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In 2016, Colombia has the opportunity to make history. After more than three years of negotiations, the country is very close to achieving an “Agreement to terminate the conflict and build stable, lasting peace,” which will put an end to the internal armed and social conflict which has lasted for over 50 years, the longest in Latin America.
For decades, daily images showed a turbulent nation trapped in a spiral of seemingly inescapable violence that left thousands displaced and victimized. These images have now been filed away in newspaper archives and form part of historical documentaries. The current face of Colombia is quite different and its future, promising: the country is about to peacefully bring to an end a conflict that has stymied its development potential for years.
What is more, for the first time in its history, the country has more people belonging to the middle-class than living in poverty. Between 2002 and 2014, over six million Colombians – 21.2 percent of the population – escaped from poverty, while over three million– 9.6 percent of the population— left extreme poverty, reducing that rate by half. Thanks to solid macroeconomic, fiscal and monetary policies, the country also managed to dodge adverse global economic conditions and to maintain an economic growth rate of approximately 3 percent in 2015, which exceeds the regional average for Latin America. Not all countries can boast such a record.
Colombia now has an enormous opportunity to begin a new era of peace and prosperity for all of its citizens. Inequality and poverty helped nurture the violence. Peace implies an agenda of inclusion and the balancing of unequal territorial development which has plagued Colombians for years. Although the country has made advances, it is now time to redouble efforts. Colombia’s time has come.
It is time to shore up the foundations to build a better country. A post-conflict agenda will require investment in infrastructure and human capital. Achieving higher levels of well-being for all Colombians requires lasting peace, eradicating poverty and sharing prosperity. Without peace, the country cannot fully guarantee basic human rights. With poverty, many people will be deprived of their most basic needs. Without shared prosperity, only a few will enjoy the benefits of economic growth. These three objectives are vital conditions to ensure that Colombians can fully exploit their development potential.
We have had the opportunity to work with Colombia for many years and we have had the privilege of collaborating with the country’s officials during this crucial time for Colombia’s development. We are preparing the Country Partnership Strategy for fiscal years 2016-2021, which will propose three pillars of action: balanced territorial development, social inclusion and high productivity in a diversified economy, as well as the construction of peace as a crosscutting theme.
Recent trends indicate that Colombia can achieve the necessary objectives for increased development. The country has everything in its favor to make significant strides and to improve the living conditions of millions of people: 2016 can definitely be Colombia’s year.