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Catalina Perdomo Rodriguez

Adviser to the UN in Colombia

After decades of civil war, a peace agreement was reached in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla. Numerous actors are now involved in the implementation of the agreement. Catalina Perdomo Rodriguez, seconded from FBA to the UN in Colombia, provides expert advice related to the process.

Approximately 13,000 FARC soldiers have been disarmed following the 2016 peace agreement. They now need help to reintegrate into civilian life, and local communities all over Colombia need support to be able to receive them. There is also one remaining active guerrilla, the ELN. Social leaders in parts of the country still touched by violence are badly afflicted. Many different UN agencies are present in Colombia, supporting the nation’s efforts to consolidate peace.

Catalina, you are seconded from FBA to the UN in Colombia, as Peace and Development Specialist. What duties does the job entail?

– It is a very exciting job! My main duty is to provide expert advice on all issues related to peacebuilding. I work at the UN Resident Coordinator Office in Bogotá, which coordinates the work of all UN agencies present in Colombia. I closely follow the political development in the country and analyze how it affects the work of the UN. I also spend a lot of time trying to strengthen coherence of the various UN agencies working for peace and development in the country, such as UN Women, UNDP, UNICEF, and the UN mission in Colombia tasked with monitoring the reintegration of former FARC combatants into civilian life.

You moved to Bogotá with your family when you started this job. What was it like?

– My husband and I moved to Colombia with our two children and our dog. It was a big change. Our youngest child only knew a few words in Spanish when we arrived, and therefore needed some special support. Fortunately, children are highly adaptable. And it is a plus that my parents live here. I am actually originally from Colombia, even though I have also been a Swedish citizen for many years. It feels good to be here again, and extremely interesting since the country is going through such a transition.

What has it been like during the latest months, when the corona pandemic has led to restrictions on free movement?

– Colombia enforced one of the strictest lockdowns on the planet. Social confinement began in March and did not end until late August. I started this job in January 2020, so I only got to work at the office for two and a half months before I was ordered to start working from home. I had to acquaint myself with my new job and get to know new people through video calls, and get a grasp of the situation in all parts of Colombia without being able to visit them. At the same time I had to homeschool my kids. My work load also increased, since I was tasked with supporting the coordination of the UN’s response to the pandemic in Colombia. But my husband and I are convinced that we made the right decision to stay here, at a time when all forces have been needed in this country. 

What did you do prior to moving to Colombia?

– I have been working internationally for over 15 years, from four different continents. Before moving to Colombia I was on deployment from the FBA to the UN peace operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I was a gender adviser. I have also worked for the Inter-American Development Bank, UNDP and Sipri. Now, I am happy to be back in my native country Colombia.

Photo: Private, UN Photo, Pedro Szekely

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