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Christian Aid and ABColombia welcome President Santos' visit to the UK

2 November 2016 - Christian Aid and ABColombia warmly welcome the timely visit of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon this week to the UK. President Santos was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the name of the 8 million victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict.

Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid’s country manager in Colombia said: “The UK must demonstrate in this state visit its ongoing support to the Colombian government and the Colombian people as they continue to work for peace.

“Now, more than ever, Colombia needs the engagement of the international community to continue to work for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict despite last month’s referendum set back.”

Both the UK and Colombia have made commitments in the joint statement on Human Rights issued on the last official visit of President Santos, when he came as a Guest of Government in 2011, to see the displaced victims return to the land from which they have been forcibly displaced.

Colombia has the world’s largest internally displaced population – in a country where all armed groups, including the security forces and the paramilitaries  - acting alone or in collusion - and insurgents, have committed serious human rights crimes, including forced displacements, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

The Santos Government is currently renegotiating some aspects of the Peace Agreement with the FARC following a “no” referendum vote by the slimmest of margins on 2 October 2016.

Louise Winstanley Programme Manager of ABColombia said: “Whilst changes to include points made by the “No” campaign are essential to ensuring a wider-ranging acceptance of the Agreement, there are some things it is crucial not to change.

“These include the Agreement’s guarantees for truth, justice, reparation and - most importantly - non-repetition to thousands of victims and the guarantee of no amnesties for sexual violence carried out during the conflict. These must be ensured to build sustainable peace.”

These guarantees reflect international standards and the British and Colombian Governments’ commitment following the 2014 Global Summit in London to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Ms. Winstanley added: “The Agreement also makes important commitments on land reform and strengthening the rural economy, which is essential if we are to see people lifted out of poverty.” 

Whilst President Santos has positively engaged with the “no” campaign led by ex-president Álvaro Uribe Velez, and the stalled talks with the second largest group ELN are likely to start again next weekend, violence by paramilitary groups continues and is directed at rural communities and human rights defenders.

In 2012, 33 human rights defenders were killed, making Colombia one of the worst countries in the world for the number of human rights defenders killed. In 2015, this doubled to 63 which means that one in three human rights defenders killed in the world last year were Colombian.

ABColombia and Christian Aid urge the Colombian government to invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, to Colombia in order to demonstrate this commitment and we hope that the UK Government will promote this.

ENDS

If you would like further information, or to arrange an interview with Thomas Mortensen in Bogotá, please contact Jo Rogers on: 07969 083 371 or email: jrogers@christian-aid.org 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Louise Winstanley is the Programme and Advocacy Manager based in the UK she can be contacted for interview on mobile: 07920886874 or 0207 870 2216


Notes to editors: 

1. Background Notes:
• Negotiations with the FARC have been ongoing for the last four years. On the 2 October 2016 Colombian citizens living in Colombia and abroad took part in a referendum to decide whether to accept the Peace Accord that had been negotiated between the Colombian Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionarias de Colombia – Ejercito del Pueblo (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army -FARC), the largest of the guerrilla groups operating in Colombia. The vote for “No” won by the smallest of margins 50.2 per cent against and 49.8 per cent “Yes”.

• Achievements by women have been the most noticeable innovations in the Peace Agreement and in the negotiations: A commitment to demonstrate the disproportionate impact of the conflict on the bodies of girls and women in the Truth commission, a gender perspective in all of the Agreements made, creation of a Special Investigative Team for cases of sexual violence in conflict, establishment of a separate Historical Truth Commission mandated to collect evidence of sexual violence against women and girls that took place during the conflict.

• ELN: Ejército Nacional de Liberación (National Liberation Army) is the second largest guerrilla group.

• The UK and Colombian Governments issued a Joint Declaration on Human Rights  on 21 November 2011 during President Santos’ visit to the UK as a ‘Guest of Government’. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-colombia-agree-joint-declaration-on-human-rights

2. ABColombia is the advocacy project of a group of five leading UK and Irish organisations with programmes in Colombia: CAFOD, Christian Aid UKI, Oxfam GB, SCIAF and Trócaire. Amnesty International and PBI are observers.

3. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

4. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

5. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

6. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

7. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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