24 September 2015 - An agreement between the Colombian government and rebel group FARC to sign a peace deal in six months, set up a Truth Commission, and establish special courts to deal with crimes related to the country’s 50-year armed conflict is momentous, said Christian Aid today.
But it cautioned any euphoria that an end is in sight to the strife which has claimed the lives of at least 220,000 people, and seen at least 5.7 million people internally displaced, should be tempered with an understanding of the ongoing challenges the country faces.
These include the need to return land to indigenous, Afro-Colombian and subsistence farming communities forcibly displaced during the conflict, and the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including conflict-related sexual violence, which has affected an estimated 500,000 women over the past ten years.
Human rights defenders continue to face an increasing number of attacks, threats, and false and illegal prosecutions, with community leaders, lawyers, activists and journalists stigmatised, imprisoned, threatened and murdered: female human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable.
Christian Aid Colombia country manager, Thomas Mortensen, said today: “Of course the news from the peace talks is hugely significant. It seems that a negotiated peace agreement could be in sight to a nightmare stretching back half a century.
“However, despite being a middle-income country, one in three Colombians lives in poverty. It is widespread in rural communities and particularly affects those who have been forced off their land.
“A recent UN study indicated that just 1% of the population owns 52% of the country’s land, which has contributed to making Colombia one of the most unequal nations on earth. This must be addressed. A lot of work needs to be done to bring together a very polarised society.
“A final negotiated deal would be the first step in an ongoing process to bring real and lasting peace to the country, especially the most vulnerable communities that we support.”
Christian Aid and its partners have promoted a negotiated end to the armed conflict for decades. In recent rounds of the negotiations, it supported communities of victims, including women’s groups, in engaging with the Government and FARC to influence the peace talks.
Transitional justice, the fourth item of the six-point peace talks agenda, has been the most crucial and therefore most difficult point on which to find consensus. The commitment to a justice that will satisfy the rights of the victims and contribute to the construction of a stable and lasting peace is central to our partners’ work.
“The international community should be supporting victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence as central to the future peace agreement,” added Mr Mortensen.
“In total, there are around 7 million victims – around 15% of the population – and they need independent political and financial support to organise themselves claim their legitimate rights.
“And, the state needs to make necessary institutional reforms to ensure that community leaders, human rights activists and political opponents are not seen an internal enemies and suffer from persecution.”
For further information, call the duty press phone: 07850 242950
Notes to editors:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk