The Carter Center has worked with Colombia and other South American countries to resolve internal and international conflicts and develop cooperation throughout the hemisphere.
The Carter Center and the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) initiated a dialogue forum among the five Andean countries (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) and the United States in 2010. The purpose of the Andean-U.S. Dialogue Forum, an 18-month series of dialogue sessions held in both the United States and the Andean region, was to:
• Identify a common agenda for the six countries,
• Address misperceptions and misunderstandings between countries,
• Propose innovative solutions to problematic issues, and
• Explore the possibility of bilateral dialogues between pairs of countries with tense relations within the forum.
The Carter Center, together with the United Nations Development Program, supported the work of a dialogue group of distinguished citizens from Colombia and Ecuador to improve relations between the two countries beginning in September 2007.
When Colombia and Ecuador broke diplomatic relations on March 3, 2008, after a Colombian military attack on a FARC rebel camp inside Ecuador's sovereign territory, The Carter Center began working with the two nations to facilitate communication and encourage the resumption of relations. On June 6, 2008, the presidents of both countries accepted a proposal from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to renew diplomatic relations at the level of chargé d 'affaires, immediately and without preconditions.
Ecuador and Colombia thanked The Carter Center and the Organization of American States for assisting their diplomatic efforts.
The Carter Center's previous involvement with Colombia included an invitation to witness the return of 60 Colombian soldiers and 10 marines captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in June 1997.
Earlier, in September 1996, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Americas Program then-Director Dr. Robert Pastor, and other senior Carter Center officials had met with Colombian leaders to discuss possible negotiations in Colombia's guerrilla war. The meetings included former Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, who went on to become leader of the Conciliation Commission, and former Presidents Belisario Betancur and Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, members of the Center's Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas.
Although Latin America spends relatively less on defense than most other regions, expenditures on expensive weapons systems divert scarce foreign exchange from more effective investments and compel neighbors to spend more on defense and, by doing so, generate international tensions. Concerned about an arms race in Latin America, the Carter Center's Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas urged governments in the region to pause before embarking on major arms purchases. Between April 1997 and March 1998, 28 current and 14 former heads of government signed a pledge to accept a moratorium of two years on purchasing sophisticated weapons. Among the signatories was Colombia President Ernesto Samper Pizano.
Latin America has made great strides to control river blindness, so that now — provided treatment and health education initiatives continue — permanent blindness from it no longer is a threat. Yet, until two decades ago, those who suffered from this painful and devastating disease had no hope for treatment.
Current status: Onchocerciasis eliminated
Verification status: Elimination verified in 2013
From 1996 until 2006, The Carter Center and its partners helped the Colombia Ministry of Health and Social Protection to distribute doses of the drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck to prevent river blindness in the nation's lone endemic community, Naicioná, also known as the López de Micay focus.
The community-based program paired mass drug administration with health education and community participation to eliminate the disease. These efforts were successful in 2006, when the cycle of disease transmission was broken after 23 consecutive treatment rounds reaching 85 percent or more of the at risk population.
The following year, health education continued, but Mectizan treatments were halted and ministry officials announced Colombia had become the first country to interrupt river blindness transmission through health education and Mectizan treatments alone (without the use of aerial insecticide spraying).
In 2011, after completing its three-year post-treatment surveillance period, Colombia became the first country to request verification of onchocerciasis elimination from the World Health Organization, the world`s only agency that can officially verify or certify a disease eliminated or eradicated.
In July 2013, Colombia publicly announced it had become the first country in the Americas to become verified as having eliminated river blindness.
In 2013, the Carter Center's Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, in partnership with the Universidad de La Sabana, began awarding two fellowships each year to journalists in Colombia. The program was established in support of Colombia's efforts to raise awareness of mental illnesses, which are among the most under-recognized health conditions in the nation, often characterized by stigma and misinformation.
The fellowships will develop a cadre of better informed print and electronic journalists who more accurately report information on topics relating to mental health and influence their peers to do the same.
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Size: 1,138,910 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 33 percent
Life expectancy at birth: 75 years
Ethnic groups: mestizo, white, mulatto, black, mixed black-Amerindian, Amerindian
Religions: Roman Catholic, other
Language: Spanish (official)
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2015