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Humanitarian Zone signboard, Colombia

Ten Years: Colombia

How is life in poor and excluded communities changing in the context of the national peace accord?

Christian Aid and its partners have been working to tackle violence and build peace in Colombia for more than two decades, and this work forms the foundation of the Ten Years research.

In November 2016, five decades of civil conflict were formally ended when a Peace Agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Subesquent years have seen efforts at implementation, but also the election of a right-wing government with a weak commitment to the Peace Agreement.

Against this background, Ten Years is asking how the lives of people in poor and excluded communities are changing in the context of the Peace Agreement, how they engage in this process, and how they understand peace and justice.

Justicia y Paz – one of Christian Aid’s established NGO partners – is making regular research visits to Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in two areas of the Valle del Cauca, around the Naya and San Juan rivers.

Valle del Cauca: a history of violence and conflict

The rivers of the Valle del Cauca, which give access to the Pacific through the coastal city of Buenaventura, have long been important routes for the trafficking of weapons and drugs. This means that for decades the territories around the rivers have been a battleground, both in the conflict between the government and its armed guerrilla opponents, and in the operations of paramilitary groups and armed drug traffickers.

The inhabitants of the riverside communities have been prevented from farming and fishing – the livelihoods that have traditionally sustained them – by insecurity and the appropriation of land to grow illegal crops and mine gold. And they have been victims of murder, massacre and torture.

For more background:

  • watch a 2017 Christian Aid Ireland video to learn more about life in the Indigenous Wounaan community of Agua Clara in the Naya valley, and a solidarity visit from Irish politicians
  • read a 2018 blog by Kas Sempere of the Research, Evidence and Learning team about the continuing problems of internal displacement in the Naya river valley.

Outputs from the study

Videos

Blogs

Understanding change for building and sustaining peace

As well as researching change in the Valle del Cauca, Ten Years also gives staff from Christian Aid Colombia and Justicia y Paz the opportunity to participate in facilitated reflections about how they anticipate and respond to changes in their context, particularly related to how the Peace Agreement plays out in implementation.

Through its work with its partners, Christian Aid Colombia aims to build the resilience of communities by helping them claim their human rights, particularly to land; to hold the state to account, making it more responsive to civil society; and to actively protect human rights defenders.

Justicia y Paz works to make human rights abuses visible and public. Although they engage at many levels, they are founded on a commitment of standing with the victims of violence and injustice, who are often unrepresented in political processes, working with them to construct alternative visions and narratives, and to reclaim their rights.

Critically reflecting on theories of change that lie behind the work of NGOs like Christian Aid and Justicia y Paz is an important aspect of adaptive programming. This capacity to adapt to a rapidly shifting context has been crucial for both organisations as they navigate the implementation of the Peace Agreement, ensuring that they can continue working to protect the human rights of the marginalised communities they stand alongside.

For more background:

  • Visit the Christian Aid Colombia web page
  • Read six reflections on Christian Aid’s engagement with the peace process in Colombia, published on the second anniversary of the Peace Agreement in 2018
  • Visit the website of Justicia y Paz to learn more about their work protecting the rights of excluded and marginalised communities.

Outputs from the study

Papers