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A History of Partnership

Colombia and the United States have built a strong, longstanding relationship based on mutual respect, cooperation and common goals. Democracy, individual freedom and freedom of the press, the rule of law, economic prosperity and the expansion of opportunities for all, are values that both Colombia and the United States share.

In 1810, when Colombia declared its independence from Spain, the United States was one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and establish a resident diplomatic mission. From the Korean War, during which Colombian soldiers fought and gave their lives alongside Americans under the United Nations banner, to the current conflict in Afghanistan, where elite Colombian soldiers contribute their expertise in fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, Colombia and the United States have been allies.

There are many examples of how the two countries have been strategic partners over the years.

  • During the 1980s, Colombia and the United States began working together to combat the scourge of illegal drugs.

  • In the 1990s, the two nations signed important agreements on environmental protection, civil aviation, asset sharing and chemical control. The United States and Colombia also signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

  • In 2000, the two countries launched Plan Colombia, an ambitious, bipartisan and bilateral cooperation program aimed at fighting drug trafficking and promoting alternatives to drug cultivation and production.

Today, the partnership between Colombia and the United States encompasses a broad range of issues, including: hemispheric security; the fight against international drug trafficking; and anti-terrorism initiatives, among others. 

The latest development in this evolving alliance was the recent launch of a Colombia-U.S. High-Level Strategic Security Dialogue (HLSSD) which will allow both countries to discuss new and innovative ways to counter threats like transnational organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking while continuing to strengthen our bilateral ties.

Also, in the framework of a more innovative agenda, in 2010, the Colombia-U.S. High-Level Partnership Dialogue was launched to enhance greater cooperation on a broad range of issues, such as: social and economic opportunities; science and technology, climate change and environmental protection; energy; culture and education; democracy and human rights; and good governance. 

The High-Level Partnership Dialogue has provided a deeper engagement between both governments and the identification of creative ways to advance cooperation in these areas. Its first session was held in Bogotá in October 2010, and its second session took place in Washington, D.C. in May 2011, headed by Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Ángela Holguín and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The third session will be held in 2012 in Bogotá.

The decades-long friendship that Colombia and the United States share is one that both nations are committed to maintaining and strengthening.

Colombia-U.S. Cultural Exchange Programs

Over the years, Colombia and the United States have expanded their bilateral relations through cultural exchanges. The Fulbright Commission in Colombia was established in January 1957 through an international agreement between Colombia and the United States. Its mission is to widen the understanding of both countries through cultural and educational exchanges, achieved through grants provided to both Colombian and American students.

Over the past 50 years, more than 3,400 Colombians and Americans combined have been Fulbright scholars, broadening relations between the two countries through academics, science and culture.

The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation has supported several initiatives to deepen ties between the two nations. Between 2003 and 2004, the program supported the documentation of indigenous traditions in the Sierra Nevada region. In 2005, the Fund supported the conservation of the Apostle Santiago Rampart, built in Cartagena in 1614 and designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Colombia and the U.S. Smithsonian Institution have also developed a strong relationship. One of the most representative results of this collaboration is a MOU signed in 2009 the Institution and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, regarding Colombia's participation in the 2011 Folklife Festival. Colombia participated as the featured country, and had the unique opportunity to share its cultural diversity with the more than one million visitors who enjoyed the festival.