October 31, 2014
The Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales (Association of Corporate and Family Foundations) is a Colombia-based association that works to promote accountability among corporate and family foundations in the country, encourage the sharing of best philanthropic practices, and act as a collective voice for its members in order to achieve greater impact and contribute to social equity and sustainable development. Recently, the Foundation Center's Marie DeAeth spoke with Maria Carolina Suarez Visbal, AFE's executive director, about the impact of current and historical events on the country's philanthropic sector, the challenges grantmakers face, and the opportunities they have to move Colombia forward.
After a civil war in the mid-20th century, Colombia experienced more than fifty years of violence at the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an "irregular military organization" that is still active in certain rural areas of the country. The country also has had to deal with violence perpetrated by drug cartels that help drive the global cocaine industry. "Violence, corruption, guerrillas, paramilitary groups, drug cartels — all are present in Colombia and have definitely affected the different sectors of the economy, including the philanthropic sector," says Sra. Suarez. "At the moment, the country is engaged in a peace-building process in which we all have to be prepared to accept many changes. Nonprofits are not immune to this, and, indeed, they have an important role to play in a post-conflict situation."
The problems in rural areas are a big challenge for those engaged in philanthropic work, Suarez notes, particularly as the government is trying to negotiate a peace settlement with the FARC and civil society in the country remains focused on the process. Peace-building in rural areas is important to many AFE members, and they, almost uniquely in Colombia, have the human and social capital, knowledge, and capacity to empower and strengthen rural communities. As Suarez notes, "These challenges confirm that we must go into territories beyond where the foundation's family is from or where the foundation's parent corporation is located."