The Steering Committee for the Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality between the U.S. and Colombia met for the first time at the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 2, 2010, to discuss progress since the Plan’s signing on January 12 during U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s visit to Colombia.
For the U.S. delegation, the Committee was chaired by Deputy Chief of Mission Brian A. Nichols and USAID’s Colombia Mission Director Dr. S. Ken Yamashita. The Colombian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Clemencia Forero and Deputy Minister of the Interior Vivian Manrique.
The Colombian Government outlined the objectives for the Action Plan. The U.S. presented a summary of the cultural, educational and exchange programs available for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. It also put forward ideas for future programs that acknowledge the objectives of the Action Plan. Both Governments agreed to summon their informal work groups to coordinate an agenda during the first session of the Plenary Group – to be held sometime in September or October – to sustain active participation of civil society organizations and the private sector.
The Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality seeks to promote cooperation, understanding, and exchange of information, providing equality of opportunity and eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination. Likewise, they are to work closely in areas already covered under bilateral initiatives and recommendations from the Intersectoral Commission for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal People; as well as many other U.S. Embassy Bogotá programs. The Plan will work to encourage and strengthen key projects such as education, culture, housing, health, work and employment, and an anti-discrimination legislation.
It is important to outline that since 2008, USAID has assigned 15 million dollars in resources to the Productive Ethnic Territories program (TEP) to develop activities that will generate income and jobs. The U.S. Government also finances several scholarship and exchange programs in Colombia, including the Martin Luther King (MLK) Fellows program, the College Horizons Initiative Program and the Fulbright Foundation’s Leadership program.
Bogotá, D.C., June 3, 2010