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Between 1992 to 1994, the Quindío department of Colombia developed its regional development plan through a participatory process. Institutions from a wide variety of social sectors were invited to participate in the construction of the plan. These included: local NGOs, community groups, agricultural and ecological groups, universities and schools, regional businesses, investors and hospitals, as well as officials and officers from various municipalities. For some meetings, more specialised groups were also invited.

The process lasted 6 months and resulted in a multi-sectoral plan with a budget, which was based on a set of reports and studies, a collection of sectorial diagnoses, policy statements, and a series of priority-setting processes. The regional government worked under the guidance of CIDER, the Interdisciplinary Centre of Development Studies, of the University of the Andes in Bogota.

As a result of this plan, and other processes, Quindío began:

  1. Investment in its tourism industry, which has since become one of the foremost tourist areas of the country.
  2. A concerted effort to diversify agriculture, which had been based largely on coffee for exportation.
  3. To emphasise the need for improved investment in education, especially in rural areas.

This was one of the first participatory regional development plans in the country. It was followed by similar plans elsewhere, as well as in the Quindio itself. For example, the ‘El Plan Quindío 2020’ is even more participatory than its predecessors and it makes a more direct effort to include marginalized groups.

The Quindío department has used this model of planning for more specific projects such the recuperation of rivers and the strategic plans for sectors of the economy.

In general, the are many forms of public participation in the governance of the country partly because this is a strong element of the country’s Constitution. Article 103 outlines various mechanisms for a more participatory democracy.

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