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Santos’s years have been marked by social progress: huge spending on poor districts in the former narco-bastion of Medellín and legislation for the restitution of land to those who were expelled from it by paramilitaries and Farc. “Colombia is a fairly rich nation and yet it still has one third of citizens living in poverty and four million of them in extreme poverty. This is completely unacceptable,” said Rodríguez. “But we have taken 2.5 million Colombians out of poverty and 1.3 million from extreme poverty – something no government has ever done in Colombia. We have operated a social democracy, in place of the military economy that an Uribe-run government would bring back. We are trying to grow for the general prosperity, they want prosperity for just a few business people in their entourage.”

From 2004-2012, CIPE worked with the Political Science Institute – Hernán Echavarría Olózaga, based in Bogotá, Colombia, to publish a quarterly Spanish-language print magazine, Perspectiva. Thanks to the rapid expansion of internet service throughout the region, ICP recognized the opportunity to share information with a greater number of people and create an interactive platform for discussion on regional economic and democratic issues. Thus, in June 2012, ICP launched RevistaPerspectiva.com, a digital platform that provides citizens with access to information on politics, economics, and social topics from around the region and beyond.

Those tasked with drafting or promoting legislation guaranteeing the right to information face a number of challenges. How should the regime of exceptions be crafted so as to strike an appropriate balance between the right to know and the need for secrecy to protect certain key public and private interests? How extensive should the obligation to publish and disseminate information be and how can the law ensure that this obligation grows in line with technological developments? What procedures for requesting information can balance the need for timely, inexpensive access against the pressures and resource constraints facing civil servants? What right of appeal should individuals have when their requests for information have been refused? Which positive measures need to be taken to change the culture of secrecy that pervades the public administration in so many countries and to inform the public about this right? Conducted by Toby Mendel, this study helps to clarify some of these challenges from a regional, comparative perspective. It illustrates the way, in which eleven Latin American countries have dealt with enacting right to information legislation.

Despite the government’s reforms, NGO figures show that threats and violence against HRDs in Colombia in 2013 remained at similar levels to 2012. Somos Defensores (“We are Defenders”) is a Colombian NGO alliance. Provisional figures for their 2013 report show that whilst attacks went down 4% in 2013, the number of assassinations was 76: a 10% increase on the previous year. They also claim that in most cases the perpetrators are not found, increasing perceptions of impunity, and that there was a significant increase in the number of judicial cases brought against HRDs, mainly as a result of the social protests which took place in August. The British Embassy has continued to urge the government not to link the work of HRDs, including peaceful protesters, with the guerrillas or other illegal armed groups, as stigmatisation can lead to violence against them. The British Embassy has also continued to highlight the work of HRDs and their organisations in a bi-monthly human rights bulletin and, through its presidency of the G24 human rights group, has met human rights organisations, and encouraged dialogue between them and the government.