In Colombia, wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of the elite - they dominate politics, monopolise resources, and repress social movements, trade unions, political opposition and others seeking to challenge the balance of power.
Colombia has the second highest number of internally displaced people in the world, estimated at around 5.7 million, and in the past 20 years more than 70,000 civilians have been killed or have disappeared.
In 2012, the Colombian government announced the start of the first peace negotiations in 10 years with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group.
We believe that negotiations are the only way of achieving a lasting peace, so we welcome this positive step. However, it is unlikely, at least in the short term, to end the widespread violence.
To make a significant change, a peace agreement must inform new policies that address the structural causes of the conflict.
Victims should have a strong voice in these negotiations, especially women, indigenous people, Afro-Colombian communities and marginalised rural communities.
Everyone involved in the armed conflict – guerrilla, paramilitary and armed forces – is responsible for the widespread human rights violations, which are directly linked to the extremely unequal distribution of land, power and wealth.
Human rights defenders, community leaders and trade unionists are facing an increasing number of attacks, threats, and false and illegal prosecutions.
Those defending human rights (community leaders, lawyers, activists, journalists) are stigmatised, imprisoned, threatened and murdered -female human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable.
Despite being a middle-income country, one in three Colombians lives in poverty. Poverty 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.
The Colombian government’s focus on mining and large agro-business for economic development, combined with poor governance, means that people living in areas that are rich in natural resources face violent eviction from their land.
While protection of ancestral land belonging to indigenous and black communities should be guaranteed, in practice, a lack of effective protective measures allows these powerful businesses to land grab.