Speaker María Claudia TRUCCO DEL CASTILLO
Maria-Claudia TRUCCO DEL CASTILLO is Director of the Surtigas Foundation. She is currently a member of the board of directors of several civil society organizations in Cartagena, Colombia.
Surtigas is a utility company for natural gas distribution that provides its services to five departments of Colombia in the Caribbean coast region. Surtigas is a 100% private company that sells and distributes natural gas for more than 772.000 clients in 177 towns.
The Surtigas Foundation has been focused on the strengthening of young people’s skills to promote their active participation in peacebuilding processes and the sustainable development of their communities. Indeed, the company’s area of influence has been affected by Colombia’s armed conflict in the last 50 years, hindering the region’s socio-economic development and, in particular, the youth’s opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential. Currently, Colombia is at a critical juncture, facing a challenging implementation of the Peace Agreement with former guerilla FARC and a post-conflict scenario that requires the articulation of both private and public actors.
Constant engagement with grassroots communities, social leaders and local institutions has allowed Surtigas Foundation to timely identify social and environmental risks, looking to align the corporate strategy with regional and local agendas. In particular, we aim to improve our users’ quality of life, including future households with whom we can or will have the need to interact (for example in cases of prior consultation processes, or an emergency case). When people do not understand the participation processes guaranteed by our democratic system and they do not appropriate dialogue spaces, they will tend to use de facto mechanisms such as blocking roads, severely affecting the supply of a vital public service like natural gas. Our strategies are based on the strengthening of the democratic exercise and the promotion of a citizen culture for the effective enjoyment of rights and peaceful conflict resolution.
Through the “Empowering Youth in the Territories” program, we work on the development of young people skills such as leadership, advocacy, social control, proactive participation, helping them to understand their role in their communities and their rights. By building a youth agenda in challenging environments, articulated with other key actors in the territories, Surtigas looks for the generation of social capital, the enhancement of grassroots organizations and the empowerment of young leaders in local government institutions such as community action boards.
To date, more than 4,000 young people have been trained in citizen culture, enhancing grassroots organizations in their communities and replicating their knowledge to others. The development of “Alliances for Youth” in Cordoba and Sucre departments have allowed the articulation of more than 50 organizations including both public and private sectors, the academy, international cooperation agencies and civil society organizations.
The role of the private sector and / or business foundations is to support the development process of public policies, requiring the set-up of long-term objectives to create trusted environments and spaces for collaboration between public actors and civil society. This articulation not only broadens social benefits, but it also generates safe environments for the exercise of communitarian leadership, serving as a protective barrier against threats that have arisen in the Colombia post-conflict scenario.