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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.



Despite relative political stability, Colombian democracy has been undermined by ongoing violence generated by left-wing guerrillas as well as paramilitary groups and their successors, both with ties to the extensive narcotics industry. Recent political reforms have overhauled the political party system in Colombia, advancing internal party reform measures, increasing accountability and strengthening women’s political participation.

Since taking office in 2010, President Juan Manuel Santos has supported an ambitious agenda for social reform, passing a Victims and Land Restitution Law in 2011 that offers the opportunity to restore millions of acres of land to Colombians who have been driven from their homes by violence. President Santos also initiated peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) in 2012. After one year of negotiations, Colombian government and FARC representatives announced they had reached agreement on agrarian reform - the first negotiating point on their five item agenda. Implementation of any agreement will not begin until consensus is reached on all five points. In the meantime, legislative and presidential elections 2014 have the potential to reshape the political context surrounding the peace negotiations and other reform measures.

NDI's activities in Colombia are dedicated to the memory of Nevio Fernando Serna Díaz, a mayor who participated in NDI's Political Leadership Program and was brutally assassinated in May 2000.

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Strengthening Legislative Processes to Prepare for Peace

NDI works with the Colombian civic group Social Foundation to provide technical assistance to the Victims Unit, the government agency tasked with carrying out the Victims Law. The Institute also organizes local workshops with Colombian NGOs on how to participate in the implementation process, and interparty roundtables on the role of elected officials in executing the law. NDI also educates local council and assembly members on their oversight role for the Victims Law.

NDI collaborates with local universities and NGOs to share information on legislation and mechanisms for citizen participation. NDI also continues to work with a broad group of political parties to help them reform internal rules and structures to comply with recent legislation.

Building Consensus for a New Mining Code

Mining and other extractive industries are one of the fastest growing sectors of the Colombian economy, in Chocó and other conflict-prone regions with large Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations. A growing debate in Colombia seeks to balance economic, environmental and social issues when considering the future of the mining industry. To better prepare representatives of local communities in Chocó to address local conflicts and consolidate proposals regarding extractive industries, NDI worked with them in 2012-2013 to enhance their consensus building and proposal development skills and to encourage dialogue between civil society, government and the private sector.

Support for Electoral Transparency

Since 2007 municipal elections, NDI has organized candidate debates, helped implement voter education campaigns and trained party pollwatchers.  NDI has also provided Transparency for Colombia (Transparencia por Colombia, TPC) assistance for its Clear Accounts financial reporting software. In 2010, upgraded Web-based software was donated to the electoral authorities and designated as the required mechanism for all candidates and parties participating in elections to file legally mandated reports of income and expenses for their campaigns. Of 100,117 departmental and local candidates running for office in October 2011, 84,093 used the software to submit their financial reports to Colombian electoral authorities. The CNE has announced that the Clear Accounts software will again be used in the 2014 elections.

In 2010, the Institute assisted the nonpartisan election monitoring organization Election Observation Mission (Misión de Observación Electoral, MOE) regarding the strategy and logistics for the deployment of 1,762 observers in 11 departments. For the presidential elections, NDI supported MOE’s deployment of 1,065 observers in the same regions.  From 2011 to 2012, NDI worked with MOE to monitor voter registration in priority areas, deploy a nationwide random sample to produce information on the quality of elections and collaborate with civil society to recommend improvements for the enforcement of electoral law in preparation for 2014 elections.

In 2011, NDI also supported New Rainbow Corporation (Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, CNAI) to produce a report on political networks and the influence of illegal armed groups on the electoral process in 50 at-risk municipalities. CNAI identified candidates with links to illegal groups and shared a list of flagged candidates with political parties before the candidate nomination process ended. In response to report findings, parties purged their lists of more than 1,700 candidates.

Increasing Political Participation

Since 2000, NDI established partnerships with a broad group of political parties to work on issues such as: candidate selection models; use of new technologies; development of party messages and communication strategies; training party pollwatchers; fostering inclusion of underrepresented sectors; facilitating interaction between party caucuses, party structures and party members; and strengthening internal party oversight bodies.

NDI has promoted the participation and inclusion of women, Afro-Colombians, indigenous persons and youth in Colombian politics. These efforts have included support for campaigns promoting women’s participation and candidacies as well as the women’s congressional caucus; technical assistance to strengthen or generate party secretariats that target women’s or Afro-Colombian political participation; and work with national and local women’s and Afro-Colombian organizations to improve their members’ advocacy  and candidate skills. NDI also supported election observation in coastal departments that have a larger Afro-Colombian population.

From 2007 to 2012, NDI conducted programming to help citizens in the post-conflict regions of Chocó and Montes de María to organize politically and increase the responsiveness of Colombia’s national political parties to the unique concerns and priorities of those regions. NDI also worked with local civil society networks to improve advocacy for policy priorities and with party caucuses in municipal councils to improve oversight and accountability.

Political Leadership Program

From 2000-2006, NDI included representatives of Colombian parties in its regional Political Leadership Program (LP) to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties.  Participating parties included the Conservative, Liberal, Democratic Alternative Pole, Indigenous Social Alliance, Alas Team Colombia, Party of the U, and Radical Change. Each one-year program began with a regional leadership development seminar and continued in-country with the young leaders carrying out concrete party-strengthening projects. Project results included better-consolidated youth, training, organization and communication structures in parties at the national level and increased participation of women and youth in national and state party structures.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Francisco Herrero, resident senior director

Washington, D.C.
Katy Mudge, senior program manager

Published Publication Title Author
05/10/2010 Remarks of Nimia Vargas for NDI's 25th Anniversary Dinner Celebration
Nimia Vargas
12/01/2008 NDI Reports: A Review of the Activities of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
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04/22/2008 Guia Practica Sobre el Regimen de Bancadas
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10/01/2007 Changing the Face of Politics: Women in Politics
National Democratic Institute
12/01/2005 NDI 2005 Annual Report
National Democratic Institute
01/01/2005 La Cultura Politica de la Democracia en Colombia, 2004
National Democratic Institute
01/01/2005 Guia Pedagogic Elecciones 2006
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01/01/2001 Promoviendo Transparencia y Gobernabilidad: Experiencias en la Republica Argentina, Colombia, y los Estados Unidos, Buenos Aires
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01/01/1998 Promoviendo el Derecho a la Informacion y Estrategias Anti-Corrupcion: Experiencias en Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Estados Unido
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08/30/1995 Actitudes Hacia los Partidos Políticos en America Latina: Informe Sobre una serie de Focus Groups Realizados en México, El Salva
National Democratic Institute, Graciela Romer & Asociados