Posted by: unhcragd | May 19, 2009

AGDM Evaluation Team Reports from Colombia

UNHCR Age Gender Diversity Mainstreaming evaluator Virginia Thomas just spent a few weeks in Colombia and was impressed at the breadth and depth of the AGDM policy there.  Here is Virginia’s first report:
Virginia and Ursula at Barrio Farms en Accion

Virginia and Ursula at Barrio Farms en Accion

AGDM in Colombia has really taken off in an incredible way. It has forced me to reassess my own expectations of what we might find in the course of this evaluation. Colombia is an IDP situation, and UNHCR’s role here is to build capacity of the state to meet its obligations to what will soon be 4 million displaced people. In 2005, UNHCR Colombia assisted the Constitutional Court to prepare a landmark ruling stating that the Government of Colombia was in a state of unconstitutionality due to its lack of effective protection for the displaced.

Then in 2007 and 2008, again with UNHCR’s technical assistance, the Court handed down a series of follow-up rulings, ordering key public institutions to take an AGDM or “Differential” approach, to adopt public policies and programs based on the differential protection risks faced by displaced women, men, children, youth, indigenous, afro-colombians, elderly and persons with disabilities. People here say that it is a revolution in terms of protecting the rights of all displaced people and that UNHCR Colombia’s strategic approach to AGDM is at the heart of it.

Barrio Familias en Accion Build Roads/Build Community

Barrio Familias en Accion Build Roads/Build Community

The operation has also begun to use participatory assessments strategically, in different regions, with displaced communities at heighted risk. Ursula Mendosa and I spent two days in Tumaco, Narino with an Afro-Colombian community of 100 displaced families that “invaded” some a Pacific coastal mangrove area, fleeing violence in other areas, only three years ago. A Participatory Assessment (PA) was done 1 year ago, and an action plan was produced. In addition, UNHCR launched the action plan by initiating a low-cost Practical Protection Project (PPP) to build a small school and public toilets. 

Toilets and Water Supplied by UNHCR

Toilets and Water Supplied by UNHCR

We met with a group of leaders (plus about 30 other people) and first did a chronogram of what had happened in the community leading up to the PA and since then. We realized that most people, even those who had participated in the plan, did not know the content of the plan – so we went through the plan item by item, and tried to determine what had happened in the case of which item. For those items on which there was action, we asked them to what they thought the indicators of success might be and if they actually perceived these changes in the community.

Then we did two focus groups with persons from the community – men of all ages and women of all ages. It was Mother’s Day so it was not easy to mobilize people but we had a good discussion which really showed that while a few leaders were aware of the plan and what had been done, most people not at all aware of it, although most were aware of some important changes in the community that had taken place.

Men Cook Dinner After Workshop

Men Cook Dinner After Workshop

Much had been done by the community itself – creating “roads” and bridges by dredging up earth and building structures to hold back the sea water; UNHCR has provided low-cost but important infrastructure like water tanks, bathrooms, a school; the municipal government had provided access to electricity, NGOs have been trying to accompany and support. The community confirmed that significant changes in the quality of life, health and community organization and awareness of their rights have been some of the results of the process.

More later from Colombia…



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