The Start of a New Social Contract: Women, Elders, and Youth at the Forefront of Colombia’s Development Efforts

“In January, I was convinced that Bogotá would need a new 21st-century social contract. Nearly a month since the start of the pandemic, I am convinced now more than ever that this is exactly what this city needs…What I thought would last four years is happening in less than two months of a public health emergency.” 

The words of Claudia Lopez, Bogotá, Colombia, are reflective of the critical time that we are living in due to COVID-19. Earlier this year, Bogotá’s City Council developed the Plan for District Development (2020-2024), or PDD, to address the unsatisfied needs of the Colombian population and improve the quality of life for all citizens. These needs are directly related to the day-to-day activities of Colombian citizens: lack of mobility, poor air quality, high levels of deaths and injuries caused by vehicle accidents, slow travel times on the metro system, high costs for public transportation, and severe gender inequality, among other things. Growing political, social, and economic inequality in the face of a pandemic called for the enactment of this drastic $112 billion COP policy intervention within Bogotá’s communities. 


Fechas Claves del Plan de Desarrollo Distrital. Photo, Bogota.gov.co


The plan has five phases: 1. Identification (identifying problems), 2. Design (creating policies and strategies that address these problems, 3. Adoption (the appropriate government bodies revise and approve plan), 4.  Execution (implement policies), and 5. Appraisal (review the results of the policies). This development plan consists of five policy goals that are accompanied by various strategies and evaluation criteria. These policy goals are:

    1. Create a new social contract that is more inclusive of its citizens (in particular impoverished women and youth)
    2. Change habits to revitalize Bogotá’s green areas and mitigate the effects of climate change
    3. Inspire confidence and legitimacy to live without fear and serve as the epicenter of culture, citizenry, peace, and reconciliation
    4. Make Bogotá a model region for mobility, creativity, inclusive economic productivity, and sustainability
    5. Construct Bogotá as an open and transparent government with active and conscious citizens


Claudia Lopez, Bogotá’s mayor (left) with her wife, Angelica Lozano. Photo, Colombia Reports.


In February of this year, the development plan’s policy goals were developed and approved by Bogotá’s City Council. The PDD is scheduled to be adopted by Bogotá’s City Council in June of this year, but COVID-19 has presented the city with a major public health crisis. In response to this, Claudia Lopez, Bogotá’s mayor, was asked by reporters from El Tiempo on April 12th about the city’s response to COVID-19 and the changes that will be made to the PDD. When asked about her thoughts on how COVID-19 may affect the PDD’s timeline and plan, Lopez pointed out that the pandemic confirmed that the time for PDD’s launch is now:

I am convinced now more than ever that this is exactly what this city needs. If there is something positive we can take from this emergency, it’s that we were able to anticipate the need for this new social contract…We are living this social contract, it has ceased to be simply a theoretical discussion, and we are organizing resources to make it a reality.”

Furthermore, Lopez stressed that “Bogotá has close to 500,000 homes that are impoverished and vulnerable, and 100 million homes in the middle class…What I thought would last four years is happening in less than two months of a public health emergency.” 

When asked about the number of public resources that would be redirected for COVID-19 relief efforts, Lopez highlighted the need for greater support for Bogotá Solidaria en Casa [a program that guarantees an income for Bogotá’s impoverished communities], “that way we can financially support the most vulnerable populations in the city. 80 percent of the resources for local infrastructure (parks, road mesh, etc.) will be used in 2021, meanwhile, the remaining 20 percent will be used this year. In total, nearly 545 million Colombian pesos (~$136,700 USD) will be invested.”

With COVID-19 causing Bogotá to take quarantine measures, Bogotá’s residents are encouraged to take a virtual survey to submit their recommendations and changes that they wish to see in the PDD.


Encuesta Bogota. Photo, Bogota.gov


Citizens can also participate in government-sponsored group forums and tweet about the PDD using the hashtag #PlanDeBogotá: 



With the growing proportion of people over age 60 exceeding “the capacity of state and social protection agencies to provide health care and economic protection for them,” (Pan American Health Organization) the elderly are extremely vulnerable. Excluded from the labor market, the elderly face health challenges with little to no income (El Tiempo).Moreover, gender inequalities in Colombia have feminized poverty: women experience an unemployment rate of 12.3% (male unemployment rate: 9.8%), and 9 in 10 women conduct domestic work and care without pay (El Tiempo). 

With youth subject to violence, marginalization, and poverty, the PDD will create 20,000 university quotas ensuring greater higher education access and employ 50,000 ninis (youth who neither study or work) through the creation of more jobs (El Tiempo).



The time is now for a new social contract that can begin to address the social challenges women, youth, and the elderly face. And in the wake of COVID-19, Claudia Lopez is leading the PDD’s implementation.



Angel Ornelas | Claremont McKenna College
Angel is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations at Claremont McKenna College. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, Angel is the son of Mexican immigrants. His father is from Leon, Guanajuato, and his mother is from Juárez, Chihuahua. On campus, Angel is actively involved with the Chicano Latino Student Affairs center and the Queer Resource Center as a mentor. Throughout his undergraduate career thus far, Angel has done fieldwork in Los Angeles and Mexico City. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Angel plans to pursue a Ph.D. program in Anthropology in the hopes of becoming an anthropologist. He hopes to make significant contributions to Latina Republic and is excited to forge friendships with leaders in América Latina.