President Aragonès and Minister Serret, during the visit to the cemetery of Villavicencio, in Colombia{"name":"2023/03/14/15/20/89963298-6685-49e4-9173-eef3c2398351.jpeg","author":"Arnau Carbonell","type":"0","location":"0","weight":232084}

The President of the Government of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, announced today in Colombia the Catalan Government’s commitment in guaranteeing the increase in official development aid from Catalonia to 0.7% of its national income by 2030. “The Government of Catalonia will be part of this commitment to reach the 0.7% allocated to development cooperation by 2030”, he said.

The President made this announcement in statements to the media in Villavicencio, in the Colombian department of Meta. He explained that this commitment will be carried out “within the framework of the new Master Plan for Development Cooperation in order to consolidate the good work being done by Catalan cooperation institutions around the world, but especially in several priority countries, including Colombia”.

The path towards 0.7% will be guaranteed with the setting of a percentage growth every year and ensuring that it never decreases, even if the economic context is unfavourable. This mechanism is new, as until now there has never been a method with a structured system in place to ensure that the target set by the UN is reached. The proposal, developed and agreed by the Ministry for Foreign Action and European Union and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, will be embodied in the Master Plan for Development Cooperation 2023–2026 and will ensure a progressive increase in the part of the Government of Catalonia budget dedicated to international solidarity until it reaches 0.7%. The proposed increase from today’s 0.21% to 0.7% over the next seven years means a rise of least 0.07 percentage points annually, with a commitment not to decrease the figure in times of cost containment.

President Aragonès, together with the Minister for Foreign Action and European Union, Meritxell Serret, began their trip to Latin America this weekend, during which, in addition to Colombia, they will visit Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. While visiting the countries they will hold several meetings aimed at strengthening Catalonia’s economic, social, cultural and political ties there. During the visit to Villavicencio, the Secretary for the Catalan Government’s Foreign Action, Miquel Royo, and the Director-General for Development Cooperation, Yoya Alcoceba, accompanied the President and the Minister.

Sustained commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement

In Villavicencio, the President and the Minister met with Catalan cooperation partners to learn about the impact of some of the projects financed by the Government of Catalonia in Colombia. One such initiative is the support that has been given over the years to the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, created as a result of the peace agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the FARC in 2016. Support for peacebuilding and the promotion of transitional justice mechanisms have been historical priorities for Catalan cooperation in Colombia.

In this regard, since 2018, the Catalan Government has made a sustained commitment to the implementation of the agreement and, through the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD), has provided more than one million euros to the three institutions of the comprehensive system: the Truth Commission (for which the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICEP) acted as technical secretariat in Europe), the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons (UBPD).

Pere Aragonès and Meritxell Serret asked about the search for missing persons that the UBPD carries out in the area together with the Colectivo Sociojurídico Orlando Fals Borda and the United Nations Development Programme in Colombia, which the ACCD finances through a project of this UN agency. They were also able to learn about the work carried out with victims and relatives who have managed to find the bodies of their loved ones. Meta is the second department in the country with the highest number of forced disappearances during the Colombian conflict.

In this regard, Minister Serret announced that “in 2023 we will reinforce aid for this programme, which has allowed us to contribute to the recovery of people who disappeared in the context of the conflict”. The Catalan Government is preparing a new contribution of 295,000 euros to the UBPD through the United Nations Development Programme to support the search for missing persons in another part of the country, in Tumaco, as part of one of the 22 regional plans that the UBPD has deployed. “Today we have seen how this programme helps to heal and advance the peace process,” said Serret. The UBPD is also responding to requests made by the exiled population and the Colombian diaspora in different European countries. An example of this is the DNA sampling that the Government of Catalonia carried out last November.

Reclaiming dignity and memory

During the meeting with these organisations, the head of the Catalan Government emphasised the importance of “the fight to recover the bodies, the dignity and the memory of people who have disappeared in armed conflicts”. And he noted that “the Government of Catalonia will continue, through our participation in the international community, to support this peace process, but above all to support the people, the victims”.“And we will continue to do so hand in hand with the cooperation offered by the Catalan social organisations that provide all their support”, he said.

After meeting with the organisations with which the Catalan cooperation system works, President Aragonès and Minister Serret visited the Villavicencio cemetery accompanied by relatives of the victims, and took part in an act of remembrance which included, among other things, speeches from two human rights defenders who were taken in by the Catalan Government’s Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. In statements to the press, Minister Serret said that “we will provide more resources and expand the programme of support for defenders that has existed for many years now”. The Catalan Government will also increase the Catalan protection network by incorporating new collaborators to the programme such as Lleida City Council.

After the memorial service for the victims of the armed conflict, President Aragonès met with the governor of the Department of Meta, Juan Guillermo Zuluaga, and with the mayor of Villavicencio, Juan Felipe Harman.

Colombia, a priority country for Catalan cooperation

Colombia has traditionally been a priority country for Catalan cooperation and is the country that has received the most official Catalan development aid: 14 million between 2017 and 2022. President Aragonès reaffirmed the Catalan Government’s commitment to continue cooperating with Colombia, especially in the framework of the peace process: “We must keep working and we will continue to be involved”. This will continue to be reflected in the new Master Plan for Development Cooperation 2023-2026, which will be approved shortly.

This sustained link with Colombia is a response to the major commitment undertaken by Catalan civil society, the active participation of the Colombian diaspora in Catalonia and of organisations of exiled people, and of the Catalan Parliament, which, through declarations and other instruments, has urged the Catalan Government to maintain this commitment to the country.