I have now spent 3 days in Bogota, and have been involved in meetings with IKV Pax Christi, the Colombian Comptroller General's Office (la Contraloria), the EU delegation and the Royal Netherlands embassy. Hectic stuff, with lots of more or less simultaneous translations between English and Spanish going on.
Tomorrow we participate in a large closed forum to discuss the lack of balance (mining/development vs environmental oversight, etc.) in this country.
The challenge is to discuss issues on a very macro level, avoiding details of specific environmental and social problems (of which there are many, and serious examples, here) and helping the Contraloria to gain more influence (power) in the environmental permitting of exploration and mining licences. My own contribution will be to discuss mine decommissioning, closure, environmental financial assurance mechanisms, all against the background of experiences from Ghana.
Colombia has a much more complicated situation – think of the complications added by having distinct indigenous populations (generally anti-mining, generally not consulted well in the whole permitting process), the presence of armed rebels, permits already granted over sensitive environmental areas, etc.
However, this afternoon, as we stepped out of one meeting, we saw this view from a street in Bogota. Let's believe it is a sign of hope.