he United States and Colombia reaffirmed their enduring partnership at the bilateral High Level Dialogue held in Bogota, Colombia on March 1. The dialogue reinforced the United States' and Colombia's bilateral commitment to increase stability and prosperity and create new opportunities for citizens of both countries. Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Angela Holguin and Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri hosted the dialogue. The U.S. delegation was led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. and Deputy National Security Advisor Ricky Waddell. Interagency experts from both countries discussed a range of issues, including democracy, human rights, justice, and governance; energy; social and economic opportunities; environmental protection; and culture, sports, and education.

Major outcomes from the dialogue included:

A joint U.S.-Colombia pledge to expand counternarcotics cooperation over the next five years, in recognition of shared interests and responsibilities to achieve a sustained reduction in illegal narcotics trafficking. This effort includes the implementation of a national, integrated, whole-of-government counternarcotics strategy that aims to reduce Colombia's estimated cocaine production and coca cultivation to 50 percent of current levels by 2023.

A signed Memorandum of Understanding to combat illegal gold mining that damages the environment, harms human health, and funds transnational criminal organizations.

The launch of a $300,000 initiative, as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, to spur academic exchanges between the United States and Colombia focused on peacebuilding through the development of rural education.

A commitment to implement a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the commercial growth of the cacao sector and other legal economies in Colombia.

A partnership among the U.S and Colombian governments and the University of Texas San Antonio to strengthen the business-to-business connections between our two countries by opening more than 100 Small Business Development Centers across Colombia.

The United States' launch of a technical assistance working group for prosecutors and investigators who focus on homicides of human rights defenders and social leaders that will bring together Colombian and U.S. experts to provide case-based mentoring, training, and technical assistance to prosecutors, investigators, and analysts.

A commitment to continue partnering on humanitarian demining efforts in conflict-affected regions to support the following: civilian and military deminers; the capacity of the national mine action authority; mine risk education and victims' assistance projects; and the monitoring and verification program to ensure land is cleared to international and national standards.

A partnership to build Colombia's capacity to enforce environmental laws and prosecute wildlife traffickers to protect Colombia's biodiversity, the second highest in the world.

A commitment to deepen U.S.-Colombia energy sector cooperation, building on the success of the previous dialogue.

Source: US Department Of State

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