Interview: María Ángela Holguín
How will the peace agreement with FARC affect the country’s international presence?
MARIA ANGELA HOLGUÍN: Colombia has always been an active member of the international community, and it will remain so in the future. The newly established peace with FARC will hopefully bring global investment opportunities to Colombia. Regions that were never developed, especially in the countryside, now have the opportunity to attract both national and foreign interest. We need productive projects in the rural sector, and national and international involvement is essential in our goal to consolidate the peace process through long-lasting development.
What strategies are being used to promote the development of border regions?
HOLGUÍN: When creating policies for those regions within Colombia’s borders, there are a great number of challenges we have to deal with, not only because of the specific dynamics with our neighbours, but also because of the remoteness of the areas. Most are sparsely inhabited, with indigenous populations and large areas of biodiversity. Development policies at the borders must take into account these realities. In this context, the ministry has initiated the Borders for Prosperity Plan, working in 70 municipalities with nearly 700 projects, implementing them with the help of local authorities and communities.
How is Colombia addressing the most pressing regional goals and challenges?
HOLGUÍN: Colombian foreign policy is based on regional and international cooperation. We are working to strengthen regional integration mechanisms with economic and commercial opportunities. The challenges are mainly related to economic frameworks – especially infrastructure development – that would allow Latin America to improve its internal trade and investment. Another pressing regional challenge is reducing inequality within our societies. By closing the economic and social gaps that divide our countries, while continuing to move towards low carbon and high developmental growth, we will be able to unlock the full potential of the Latin American region in the coming years.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 were established in Colombia in 2012, and we have worked hard for the world to adopt them as their own. Therefore, a balanced, comprehensive and integrated approach to the agenda’s implementation is required, especially considering that all signatory countries, including Colombia, are committed to poverty eradication and addressing inequality. We should cooperate, further transfer technology, and implement social and education policies, among others. We need to comply with our commitments by establishing them as priorities in our national development plans and international cooperation strategies, with an added sense of accountability and responsibility. Colombia works in multilateral forums with all partners to prioritise and promote common solutions for issues such as income inequality, climate change and the global drug problem. We also have regional cooperation in counternarcotics policies and strategies with Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and some countries in Asia.
To what extent has the global fall in commodity prices impacted the country’s foreign policy?
HOLGUÍN: Colombia is working on consolidating commercial and investment alliances with different countries, as well as developing regional mechanisms to diversify and strengthen relations with our economic partners. We need to become more competitive, and transform our productive sector to diversify and increase our export capacities. We are adjusting our policies similar to what the rest of the world is doing under the current global conditions.
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