Colombia: Measuring and Strengthening the Link between Development and Human Rights

November 5, 2012

Amid conflict, a development project helped these women to become entrepreneurs.

World Bank Group

  • The World Bank recognizes that there exists a natural link between development and the enjoyment of human rights.
  • This link can be measured with a new tool that allows to plan, monitor and evaluate how the development projects impact the enjoyment of human rights.
  • The tool was designed with the support of the Nordic Trust Fund and already has been used in two peace and development sub-projects in Colombia.

Armed conflict in Colombia has left hundreds of thousands of victims.  Among them are the displaced that had to abandon their lands and their homes to save their lives.

However, in the Magdalena Medio region, in the East of the country, a small group of farmers stayed in their land, thanks to the project “Peace and Development” lead by the Development and Peace Corporation of Magdalena Medio (Corporación Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio).

The project, supported by the World Bank and other institutions, helped the farmers so that they could organize themselves as a network and withstand the conflict.

 “I am happy here where I am, because I know how to handle the fields,” explains Ismael Caro Acuña, member of the producer association Asopalmar, sitting in front of his oil palm crop. Vegetable oil and fat is extracted from the palms, commercialized by the same association.

With the support of the project, the farmers not only could stay in their lands, but also have been able to improve their production methods. Also, they strengthened the enjoyment of their human rights, such as to decide where to live and to be able to work in a freely chosen activity with a fair income.

Working peacefully, surrounded by family

Another example can be seen in the North of Santander department, where the Peace and Development project, lead by the Development and Peace Corporation of the North of Santander, helped a group of displaced women that had arrived in popular neighborhoods of Cúcuta to learn dressmaking.

Now they have their own workshops. Ana Lida Gamboa, participant of the project, explains that she can work without neglecting her family. “I spend time with my daughter, with my mother, with my uncles…I live surrounded by my family, I am with them almost all day, because I work right there in the neighborhood with them,” she says.

" With this monitoring, development agencies, the government and the communities themselves obtain a panoramic vision of the projects' impacts on the people's quality of life. "

Veronica Hinestroza

World Bank Consultant

However, the impact on the effective enjoyment of human rights is not usually taken into account in development activities. Sometimes this can result in smaller progress or provoke unwanted damage, in comparison with what could be done if it would be taken into account.

Using the experience of the Peace and Development project in different regions of Colombia, the World Bank, with financial support from the Nordic Trust Fund, created a tool to measure what it considers “the natural link” between the enjoyment of human rights and development projects.

A useful and efficient tool

The tool includes a series of surveys, in which it is asked, for example, how participants in a productive project see their opportunities to contribute to the planning of local development or have a leadership role.

Based on the results, specific actions can be designed so that determined rights can be strenghtened, like political participation, for example, bringing the producers nearer to the institutions where decisions are taken at a local level.

On top of formulating projects with a human rights approach, the tool also can be useful for monitoring and evaluating the level of effective human rights enjoyment in any development project.

“With this monitoring, development agencies, the government and the communities themselves obtain a panoramic vision of the projects' impacts on people's quality of life,” explains Veronica Hinestroza, World Bank consultant and technical coordinator of the project.

Protagonists of development

 “The adoption of a rights perspective allows them to establish a new way of relating to their target population, going from seeing them as beneficiaries of a project, to recognizing them as people with rights that participate actively in the generation of their own development,” says Hinestroza.

She assures that once one dimension of a right improves, like fair income in the right to work, there is a direct impact on other dimensions. For example, free time and resting.

Ubencel Duque from the Corporation Development and Peace of Magdalena Medio agrees with that vision. “We are identifying, for example, that people are already talking of free time, they recognize that there is a time that they were using differently, and that this time is important,” he says.