Impact Story 9: Shifting Politics, Unchanging Purpose
In this series, we highlight the Innovation Impact Stories of our members. They share their projects with a focus on new, innovative ways to make an impact and accelerate change to a better world!
Adaptability in action: responding to changing politics in Colombia
As we’ve seen recently in the Netherlands, the political landscape can change drastically at the drop of a dime. Which leaves those dependent on political processes scrambling to adjust. A similar transformation occurred in Colombia following the 2018 national elections. The political winds turned: people, priorities and policies changed under the new administration. The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) quickly adapted and found a new way to promote peaceful, just and inclusive politics. Can’t beat the politics? Better join the politicians!
Challenging journey to peace
NIMD has been a steadfast presence in Colombia since 2010, playing a key role in promoting peace ever since the landmark 2016 agreement effectively ended the protracted conflict. Assisting with the peace accords was one of the “greatest moments” for the office, recalls Ángela Rodríguez, the Country Director of NIMD Colombia. Since then, NIMD Colombia has laid the groundwork for a peaceful future. This process can be particularly volatile in countries with a recent history of conflict, and great sensitivity is needed. It has been a long-term commitment to democracy, which requires effort on multiple fronts, as well as perseverance and innovation. It is a journey that has seen challenges, revealing both the complexities of navigating changing political circumstances – and the rewards of staying the course.
Innovating the approach
After the 2018 election, working at the national level became increasingly challenging. The incoming government shifted its focus away from the peace process, meaning shrinking space for cooperation. It was a pivotal moment, prompting NIMD to step back, reflect, and identify opportunities for change to ensure the continuation of their efforts towards a more peaceful future. NIMD’s international network played a crucial role in this process, as the Colombia office tapped into colleagues’ experiences in the region and from other continents during decision-making. Ultimately, it became clear that the most significant impact could be achieved at the local level, where the burden of the conflict had been most deeply felt, and mistrust remained high.
“The local leaderships were the most affected by the violence after the Peace Agreement was signed, so we felt that we had more to contribute” – Ángela Rodríguez, the Country Director of NIMD Colombia
Ensuring impact at different levels
NIMD established a series of local dialogue initiatives as part of this innovative approach. They bring together decision-makers, politicians, and local civil society leaders to collaborate and co-create solutions to challenges identified by citizens themselves. Our goal is to bolster people’s faith in the decision-making process. The dedication to adapting to a changing political context and refocusing the approach paid off, as NIMD was honoured to receive recognition from the OECD as an outstanding initiative in 2022.
If You Can’t Beat the Politics, Join the Politicians
Democracy education is central to NIMD’s efforts in Colombia to prepare the country for a sustainable and peaceful future. In 2022, NIMD launched the “Occupy Politics” initiative, providing targeted electoral candidates. This comprehensive program covered inclusive leadership values and practical campaigning skills.
“It’s a leadership incubator for people we feel are going to make a change in the system” – Ángela Rodríguez, the Country Director of NIMD Colombia
Of the 81 individuals trained by NIMD, 23 were successfully elected in the 2022 elections. They represent a diverse range of voices, including young people and members of the LGBTQI+ community. They brought their values of inclusive democracy right to the heart of government. After the 2022 elections, the new government reaffirmed its dedication to the peace process. NIMD Colombia has already identified opportunities to resume its work on the national level, including assisting with a new transparency plan. But we will also remain committed to local projects nationwide because this holistic approach and long-term commitment have a real impact, even in the most challenging times.