Interview with Alberto Andres Henao Ramirez, young University student who is also a promoter of “Causa por la Refundación del Chocó”.
He knew us because of our work in other Colombian areas (San Juan de Pasto, capital of the Nariño district and Cartagena de Indias, capital of the Bolívar district).
Hello Andres, you are a young student moved by a great civic passion, introduce yourself to our readers and describe for those who do not know the Colombian region where you come from.
First of all, thank you for your interest in the civic drive that is occurring in Colombia, and particularly in the Department of Chocó.
My name is Alberto Andres Henao Ramirez, I am Chocoan by birth and I am currently studying Political Science at the University of Antioquia.
The region of Chocó is a land blessed by the beauty of its nature, having abundant mineral resources and groundwater as well as a rich biodiversity. Strategically it has great potential to develop, being the only region of Colombia overlooking both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
You introduced yourself to Cittadinanzattiva as a promoter of the "Social Cause for the Re-foundation of Chocó": what is it and who is involved in this form of Colombian civic activism?
The “Causa por la Refundación del Chocó” seeks to draw attention to the plight of the population in the Department of Chocó; we are engaged in campaigns to raise awareness and solidarity, inviting people to join in civic activism.
One of our main objectives is to join forces with active citizens, determined and committed to the collective welfare of the Colombian Pacific region, and together develop the skills which will allow us to mobilize peacefully and demand our rights with determination, valid arguments and concrete proposals, hoping that these will be listened to and taken into consideration by the competent institutions.
You live in Colombia, how did you learn about Cittadinanzattiva and why have you contacted us?
I learnt about Cittadinanzattiva through your publication written in collaboration with UNDP Colombia titled “Memorias del seminario Participación ciudadana y servicios públicos” (Memories of the seminar "Civic Participation and Public Services"), under the project “Derechos y Desarrollo”. I was struck in particular by the reflections of Giustino Trincia (at the time, Deputy Secretary General of Cittadinanzattiva) "operating concepts and strategies enacted by Cittadinanzattiva in Italy," themes that I thought useful to include in our manual in the chapter "A new citizenship."
Reading it, I could see that Cittadinanzattiva is an example of civic activism, empowerment of citizens and true social control in Italy. I thought that this is exactly what we needed in the Choco region.
In fact, it is not enough to rely only on willing citizens, if they do not have tools enabling them to develop the necessary skills and obtain results for the community as a whole.
You have just written the “Manual Básico del Líder Refundacional”, what is it and who is it addressed to?
The Manual of the Chocoan leader is an appeal to solidarity to solve problems that affect us all and to the responsibility that we have towards public affairs. It is also a call to action, since we cannot watch passively waiting for something good to happen.
We must take action, do something, even small: it would be a sign and one of great value, obviously according to our abilities and economic resources.
The manual calls to a change in attitude, to try to be proactive and united rather than critical and individualistic.
What future activities are you planning in order to give new hope to the Chocó region?
In collaboration with dr. Jaime Gómez, founder of the Civic Committee for the Colombian Canal, and other people we are joining forces in the discussion with policy-makers as regards the possibility, the technical feasibility, costs and benefits for the construction of a canal that will cut across the Department of Chocó connecting the two oceans. This is not just a dream or an idealist pie in the sky: in 1984, with Law 53, the Colombian Senate approved its construction, but due to carelessness and lack of political will, nothing was ever done.
How do you envisage a collaboration with Cittadinanzattiva?
Cittadinanzattiva could provide technical advice to assess the possibility that at Quibdó, the capital of Chocó, a Tribunal for the rights of the patient and a health protection in the field of public services could be established; it could also offer training courses for a more concrete social control. We should consider all the possibilities you could offer us.
Interview by Mariano Votta, Director of Active Citizenship Network News, August 2014
Andrés Alberto Ramírez Henao
Promoter “Causa por la Refundación del Chocó”, Colombia