WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Social Capital, Civil Society, and Democracy: Lessons from the Measurement of Social Capital in Colombia 1997-2017

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Washington Office on Latin America 1666 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20009

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The last 20 years have arguably been the most transformative in Colombia’s modern history. The country experienced three separate peace negotiations, two combatant demobilization efforts, and one historic peace accord, all of which have taken place alongside human rights atrocities, extrajudicial killings, and rampant corruption scandals.

Despite the country’s many successes, recent polls and elections show that Colombians still largely distrust their government and remain polarized on critical issues affecting the country’s future. How does this distrust affect the nation’s social fabric, civic participation, institutional capacity, and trust in mainstream media? How do these factors further affect the current political climate and the rise of right and left-wing populism? Given that 88 percent of Colombians did not vote, or do not know who they voted for, in the 2015 legislative elections, what reforms need to be implemented to improve political accountability?

John Sudarsky has studied Colombia’s social capital—the networks established by various interest groups and individuals across society—from 1997-2017. This has enabled him to track how Colombia has fallen short in establishing a truly effective civil society and a representative democracy that is not dependent on clientelism. However, the results of the October 2019 elections point to an electorate weary of politics as usual. Join us for a discussion on the current state of social capital in Colombia and the challenges faced by citizenry, civil society, politics, and the state.

Event Details:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Washington Office on Latin America, WOLA

1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009



John Sudarsky is an expert in the measurement of social capital. He has been a Senator of Colombia’s Congress (2010-2014), professor at the University of the Andes, and researcher of organizational issues and political sociology. Sudarsky holds a BSc in industrial engineering from University of the Andes, a Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Kansas and a PhD in Education, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University.