News Local

Koester reports on CISAL journey

By Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

Sustainable and Inclusive Communities in Latin America (CISAL) is a program initiated through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) which aims to strengthen local governments in Colombia and Peru.

 

Wheatland County Reeve Glenn Koester, who was invited by FCM to join the program on behalf of the county, travelled to both countries and detailed the political and social environment of the countries during the March 7 county council meeting.

Koester outlined his last visit to Latin America for the second annual mayors conference for CISAL.

“It was the first time the mayors from the three countries got together,” he said. He explained that CISAL is a five-year program with two more years remaining.

Koester passed around items from the town of Lamay in Peru.

“It’s a bunch of communities in the sacred valley of Peru and their political system is such that you can only be a mayor once, you are elected for four years,” he said.

“This system for them is very disruptive because when a new mayor comes in he has a different agenda,” said Koester.

“These people in this community have formed a community association of over 23 years, they have been running and all the mayors that want to run get indorsed through this community association,” he said.

Koester explained that no mayor that has ever been elected has not been indorsed by the community association.

He spoke of how local residents came to greet the group of approximately 60 dignitaries from CISAL.

“They are so highly appreciative that somebody is down there trying to help them. It was for me heartwarming,” he said.

There is a great amount of interest in the mining industry in Peru and Colombia, and the communities face a number of challenges, for example the distribution of economic wealth, a lack of employment opportunities for women, youth, and the elderly. CISAL promotes local economic development, works to increase transparency in the management of government and exchanges best practices between governments and industry partners.

Koester was asked to sign a document during the conference on behalf of the county.

The communication outlines Wheatland County’s support of the CISAL program. He gave a brief report on the mayors conference.

He explained that there was an urban and rural panel from Peru during the conference.

“Farmers there, they farm to eat, not to sell,” said Koester.

“They are not rich. They don’t really farm to sell, they just farm to live,” he said.

Koester spoke of the local cultural history which may effect the development of the agricultural industry today. He explained that one of the hopes of the people in that region is for inclusion.

“Inclusion for them is equality of gender, equality of those handicapped, equality of people that don’t have the same opportunities that everybody has, and ... equality with indigenous people, for them it is very important,” he said.

One of the greatest issues in Colombia is the degradation of the environment due to uncontrolled small mining operations. Mercury pollutes the soil when it is used to extract gold from ore.

He said that a great hurdle for members of his delegation was explaining why Canada was in Latin America working with CISAL.

“The ratepayers don’t understand it is part of Canada’s image that we help people. Some of the mayors were having a harder time,” he said.

He explained that Latin American leaders know what they want, they want change.

“People are scared of change,” he said.

CICAL is a five-year $20 million that will end in 2019. It is funded by Global Affairs Canada, and ran by FCM.

For more information on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and CISAL, please visit fcm.ca.