There are trophies for actors, athletes, writers, and musicians, but reelection is the only recognition politicians earn for a job well done. Bogotá-based Colombia Líder is working to promote good governance by presenting awards to the best Colombian mayors and regional governors of every four-year election cycle.
Launched in 2006, Colombia Líder evaluates elected officials in areas such as fiscal management, poverty alleviation, public services expansion, and gender equality.
“Poor governance and lack of respect for the rule of law is an endemic problem in Colombia,” says Colombia Líder coordinator Karem Labrador Araujo. “But some leaders are doing a good job and no one talks about them.”
Last November, Colombia Líder chose Carlos Alberto Contreras, mayor of Barrancabermeja, and Horacio Serpa, governor of Santander state, as the best mayor and governor for the 2008–2011 period. In a city of 44,000 displaced citizens, the panel noted, Contreras made a “titanic” effort to link more than 11,000 families to the federal poverty eradication program. Serpa also constructed more than 124 miles (200 kilometers) of new highways.
Colombia Líder not only evaluates the country’s 1,002 mayors and 35 governors; it also maintains a database of best practices that politicians elsewhere can tap.
The project has the backing of private companies, NGOs and foundations. Although only in its second year, Colombia Líder has been invited to replicate its system in Mexico and Paraguay.