The Equity Roundtable: a space for coordination to reduce poverty in Colombia

16 June, 2021

By Felipe Roa-Clavijo, OPHI Researcher and Global Policy Network Lead.

Laura Pabón, Director of the Social Development, National Planning Department, Colombia.


Ms Laura Pabón leads the Directorate of Social Development in the National Planning Department in Colombia, and participates in the Technical Secretariat of the Equity Roundtable that brings together ten government entities to follow up on poverty reduction and other social indicators.

In 2020, for her leadership in both responding to the COVID-19 crisis and designing the Solidarity Income Programme, Laura was recognised by the Presidency of Colombia as the country’s Best Public Servant.

The National Development Plan 2018–2022 ‘Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equity’, created the Equity Roundtable as a high-level, strategic and decision-making committee, chaired and convened by the President of the Republic. Its aim is to establish guidelines for the sectors and agencies of the Colombian government charged with reducing poverty. In this interview, Felipe Roa-Clavijo asked Laura Pabón about her experience of implementing action in Colombia.


What is the Equity Roundtable and what is its mission?

The Equity Roundtable is a high-level committee, convened and chaired by the President of Colombia, which coordinates the sectors and agencies of the national government responsible for developing socially inclusive strategies to reduce poverty and inequality.

As well as monitoring the actions of the national government, it is an accountability mechanism to ensure that priority attention is given to people living in conditions of poverty and that the goals set in this area are met.

The Equity Roundtable coordinates and agrees with the areas and bodies of the national government on plans and projects aimed at reducing poverty in the country through the design and implementation of the Poverty Reduction Roadmap. It also works on the design and implementation of actions and strategies for reducing other inequalities that require socially inclusive policies.

The implementation of the Equity Roundtable was included as one of the strategic actions of the National Development Plan, and it was institutionalised through a decree that ensures it functions.

How is the Equity Roundtable organised?

The Equity Roundtable has an executive channel and a technical channel. The first channel is led by President Iván Duque, with the participation of the Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, Health, Labour, Trade, Education, and Housing, along with the Directors of the National Planning Department, the Social Prosperity Department, and the Department of Statistics.

The second channel is the National Technical Roundtable, which includes the participation of deputy ministers, technical directors, and teams from different entities. The purpose of this Roundtable is to implement the decisions that are made, to monitor compliance with the poverty targets, and to identify alerts and bottlenecks that impede the appropriate development of the programmes from the national government entities associated with poverty reduction and the mitigation of inequalities. In the Technical Roundtable, we usually participate as deputy directors, technical directors, and working teams, depending on the issue being addressed.

Both channels are coordinated by the Technical Secretariat which is managed by the National Planning Department and the Presidential Office for Management and Compliance.

The Technical Secretariat’s main function is to convene sessions of the Equity Roundtable, prepare the agenda, and propose designs and adjustments of policies or guidelines oriented towards the people’s access to social services. These functions enable the Equity Roundtable to make informed and evidence-based decisions.

Poverty reduction is monitored through a Dashboard: how does it work?

Yes, the Equity Roundtable works around a Dashboard, which is the main instrument for tracking and monitoring poverty reduction indicators and other inequalities.

In the first place, the Dashboard undertakes a general follow-up of progress in the reduction of monetary poverty, extreme poverty, multidimensional poverty, and the Gini index.

Secondly, the Dashboard specifically tracks the 15 indicators of the Multidimensional Poverty Index, in the dimensions of public services and housing conditions, health, children and youth conditions, work, and education. Each dimension has a group of government entities assigned to it, which are in charge of making progress to improve the indicators. For example, in the public services and housing conditions dimension, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Social Prosperity have responsibilities; in the health dimension, the Ministry of Health is in charge; and in the education dimension, the Ministry of Education is responsible.

For each indicator, progress is monitored through the colours of traffic lights – red, yellow and green – which indicate the level of progress in the proposed goals for each year.

How often does the Equity Roundtable meet?

Since the start of this presidential term in August 2018, on average, we have had three Equity Roundtables each year, and a large number of Technical Roundtables, at least 20, with various ministries and administrative departments to deal with specific issues.


The Equity Roundtable works around a Dashboard, which is the main instrument for tracking and monitoring poverty reduction indicators and other inequalities.


How did the dynamics of the work of the Equity Roundtable change as a result of the pandemic?

Having the Equity Roundtable was a great advantage in responding to the pandemic. From there, we have been assessing the effect of the pandemic on multidimensional and monetary poverty, in order to be able to design the entire government response that will help the poverty-stricken and vulnerable population.

In the context of the Equity Roundtable, the Solidarity Income Programme was created. This is an economic support programme from the national government, aimed at three million households living in conditions of poverty, extreme poverty and economic vulnerability, whose goal is to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 emergency on those people who are not beneficiaries of other social programmes, such as Families in Action, Youth in Action, Sales Tax Compensation (VAT), or Protection for the Elderly (Colombia Senior). According to data from January 2021, this programme has benefitted 3,084,987 households that did not have a secure source of income to cope with the pandemic.

This is in addition to the extraordinary transfers (apart from the recurrent payments) of the existing Cash Transfer programmes, which are part of the package of measures that were analysed in the Equity Roundtable at the beginning of the pandemic.

In this sense, the Equity Roundtable made it possible to articulate a series of efforts, such as monetary help and in-kind assistance, which have allowed us to confront the pandemic.

What are the challenges ahead?

In the future, the most important challenge is to reactivate the economy, and make progress in the shock plan for poverty reduction. At the moment, we are waiting for the report by the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) to know the new monetary and multidimensional poverty figures. Based on that, we will restructure our plans.

Moreover, with the formalisation of the Equity Roundtable in the National Development Plan, we hope to institutionalise an opportunity for future governments to rely on this important coordination body.



* This interview, which took place in February 2021, is part of a joint work of Colombia’s National Planning Department with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative of the University of Oxford, which is documenting Colombia’s experience in the institutionalisation and use of the Multidimensional Poverty Index.



This article was published in Dimensions 12


Colombia Multidimensional Poverty