After two decades of a transformative partnership under the Plan Colombia framework, our countries’ relationship is at a critical moment. At the Atlantic Council, we believe this moment opens the door for a reimagined US partnership with Colombia based on a shared vision for a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future.

This book is intended to advance the next phase of the US-Colombia relationship. In a rapidly changing world, the following chapters present a roadmap for a new type of engagement that challenges our ambitions and extends the ties that bind our countries. Regard the ideas in this commemorative book as a new beginning.

Foreword by Fred Kempe and Jason Marczak

Working with partners and allies

In June 19, 1822, the United States and Colombia formally established diplomatic relations. On that day, President James Monroe accredited Colombia’s Manuel Torres as the first Charge d’Affaires from a Latin American country to the United States, assuring him of US support for the “welfare and success of his country.” Today—two hundred years later—Colombia remains one of our closest allies.

To this day, we share a common purpose in the power of our democracies, although imperfect, to find answers to the most challenging issues of our time. Our deep partnership goes far beyond bilateral issues and extends to commercial, security, social, environmental, and humanitarian fronts.

Underpinning this partnership has been consistent, bipartisan US sup- port for Colombia across recent administrations. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Plan Colombia into law, a strategic framework designed to help Colombia counter drug trafficking and improve security. For the next sixteen years, and with $12 billion in funding, Republican and Democratic presidents alike advanced Plan Colombia with bipartisan congressional backing. Plan Colombia provided financial support, but its most important contribution was the technical assistance that further united our two societies. Today, Plan Colombia is widely regarded as one of the most consequential foreign policy initiatives in modern US history, which explains the ongoing support for its successor project, Peace Colombia.

At the turn of the 21st century, it was nearly impossible to imagine the broader importance or possibility of a prosperous Colombia. US attention was focused on the threats posed by a country where insurgency groups, fueled by the drug trade, controlled 40 percent of its territory, approximately the size of Tennessee or Louisiana. Bombings and kidnappings regularly featured in its daily news.

Fast forward to 2022. Colombia celebrates five years as a Global Partner of NATO, and upon the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stepped up to offer diplomatic and humanitarian assistance. Colombia was recently designated as a Major non-NATO ally—the eighteenth country globally with this status— and the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement marks ten years since ratification. Once a source of migrants itself, Colombia has welcomed nearly two million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, providing them with protection, legal documentation, and access to employment and social services.

Twenty years ago, many worried about the survival of the Colombian state. But sustained US-Colombia collaboration helped transform Colombia from a nation on the brink of decline to a robust economy and prosperous democracy. Now, the question is what would come of US interests in Latin America without the support and leadership of Colombia, often referred to as the “keystone” of US foreign policy in the region. Alternatively, how can we build on this partnership to answer the challenges we will face in the
decades to come?

In March 2021, when announcing his intention to designate Colombia as a Major non-NATO Ally, President Joseph R. Biden said, “We will only succeed in advancing American interests and upholding our universal values by working in common cause with our closest allies and partners, and by renewing our own enduring sources of national strength.”

At the Atlantic Council, we believe this moment opens the door for a reimagined US partnership with Colombia to shape the global future together. It is why we first launched our US-Colombia Task Force in 2017, co-chaired by Senators Ben Cardin and Roy Blunt, and why its work prioritizes innovative solutions to accelerate the opportunities and address the irritants in the relationship.

This book is intended to advance the next phase of the US-Colombia relationship. In a rapidly changing world, the following chapters present a roadmap for a new type of engagement that challenges our ambitions and extends the ties that bind our countries. Regard the ideas in this commemorative book as a new beginning.

The importance of the US-Colombia relationship is reflected by the caliber and diverse perspectives of the featured authors. From President Bill Clinton to Howard Buffet to John Leguizamo, the voice of Bruno in the 2021 hit film Encanto, set in Colombia. The authors also reflect the continued bipartisan nature of our relationship with essays from our US-Colombia Task Force co-chairs and the Chairman and Ranking Member—Representatives Gregory Meeks and Michael McCaul, respectively—of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Prominent Colombian policymakers, businesspeople, and academics add their perspectives throughout these pages.

The essays in this volume are a jumping-off point to stimulate new thinking for our next century together. We hope this book will help us not only recognize what we have accomplished but also what we can do together in the future to achieve the joint success first laid out by Monroe.


Frederick Kempe
President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Council

Jason Marczak
Senior Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Atlantic Council


Introduction by Camila Hernandez

In the summer of 2014, my plane from Bogotá, Colombia, landed in Washington DC, and by 2019, I joined the Atlantic Council. In the three years since, I have been fortunate to work alongside many of the visionaries that have helped build the US-Colombia relationship. And if something is clear, it is this: our shared future is brighter and more hopeful than ever before.

As we celebrate the bicentennial of US-Colombia relations, we should recognize how far we have come, the new challenges we face, and the immense potential that remains. This book is a collective effort to do just that. Its twenty-seven essays by business leaders, politicians, philanthropists, artists, and academics invite us to think boldly and creatively about the future of the relationship, building on an impressive track record of adaptation and achievement.
We assembled a roster of nearly forty contributors, all well-established voices in their fields, to represent the many thought leaders who play a role in strengthening US-Colombia ties. Our hope is for this effort to serve as a launching pad for new thinking, dialogue, and a renewed commitment to our shared future.

This book is also an appeal to seize emerging opportunities for US-Colombia engagement in seven overarching areas reflected in the book’s chapters. These include and go beyond traditional areas of collaboration, setting the foundation for a revitalized US partnership with Colombia.

The first chapter looks at the US-Colombia relationship in a global con- text, showing how a stronger and more resilient alliance will pay dividends far beyond our borders. Chapter two explores strategies to enhance our mutual security, building on our history of successful intelligence sharing and military-to-military cooperation while recognizing new threats and realities.

In chapter three, the authors offer innovative approaches to strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights protections, and peace process implementation. Chapter four explores how to advance inclusive and sustainable economic growth by improving productivity, increasing trade and investment, and promoting energy transformation.

Chapter five proposes ideas for collaborative engagement in addressing environmental challenges and protecting natural ecosystems in Colombia— the second-most biodiverse country in the world. Chapter six explores ways to support further Colombia’s eight-million internally displaced people and the nearly two million Venezuelan migrants and refugees welcomed within its borders.

The book’s final chapter includes stories of the many Colombians and Colombian Americans in the arts and sciences who have contributed to the US economy and society. Even the design of this book celebrates such contributions—the text font was made by a Colombian type designer, and the paintings of Fernando Botero inspired the color palette.

Throughout these pages, QR codes are linked to corresponding online videos of US and Colombian thought leaders. Incorporating new technological capabilities into this volume was another way to recognize our world’s ever-changing nature and to remind us, as we move forward, that the US-Colombia relationship should remain adaptive, resilient, and creative.


Camila Hernández
Associate Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Atlantic Council


27 bold ideas