will return almost 5 million acres (2 million hectares) to victims over a 10-year period, and victims will receive compensations totaling $25 billion during the same period. The law addresses the diversity of the victims by providing different remedies according to age, gender, and ethnicity.Colombia has a new an anti-discrimination bill, which criminalizes acts of racism or discrimination, and for the first time in Colombian history, the National Development Plan included a specific chapter dedicated to Afro-Colombians.
- In June 2011, Congress approved a reform of Colombia’s Royalties that will increase the funds available for less developed areas of the country to achieve sustainable economic growth. Under the new system, the Pacific Coast region, one of the less developed areas in the country, will receive $852 million per year, compared to $40 million received annually, on average, during 2002-2010.
On the international front, President Santos has elevated Colombia's role as a regional and global leader through a foreign policy guided by the principles of respect, cooperation, diplomacy and willingness to provide aid to other nations.
Colombia is using its past experience and expertise fighting terrorism and drug trafficking to help nations facing similar challenges today – Afghanistan, Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and other countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Aside from working to defeat organized crime and transnational threats, Colombia is also lending support in the development of biofuels to El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Colombia also leads the United Nations (UN) committee implementing sanctions against Iran and Sudan, and has partnered with the United States to provide counternarcotics training and assistance to governments from Afghanistan to Haiti.
The Santos Administration has enacted far-reaching reforms to meet the challenges of a fast-growing nation. The reforms are aimed at creating a more efficient and transparent institutional framework. These are some of the most significant changes:
Three of the preexisting Ministries were divided to create three new ones:
- The Ministry of Interior and Justice was divided into the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice;
- The Ministry of Social Protection has become the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection; and
- The Ministry of Housing and the Environment is now the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Housing, Cities and Territory.
New agencies were created to strengthen social inclusion and reconciliation:
- The new Department for Social Prosperity develops, coordinates and enacts all governmental policies that aim to compensate victims of conflict, reduce poverty and consolidate peace.
- Under the structure of this entity there are now a new Agency to Overcome Poverty and an Agency for National Consolidation.
New agencies were created to make Colombia a more competitive nation:
- There is now a new macro structure for the mining and electricity sector, which differentiates three sub-sectors with specific functions: mines, hydrocarbons and electricity.
- The key institutions for these sub-sectors are now the new National Mining Agency, National Hydrocarbons Agency, and for electricity, the preexisting Institute for the Planning and Promotion of Energy Solutions (IPSE).
- The new Agency for International Cooperation will coordinate the cooperation that Colombia receives from another nations as well as the cooperation it provides to other countries.
New Units were created for the implementation of the Victims Law:
- The Victims Unit, under the Department for Social Prosperity, implements and coordinates reparations for victims.
- The Land Restitution Unit, under the Ministry of Agriculture, administrates, executes and coordinates the restitution of lands from the dispossessed.
Colombia’s New Ministry of Labor:
- Colombia has created a new Ministry of Labor, with a designated Vice Minister for Labor Affairs and a Vice Minister for Jobs and Pensions.
- The Ministry promotes the creation of dignified jobs, formalized labor and good relations between workers and employees by guaranteeing respect and protection for unions.
Three of its core areas are:
- Working to end the practice of certain industries of hiring subcontracted labor through “cooperatives,” in favor of direct hiring by employers;
- Strengthening the labor inspection system; and
- Promoting labor rights and social dialogue.
- The ILO has played a key role in the design of this new and powerful Ministry of Labor.
For more information, visit the US-Colombia FTA section of this website.