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Carter Center Works to Improve Bilateral Relationship Between Colombia and Ecuador

The Carter Center is working to improve the bilateral relationship between Colombia and Ecuador through a dialogue process between key citizens of both countries, which it organized in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program.

"There is a lot of misperception between the two countries, and we thought that bringing together some high-level, influential opinion-makers of each country could help to increase the understanding in each country of the true problems that each face," said Jennifer McCoy, director of the Carter Center's Americas Program.

Ecuador and Colombia's shared border is under strain from multiple issues, including an ongoing guerilla war in Colombia and large numbers of Colombian refugees fleeing into already-poor Ecuador border towns to escape fighting in their country.

Dialogue group members represent important sectors in both countries that have influence in their governments and the media. The group has met four times in the past year and maintains discussion of relevant issues by e-mail.

"The dialogue is an attempt to help opinion makers on each side to understand more clearly the sources of tension between their countries and then to be able to communicate those not only to their governments, but also to society. Hopefully they can then work together on a plan to address serious problems on the border area," said Francisco Diez, project director.

The group also engages in initiatives to symbolically strengthen ties, including journalists writing articles in the other country's newspapers.

Diplomatic relations were broken on March 3, 2008, and The Carter Center worked in May and June to facilitate discrete talks to resume relations. Each country's president committed to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to resume diplomatic relations at a lower level of "chargé d'affaires," but in late-June, they suspended the already started process.

The Carter Center continues working for dialogue and improvement of the relationship between the people of Colombia and Ecuador and remains ready to collaborate with both governments as their presidents deem appropriate.

All Photos: Carter Center/D. Hakes

The dialogue group poses with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter at The Carter Center in May 2008.
A Colombian family describes their struggle to find employment and gain refugee status in Ecuador's northern border to a Carter Center employee.

Learn more about the Carter Center's Americas Program >

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