21 February 2020, Bogota
The fourth international delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor visited Colombia between 16 and 21 February 2020 to continue in its ongoing mission to observe the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and to review the human rights situation in the country. Previous delegations of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor had visited Colombia in 2018 and 2019 with findings presented in the British and Irish Parliaments.
The delegation was formed of British parliamentarians, a Senator from the Spanish state Senate as well as trade union leaders from Britain, Ireland, Italy and Denmark. During the visit, the delegation met with:
- Presidential Counsellor for Stabilisation and Consolidation, Emilio Archila.
- Leaders of the FARC political party.
- The Head of the UN Verification Mission.
- The Vice president of the JEP, the Director of the UBPD and representatives of the Truth Commission.
- Congress members from several opposition political parties.
- The Ambassadors of the Guarantor countries, Norway and Cuba, as well as the Ambassadors of Britain and Ireland.
- Trade unions, human rights organisations and civil society leaders.
The delegation also travelled to meet with communities affected by paramilitary activity in Bajo Atrato, North Chocó. We were hosted in the Biodiversity Zone la Madre Union where we heard about the current terror being instilled in the region by the presence of the AGC paramilitaries and the apparent impunity with which they are able to operate in the region. We heard about the social and economic control by the paramiltaries, the perceived inaction of the Colombian security forces and fears of reprisals or being forced from their land.
We travelled to Mutatá, Antioquia where we visited the San José de León community of former FARC combatants who had established themselves outside of the formal ETCR zones. The community had come together to buy land, build houses and were in the process of activating a collectively owned fish farm. In spite of huge challenges this community demonstrated the potential of the peace process to bring hope and opportunity in areas of the country historically dominated by violence and extreme poverty.
We noted the particular importance of women in supporting the peace process whether through the Women’s Committee taking a leading role in the San José de León community or during our meeting with members of congress in which we heard about their efforts to further implementation of the agreement.
The delegation met with the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilisation and Consolidation and heard about activities from the government that have allowed for some progress in the reincorporation process for former FARC combatants and some advancement in the rural development programs as well as the mutually agreed eradication of thousands of hectares of coca. We give our full support to all activities that contribute to the advancement of the peace agreement.
We recognise that implementation of the peace agreement is a long-term process but as has been manifested in previous visits we continue to be alarmed at the lack of progress in certain areas and that the comprehensive nature of the Final Agreement is not being respected in its implementation. We also heard widespread questioning of the commitment of the Colombian government to the peace process particularly in relation to the medium and long-term budget available for implementation measures.
There is urgent need to ensure that rural reforms included in the first point of the agreement are implemented in practice in order to begin to transform lives and economic prospects in the Colombian countryside. Rural communities have not seen the level of transformation that they had hoped for at this point in the implementation process and the proposal to give land and land titles to peasant farmers is far behind schedule. It is in these rural communities that the violence and poverty of social inequality has been most experienced, and it is only through transformation of these areas that peace will ever truly be felt.
The coca crop substitution programs will also struggle to advance without fundamental progress in the rural reform chapter. In spite of the positive advances which have seen almost 100,000 families voluntarily eradicate their coca crops, only a very few have been able to build an economically sustainable alternative. We congratulate those families who have engaged in the program and in spite of the challenges we heard how only a very small number have returned to growing coca confirming that mutually agreed eradication and substitution is the best way to respond to the phenomenon of coca farming.
The lack of advancement in the area of land and rural reform also cause urgent problems for the reincorporation of former FARC combatants. We understand that only 20% have received official funding for productive economic projects and we once again heard how the lack of access to land was a principal obstacle. Over three years since the peace agreement was signed and in spite of an unwavering commitment to their obligations it is shocking that so few former FARC combatants have been provided with access to the economic projects which formed an essential part of the deal that they signed.
The issue of insecurity continues to offer one of the most serious challenges to the peace process with the murder of social leaders including trade unionists at catastrophic levels and a priority concern for the delegation. Just in the six days we were in Colombia two rural trade union activists from FENSUAGRO were murdered and a regional president of the oil workers union USO survived an assassination attempt. We also heard directly from FECODE about the violence being faced by those working in the education sector. According to the United Nations at least 107 social leaders were murdered in 2019 and we heard that there have now been over 180 former FARC combatants killed since the peace agreement was signed. This is a crisis of extreme magnitude. We reiterate the sentiment already expressed by many that the full implementation of the peace agreement, including maximum government engagement with the National Commission for Security Guarantees, offers a historic opportunity to drastically improve the lives of those who continue to be affected most by the violence in Colombia. That such a significant number of the murders take place in the 170 municipalities covered by the PDETs is a clear manifestation of the connection between full implementation of the peace agreement and improving human rights and a further reminder of the importance that these programs receive all the necessary funding.
The Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor gives our full support to the transitional justice mechanisms created as part of the peace agreement and views with great admiration the enormous and indispensable task being undertaken. While there are limitations to what they might be able to achieve the rulings and reports that will be released over the coming months and years will offer an opportunity for significant steps towards reconciliation in Colombia – it is essential that the Colombian government takes maximum advantage of those opportunities.
Beyond the full implementation of the peace agreement signed between the Colombian government and the FARC, we believe it is essential for the hope of peace that significant efforts are made to reinitiate talks with the ELN.
The Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor once again offers its gratitude to everyone that gave time to meet with us and reiterates our ongoing commitment to supporting all those working to bring peace to Colombia – particularly those who are risking their lives as a result.
21 February 2020, Fourth Delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor
Clive Efford MP, Member of Parliament in the UK Parliament
Neil Findlay MSP, Member of Parliament in the Scottish Parliament
Adelina Escandell Grases, Senator in the Spanish state Senate
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Member of Parliament in the UK Parliament
Sergio Bassoli, Political Officer, CGIL
Josie Bird, President, UNISON
Douglas Bruce Chalmers, President, UCU
David Frederick Kitchen, President, NASUWT
Margaret Mary McKee, Chair of International Committee, UNISON
Gerry Murphy, President, ICTU
Susan Quinn, Education Convener, EIS
Hans Abildgård Sorensen, Regional President, 3F
For more information, visit the JFC Peace Monitor website.