Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development


Territorial Context and Activities

The UPD mission for Sustainable Development is to promote a reconciliation between the territorial development needs and the proper management of its habitats and natural resources, elaborating productive projects that guarantee the sustainability and at the same time the needs of gender inclusion and meeting basic needs, through shared strategies with communities and stakeholders. The UPD’s sustainable development activities focus on productive projects fostering inclusive human development that fosters education and professionalism, colaborating with public and business stakeholders to maximize outcomes in terms of sustainability, employability and productivity.

ColombiaCaribbean RegionActivitiesArticles

Sources: World Bank, OCDE, UNDP, DNP – Desarrollo Social, Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2010-2014


In 2015, Colombia remained among the rapid growth countries in the region, thanks to effective macroeconomic and fiscal management. However, the country was affected by the global economic slowdown and the lower oil prices, so its economic growth went from 4.6 percent in 2014 to 3.1 percent in 2015. The slowdown was mainly due to the extractive sector , while services remained the main driver of growth. Agriculture and manufacturing began to recover by the end of the year. On the demand side, household consumption continued to drive economic activity, while government consumption and investment slowed and exports fell.

Unemployment reached a record low in 2015 (8.9 percent), following major reforms to reduce non-wage labor costs and despite the slowdown in economic activity. Fiscal management remains strong, as demonstrated by compliance with the fiscal rule first instituted in 2012.


Colombia’s rich natural heritage – close to 55% of Colombia’s territory is covered by forests, the second of the world’s most biodiverse countries – is under increasing pressure due to extractive industries, cattle breeding, urbanization and use of cars, according to the OECD. The Increasing of the extraction of non-renewable natural resources is driving economic growth. However, it is also one of the main causes of soil and water pollution, the degradation of sensitive ecosystems and serious human health damage.

Colombia is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, so slash-and-burn agriculture, artificial drainage of wetlands, changes in natural river courses, and construction of villages and towns in areas prone to flooding and landslides will increase the risks.

Although it is true that greater economic growth has contributed significantly to improving the Colombians’ income and well-being in the last decades, it has also been accompanied by a marked environmental deterioration and accentuation of problems such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity and water and air pollution (DNP, 2007: 6). It is found, for example, that 85% of Colombia’s productive systems are located in areas vulnerable to desertification, and 48% of the country is susceptible to erosion. These factors degrade approximately 2,000 hectares per year in the Andean region and affect the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, the availability of food, and the quality and quantity of water. Likewise, it is estimated that environmental degradation in Colombia represents losses equivalent to 3.7% of GDP (World Bank, 2007: 118). Similarly, the chemicals used in production processes cause water, air and food contamination, creating significant risks to public health, productivity and ecosystems. One sector that deserves special attention in producing environmental deterioration despite recent efforts to control it, is mining. Although legislation prohibits commercial activities in areas of environmental importance, compliance with these rules has been limited and, in many cases, informal mining activity has generated serious environmental consequences, especially in the use and use of water resources . Likewise, the environmental liabilities associated with legal mining have not been quantified in economic and social terms, nor internalized, nor are there specific sources of financing for their recovery.


In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, significant progress has been made in recent years in the fight against poverty and extreme poverty, which is evidenced by the decrease of approximately 16 percentage points in the incidence of the poverty rate and in 7 percentage points the incidence of extreme poverty between 2002 and 2014. Thanks to these advances, Colombia ranks fifth in poverty reduction in the region and fourth in extreme poverty reduction, contributing with 6’600.000 people which have ceased to be poor and 3’500,000 who have ceased to be extremely poor in the last decade.

Colombia has deep territorial and population inequalities in the fight against poverty. For example, the bulk of poverty in the country is concentrated in high-income departments. Antioquia, Valle del Cauca and Bogotá contribute about 50% of national income, but account for about 25% of poverty. This fact is probably caused by the high population concentration, partly due to the displacement of the vulnerable population seeking better opportunities.

For the Colombian case, it is possible to argue that violence is the most important poverty trap. Various academic papers have shown that the armed conflict has subtracted between 0.3 and 0.5 percentage points per year to the economic growth of the country. A study conducted by the Center for Conflict Analysis (CERAC) reveals that, in a situation of conflict, Colombia’s Gross Domestic Product doubles every two decades. In the absence of conflict, however, the time it would take the economy to grow 100% would be only 10 years. This means that in the last 50 years the country has lost nearly 30 years of value-added production because of the conflict.


