Colombia’s Peace Accord Opens Door to Responsible Investment

Two palm oil harvesters go about their day. Palm oil is a leading industry in Colombia and a vital piece of the country’s economy.

By Jaime Artega

Colombia has had significant achievements despite being home to one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world. The country’s economy has grown steadily for several decades, without significant fluctuations or crises, while maintaining a low inflation rate thanks to a strong and disciplined monetary policy. Despite having endured nine civil wars over two centuries, Colombia has managed to maintain a stable democracy. In fact, it is the only Latin American country that has had uninterrupted election cycles since 1830. Remarkably, it is the only country in the world that has initiated reparation processes for victims while conflicts are ongoing.

Bringing bananas to market, another vital crop for Colombians.

Therefore, the historic peace agreement, signed in December 2016 by the Colombian government and FARC rebels, removes one of the last obstacles on the country’s path toward economic development. The peace accord creates boundless opportunities for private investment in a number of ways. First, it opens vast expanses of territory that were isolated while under the guerrilla group’s control. Second, the peace agreement permits the state to redirect tremendous economic resources, previously destined for national defense, toward investment in regional economic development. Also, the accord allows society to focus on institutional reforms needed to combat corruption, strengthen the government’s role, and promote economic growth throughout the country.

Read More…

Democracy that Delivers #89: Jaime Arteaga on the Importance of the Private Sector in Colombia’s Peace Process

From left: podcast guests Natalia Velásquez and Jaime Arteaga, guest host John Zemko and host Pamela Kelley Lauder

As part of its post-war recovery plan, Colombia’s government is offering big incentives to businesses that expand operations there and reaching out to local communities for input.

The new program is a critical part of Colombia’s ongoing peace process, according to Jaime Arteaga, CIPE’s lead in-country consultant.

The government is promising huge tax breaks to companies that make long-term investments in Colombia’s post-conflict regions, many of which are highly-populated and rich in natural resources.  In this week’s podcast, Arteaga and CIPE Regional Director John Zemko discuss the challenges and benefits of increased private sector activity in Colombia.

Read Arteaga’s thoughts on Colombia’s peace accord and its impact on investment here.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes.

 

Democratic and Market Values Face Obstacles in Poland

The Committee on Defense of Democracy stages a protest in Warsaw on December 19, 2015.

After the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, Poland became a poster child for democratic and market-oriented transition. While the necessary reforms were difficult and often painful to the average citizen, they did deliver political freedoms and rapid economic growth, reversing decades of totalitarian oppression and decline. Poland became a respected member of the European Union (EU) and a model for other countries in the region. Despite persisting challenges typical for transition countries, such as youth unemployment, the overall institutions of democracy and a market economy appeared solidly in place.

This began to change rapidly after the 2015 elections when the Law and Justice Party (PiS) candidate won the presidency and the party gained a majority of seats in the parliament. Inspired by the policies of Victor Orban and his party in Hungary, PiS began a rapid push to challenge Poland’s democratic institutions—from the Constitutional Tribunal to public media. However, unlike the Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz), PiS does not possess the constitutional majority necessary to pursue such systemic changes, which put it on a collision course with Poland’s judiciary and civil society, as well as EU institutions.

Read More…

Democracy that Delivers #88: Group 484 on Refugees in Serbia

From left: podcast guests Miroslava Jelacic and Vladimir Petronijevic, guest host Marc F. Schleifer and host Ken Jaques

This week’s podcast features Vladimir Petronijevic, executive director, and Miroslava Jelacic, legal analyst, with Group 484—a nonprofit organization founded in Serbia in 1995 to support 484 refugee families. Working with migrants, local communities, and the government, Group 484 has assisted over 100,000 people in more than 70 Serbian towns through the years.

The majority of the country’s refugees are from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Petronijevic said the Serbian government has had a favorable response to refugees, pointing to 17 temporary housing centers holding about 4,000 refugees. The housing centers are funded by the government and civil society organizations.

