Labor and Community Organizations in Alliance? Alternative Development Visions in the Caribbean Regions of Colombia

Patricia M. Rodriguez, Ithaca College


In the past few decades in Colombia, neoliberal development approaches centered on top-down good governance policies containing discourse about consultative processes and social protection. This way to tackle poverty and inequality has meant little in practice to disempowered rural communities. Instead, these communities are seeing their means of livelihood disappear with the dominance of transnational corporations (TNCs) in mining and agricultural sectors; still, they are fighting to have their alternative visions of development, participation, and social justice heard and incorporated in policy-making. Borrowing insights from the social movement governance and network advocacy literatures, this article analyzes the obstacles and prospects of community and labor organizations' attempts to make a bottom-up impact on governance in the Caribbean Magdalena and Cesar regions of Colombia. I argue that the ability of grassroots organizations to influence the state and corporations to (at least) live up to their 'good governance' commitments depends heavily on their organizational network strategies and the long-term focus of their joint efforts. The building of strong alliances among local organizations involves substantial internal and external challenges that are not easy to overcome, but that can carry some weight within a politicized arena occupied by powerful political and economic elite actors. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.