NRGI Regional Knowledge Hub Alumni Stories: Transforming Extractive Industries for Development in Colombia

Country: Colombia
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Colombia is rich in minerals and energy resources—it has the largest coal reserves in Latin America. The 2010-2014 national development plan, Prosperidad para todos (Prosperity for All), identifies the extractive sector as one of the main potential drivers of economic development for Colombia.

However, there is a widespread knowledge gap on extractive issues. According to Ana Carolina González Espinosa, with the Center for Research and Special Projects at the Universidad Externado de Colombia, there is a huge need for governance training across stakeholder groups. She highlighted a lack of knowledge and capacity among governments and CSOs active at the local level. This knowledge, she says, is crucial to effectively oversee the allocation and use of extractives revenues.

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Name: Ms. Ana Carolina González Espinosa

Country: Colombia

Profession: Ph.D. in Political Science - SciencesPo Paris/

Teacher-Researcher Centre for Research and Special Projects (CIPE), Externado University of Colombia

Course attended: Latin America Knowledge Hub Diploma course

The extractive sector accounted for 69 percent of Colombia's exports in 2011. The petroleum industry is particularly important; it generated 4 percent of total government revenue in 2011. However, over the last decade, interest in Colombia's coal, nickel, gold and other mineral resources has grown. Tax incentives and market reforms have created attractive conditions for foreign direct investment and a number of multinational extractive companies recently began operations in Colombia.*

*www.resourcegovernance.org/ countries/latin-america/colombia/overview

González Espinosa attended the first diploma course organized by the Latin America Knowledge Hub, a program developed through a partnership between NRGI and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), in 2009. She immediately saw the potential and need for replicating the course in her own country, Colombia. At the time, she was working as a researcher at Universidad Externado. “For me, it was very important that the Knowledge Hub Diploma course presented an integrated way of looking at the extractive industry sector from a sociopolitical perspective,” she said.

In 2013, González Espinosa organized the first accredited diploma course at Universidad Externado for 16 Colombian participants. The course was organized in partnership with the NRGI Hub in Lima. Participants came central and local governments, the environmental sector and civil society. University students also participated.

González Espinosa said that the Knowledge Hub Diploma course has benefitted her personally. “I have much more insight into the subject matter and have become more aware of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholder groups involved,” she says.

González Espinosa said she sees potential for consolidating and expanding the participant base in future regional hubs, potentially by attracting Central American participants. She also sees good opportunities to integrate the coursework into modules or specializations linked to masters programs. “The financial and technical sustainability will of course remain a challenge to us,” she said. According to González Espinosa, the positive reception for the first course shows a willingness among stakeholder groups to pay for this type of training.

The Latin America Knowledge Hub is an NRGI-Pontifical Catholic University of Peru partnership intended to build capacity in Latin America to shape oil, gas and mining governance. For more information on hub offerings, visit the Latin America Knowledge Hub page on NRGI’s website. The Knowledge Hub is one of six such courses NRGI created in partnership with academic institutions to offer training and support for civil society organizations, members of parliament and journalists in Anglophone Africa, Francophone Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa. Learn more here.