Receiving a quality education is a right that all Colombian children and young people have, irrespective of their social, economic, geographical or ethnic status. However, this right enshrined in the National Constitution of 1991 (Articles 44 and 67) and claimed by the General Education Act of 1994, is still only partly covered in Colombia. Individuals with low education are more vulnerable to situations of marginalization and poverty, and the results of the PISA (2012) tests placed Colombia in 62th place among the 65 countries that present it in the world. The distribution of human capital in the population determines the composition and wages in the labor market, which largely determines the distribution of income. That is why it is necessary to ensure that all Colombians have access to quality education, equitable social security and solidarity, to enter the labor market – promoting formalization or supporting entrepreneurship – and to effective social promotion mechanisms.



Sources: Composición de la Economía de La Región Caribe de Colombia, PER Caribe, Caribe prospero, equitativo y sin pobreza extrema


The economic structure of the Caribbean region is varied, including agriculture (maize, cassava, yams, bananas and palm), livestock (for meat and milk), mining, industry, tourism and shipping. Agricultural and industrial activities have lost relative weight in the last two decades, while mining and services have registered important changes that have allowed it to gain higher shares in national production. The industry is concentrated in Barranquilla and Cartagena, it low-diversified (food and beverages, chemicals, nonmetallic minerals and plastics) and is scarcely linked to mining and agriculture.

The energy and mining activity grew strongly in the last decade, both in the country and in the Caribbean region, in the latter mainly driven by the exploitation of coal, lignite coal and peat in the departments of Cesar and La Guajira, which on annual average contributed with 73.1% of the mining activity in the region.

On the other hand, the extraction of natural gas is fundamental in regional GDP and is accounted for with the exploitation of oil.

The tertiary sector is comprised of commerce, transportation and communications, business services and social services. This sector is developed mainly in large urban centers, since these have the infrastructure and the necessary conditions for its operation.

In 2010 the population represented 21.4% of the total of Colombians and the gross domestic product contributed 15.1% of the total country. This last one grew in the last decade 4,1% in average annual rate equal to the one registered in the national order.


Tourism is a great potential activity in the region due to the exuberant natural beauty and cultural richness of the Caribbean and the historical, highlighting Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andrés as the cities with the largest participation of visitors. Cartagena has the most important hotel industry, natural, heritage and cultural attractions, such as monumental military buildings and colonial architecture, in 1985, UNESCO declared it a Cultural and Historical Patrimony of Humanity.

Santa Marta became one of the main destinations in Colombia thanks to archaeological sites such as Pueblito, Ciudad Perdida and the petroglyphs of Donama, El Morro, Sierra Nevada, Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino and the Cathedral and was declared by UNESCO as Reserve of the Biosphere and Patrimony of the Humanity in the year of 1979.

The wide diversity of ecosystems and landscapes of the Caribbean region has made tourism one of the most important productive bets in all departments of the region (PER Caribbean, 2013). Production in the commerce, restaurants and hotels sector accounts for 11% of regional GDP (DANE, 2014).

Despite the richness and productive potential of the region, its low levels of competitiveness and the low sophistication of the productive sectors in general, have a negative impact on the generation of jobs and the creation of new companies outside the capital cities. Currently, regional industry is concentrated in Barranquilla and Cartagena, and is scarcely linked to other sectors and territories in the south of the region (PER Caribbean, 2013).


The Caribbean region experiences an even more unfortunate situation than the rest of the country, as approximately 50% of its inhabitants are poor, while 17% live in extreme poverty (DANE, 2013). Despite the challenges, the Caribbean region has progressed in the fight against poverty in a sustained way. Between 2010-2013, monetary poverty in the region fell by 10 percentage points, from 53.8% to 43.5%, while extreme poverty fell from 18.9% to 12.5%.

The Caribbean region presents one of the most worrisome records in the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) – 37.4% in 2013 (DANE, 2013) – and in food security and infant mortality: 58.5% of the households are food insecure (ENSIN, 2010), which has resulted in high infant mortality rates. In fact, 70.8% of the municipalities in the region are below their benchmark in this indicator, with the most notable being the indigenous population of Chimila (Magdalena), Yukpa (Cesar) and Wayuú (La Guajira);


In environmental terms, the continental zone of the Caribbean region has two biosphere reserves, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Cienaga Grande of Santa Marta, and areas of environmental importance and high biological diversity such as the wetland systems of La Mojana and the Momposina depression wetland system. This natural wealth is highly exposed to various threats from human activities. The Caribbean concentrates 83% of the country’s high desertification, equivalent to 24.1% of its territory (own DNP calculations based on IDEAM 2010 data), especially due to the pressure of overgrazing, deforestation, some natural processes and artisanal, illegal and industrial mining. Likewise, increases in sea level and climate variability have generated high coastal erosion in the region, with an estimated 25% of the territory’s beaches being affected by this phenomenon (Invemar, 2013 p.37).