While many refugees in Serbia plan to move to other European countries, others hope to become Serbian citizens. Jelacic discussed the process for refugees to become citizens.

Visit Group 484’s website for more information on the organization’s work and support programs.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes.

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #87: Imtiaz Gul on the Role of Civil Society and the Private Sector in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Imtiaz Gul, guest host Vivek Shivaram and host Pamela Kelley Lauder

This week’s podcast guest is Imtiaz Gul, founder and executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a Pakistan-based think tank.

In the podcast, Gul discusses the role that the business community and civil society can play in reducing extremism in South Asia. If disenfranchised people gain access to more job opportunities, they have less incentive to join extremist groups, he explains.

Because Pakistan’s ruling elites are preoccupied with maintaining power and status, they often settle for short-term economic solutions and exclude civil society and the private sector from economic decisions. This leads to stunted economic and political growth for the country.

CRSS has partnered with CIPE to create an open dialogue between the Pakistani Parliament and civil society and private sector.

Visit crss.pk, for more information about the think tank.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes.

 

The Local Private Sector is Vital to Peacebuilding and Reconstruction

Two women now earn a living producing yams in their field after peace returned to Burundi. Photo by Pamela Beecroft.

By Morgan Frost and Pamela Beecroft

CIPE works with partners in a number of conflict-affected contexts around the world. While political, security and humanitarian issues typically draw the most attention, CIPE has found there are major benefits to working with the local private sector on economic issues at almost every stage of a conflict and recovery cycle. As the examples below illustrate, local businessmen and women can play a unique and indispensable role in reducing violence, building peace, and rebuilding countries and communities.

In Mexico, the notorious Tijuana Cartel, which had gathered strength during the 1990s, dominated large swaths of the city, turning it into a battlefield that endangered citizens and deterred businesses. In 2006 and 2007, local businesses, civil society, and government leaders worked together to develop solutions to effectively reclaim the community from criminal networks. For a time, their efforts succeeded in significantly reducing violence and improving the city’s economic life. In 2015, CIPE led a project that helped Tijuana tell its story, which showed how private sector leadership and collaboration with government and civil society can address high levels of criminal violence. Since then, violence has sky-rocketed again in the city for a number of reasons. CIPE will help Tijuana business leaders and their allies seek to repeat their past success and improve life for citizens and businesses again while refining the earlier model and collecting new evidence about what works.

Even in fragile environments like the Democratic Republic of Congo, economic activity continues, creating an opportunity for a peaceful and sustainable future. Photo by Pamela Beecroft.

In Syria, CIPE helped a group of Syrian business leaders build an economic think tank, now based in southern Turkey, called the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF). The organization is a leading source of information and analysis about the economic situation in Syria, as well as an originator of market-oriented solutions, which humanitarian agencies, local councils, and other stakeholders can use to respond to the situation on the ground. SEF has also expanded opportunities for displaced Syrian businesspeople in Turkey by negotiating access to an underutilized free economic zone and facilitating the transition of Syrian-owned businesses into the formal economy. Other initiatives encourage entrepreneurship, including a new CIPE-led project to incubate food-based enterprises and provide workforce training in the food sector.

Read More…

Women’s Business Resource Center Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea Succeed Against the Odds

Children and women make up the majority of market life in Gerehu, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Ness Kerton for AusAID.

Women in Papua New Guinea face distressing obstacles to achieving leadership roles in business, politics, their communities, and their families. Two-thirds of women there are victims of domestic violence, according to reports. Women and girls are frequently treated like property, and it is not uncommon for them to be bought and sold. Men are twice as likely as women to hold a formal job. It is also very difficult for women to access credit, receive bank loans, and even open a bank account.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others have identified a potential solution this problem: women’s economic empowerment. Research shows that when women have greater economic opportunities and better access to financial resources, they face less risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. If women are able to engage in commerce and earn their own paychecks, they will no longer be financially dependent on their partners. Boosting women’s economic opportunities and gender equality leads to gross domestic product growth, increased income per capita, and greater competitiveness for countries, according to the World Bank.

Read More…