Deputy Secretary Steinberg meets with Preside Uribe and signs Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality
Deputy Secretary James B. Steinberg met today with President Uribe at Ubérrimo Ranch. They had a very productive meeting, during which they discussed the current state of their bilateral relationship and how they envision the relationship developing in the future. Thereafter, Deputy Steinberg signed an Actional Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality with Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez.
Recognizing that ethnic and racial diversity has been a crucial element in the development of democratic and multicultural societies, the United States Government and Colombian Government developed the Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. This plan seeks to eliminate forms of racial and ethnic discrimination in both societies. It focuses on sharing best practices and implementing cultural programming to address racial discrimination and related issues affecting under-represented racial and ethnic minority communities, particularly Afro-Colombians. The plan establishes a joint Steering Committee which will discuss a variety of important subjects, including: Education, Culture, Housing, Health, Employment and Labor, and Anti-discrimination legislation.
The Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality builds on the work of the 2007 Intersectorial Comission for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal People, as well as the numerous programs funded by U.S. Embassy Bogotá targeting Afro-Colombian and Indigenous populations. Most notably, since 2008, USAID has allocated $15 million for the Productive Ethnic Territories (TEP) program to create income and employment generating activities. The U.S. government also funds several exchange and scholarship programs in Colombia, including Martin Luther King Fellows, College Horizons, and the Fulbright Leadership Program.
During the rest of Steinberg’s visit, he will meet with Colombian government officials, civil society and human rights groups, and representatives of the private sector to determine how the bilateral relationship can be strengthened and to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared among both Colombian and U.S. citizens.
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