In addition to the lags in aqueduct and sewer coverage, the Colombian Caribbean faces a high and very high vulnerability in 76.8% of its territory and the lack of quality water for human consumption due to the contamination of the channels that cross its territory and the depletion of groundwater sources due to the lack of protection, overexploitation and lack of knowledge of the water resource, which makes it difficult to maintain the water supply and negatively impacts the health of the inhabitants of the region, especially the children.


In the education sector there are significant inequalities in secondary education coverage: this inequality is strongly observed in the department of La Guajira, where average gross coverage is 43.91% and net coverage is 19.95%, considerably lower to the national average (MEN, 2013). On the other hand, for the illiteracy rate of over 15 years, 88.8% of the municipalities have a breach (175 municipalities), with a concentration of 18.2% in La Guajira, the highest in the region . Likewise, 79.7% of the municipalities had lags in the results of the math tests (157 municipalities) (DNP, 2014).



Development training program

Within the framework for the empowerment of development actors, the UPD shares available free places in its courses and trainings. Free places are available for volunteers and staff members of organizations whose work has shown the need for professionalism in the areas of development planning, project design, project management, monitoring and evaluation.

The training of the stakeholders focuses on strengthening the skills necessary for the preparation of studies and presentation of project proposals. The strengthening of analytical capacities is essential to evaluate the development potential of the communities analysed, to understand their problems and to identify the best development program that can benefit the community. In this way the development can be achieved with a bottom-up approach, analyzing the problems of the communities and generating an autonomous process of identification and solution of the problems.

The training of NGOs and community organizations is necessary for a proficous collaboration in international projects, where the requirements in terms of project management and monitoring and evaluation are very rigid.

As part of the Training for Development program, in 2016 UPD provided free training for 9 students of the University of Magdalena’s anthropology faculty and 11 officials from:

Association of Entrepreneurs of Magdalena, Ecologa Foundation, Pro-Sierra Nevada Foundation of Santa Marta, SENA, Casa Indegena Santa Marta, Raices Italo-Colombianas Foundation, FUNDEHUMAC.


Final Evaluation Introductory Course in Community Development Planning and Management

3 December 2015 – 27 January 2016, Universidad del Magdalena

The first introductory course in Project Management and Community Development sought to strengthen students’ skills in project identification, formulation, implementation and evaluation.

The first module (THE STRUCTURE OF THE PROJECT AND ITS LOGIC) sought to strengthen the students’ vision towards the understanding of sustainable development policies, which is the logic that must be managed to understand the project impact and the ways to finance it.

The second module (METHODOLOGIES AND TOOLS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROJECT) focused its attention on the project management of the information and the analysis necessary to elaborate a project proposal. This part of the course explained the importance of contact and involvement with stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project.

The third module (PROJECT EVALUATION AND MANAGEMENT) offered skills to manage a development project (relations with the consortium, stakeholders and funding institutions). In this part of the course, the students understood how to justify the objectives that were established for the project. The students understood the importance of establishing strategies matching the beneficiaries aims and the importance of finding shared motivations with stakeholders.

The practical module, finally, aimed at training the implementation of the concepts and methodologies of analysis and involvement of stakeholders and beneficiaries. At the field trip to the indigenous settlement of El Encanto students were grouped into different teams to collect different information to understand the contextual environment in which the project has to be organized. The groups, led by an expert, tried to identify the motivations, problems and objectives of different categories of beneficiaries and stakeholders:

The “mamo” and the authorities

Indigenous women

Stakeholders (peasants living around the indigenous settlement)

A team of students took care of coordinating the activities and controlling the other groups.

The course ended by delivering an elaboration made by the students, based on the field work and search and management of information conducted in the laboratories, to explain, justify or motivate a part of the project.

La Resistenza di Cali

Fonte della foto: Tembolres ONG “Guardia, forza! per la mia razza, per la mia terra!”, è uno dei nuovi slogan simbolo della rivolta sociale riesplosa in Colombia: l’inno della Guardia Indigena del Cauca viene cantato non piú solo a Cali, ma nel resto del paese e a Bogotà. La Guardia Indigena del Cauca (la Minga
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Socioeconomic Context of the Colombian Caribbean Region

Departaments of Atlantico, Bolivar, La Guajira y Magdalena


La Guajira