Questions in British parliament on peace and human rights in Colombia

Issues of peace and human rights in Colombia continue to be raised in the British parliament. MPs have submitted several questions to the government. You can review questions and responses below.

Clive Efford MP (Labour), 4 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the activity of (a) the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces (AGC) in the Colombian department of Choco and (b) the response of the Colombian security forces to that situation; and if she make a statement.

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

We are aware of reports of violence and intimidation by the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces in parts of Colombia, and in particular the Chocó region. We remain extremely concerned about the continued presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia, and the impact their competition for control of illicit economies has on local people – even more so at this challenging time. The UK Embassy in Colombia is monitoring events in Chocó.

The UK has been vocal in expressing our concern about the effect the activity of these armed groups has on the future of peace in Colombia. We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations spoke on this issue at the UN Security Council on 14 April, and we consistently press the Colombian Government to focus on extending the rule of law to all parts of the country.

Colombia has made significant progress in its efforts to end the influence of such groups, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they work towards sustainable peace.

Clive Efford MP (Labour), 4 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations she has made to her Colombian counterpart on support for the transitional justice mechanisms of the Colombian peace process.

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

President Duque’s Government has publicly committed to implementing the Peace Accords of 2016 in their entirety. In meetings with the President in London last year the then-Foreign Secretary made it clear that the UK sees the transitional justice system and the involvement of victims as vital parts of the 2016 accords. President Duque’s signing of the transitional justice law last June was a positive step forward, and we are pleased that the institutions have since begun their work.

We continue to emphasise our support for transitional justice in Colombia both with the government and in multilateral fora, including most recently at the UN Security Council on 14 April.

The UK Government has contributed over £26 million towards transitional justice mechanisms and victims of the conflict in Colombia since 2016. This includes supporting the truth commission’s work to gather testimony from Colombians abroad, including here in the UK. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 21 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of media reports of killings of former FARC combatants that are taking part in the peace process.

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

Following the change to date for answer of this PQ, I submitted a response by email on 26 March, with the following response. The Table Office have agreed this approach.

The UK shares the concerns of the Colombian Government regarding ongoing violence in Colombia, including the killings of former FARC combatants. We have been vocal in expressing our concern about the persistent high levels of violence and threats towards former FARC combatants and others, as well as the impact this has on the future of peace.

The United Kingdom welcomes the Colombian Government’s longstanding commitment to assisting former guerrilla fighters in transitioning to civilian life following the peace agreement of 2016. We have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. We have done this through programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former fighters, and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

We also raised our concern about this issue at the United Nations Security Council session on Colombia on 13 January, where we called on the Colombian government to accelerate its reintegration programmes for former combatants. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 21 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the security situation for human rights defenders in Colombia.

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

Following the change to date for answer of this PQ, I submitted a response by email on 26 March, with the following response. The Table Office have agreed this approach.

The United Kingdom remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders in Colombia. We consistently raise these issues with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora, most recently at the UN Security Council on 13 January, and during President Duque’s visit to the UK in June 2019. Our Embassy in Bogota also continues to raise concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour), 4 March 2020

Peace in Colombia is currently very unstable and the peace process is fragile. We are giving money for security reform, but no money for policing and community development. This year alone, 52 trade unionists and community leaders have been assassinated. Will the Government put in money to support policing and investigations?

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Government are aware of the situation in Colombia and Venezuela. The UK is one of the largest donors to the humanitarian response in Venezuela and the top donor to the Central Emergency Response Fund and Education Cannot Wait. I will come back to the hon. Gentleman in respect of his specific point on policing.

Lisa Cameron MP (Scottish National Party), 11 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to encourage UK company compliance with UN guiding principles on business and human rights in Colombia.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is committed to protecting and promoting human rights in Colombia, which the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has designated a Human Rights Priority Country. The Government expects United Kingdom companies to comply fully with UN guiding principles on human rights in that country, and the FCO works to support and promote responsible practice by United Kingdom companies internationally.

We regularly call for the prioritisation of a human rights agenda in Colombia, most recently at the UN Security Council on 13 January. The United Kingdom remains committed to continuing our programming to support full compliance with human rights obligations in Colombia.

Lisa Cameron MP (Scottish National Party), 11 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to monitor the effect of Government funding for Colombia on human rights and the peace process in that country.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is committed to the implementation of the Peace Accords of 2016, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace in Colombia. We are proud to be the penholder on the issue at the United Nations Security Council, and have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom Conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. As a Human Rights Priority Country, our Embassy in Colombia also provides significant programming to help at-risk human rights defenders and to tackle the legacy of sexual violence from Colombia’s decades-long conflict.

The British Government undertakes extensive risk assessments when designing projects in Colombia and deciding which to fund, including any potential negative impact on human rights or the peace process. This includes the OSJA process, which ensures any United Kingdom overseas security and justice assistance (OSJA) work meets our human rights obligations and our values. We continually monitor the effects of our programme work in consultation with colleagues working in Colombia, making a thorough assessment of the impact of all of our projects.

Chris Bryant MP (Labour), 29 January 2020

International agribusiness in Colombia regularly steals land from campesino and indigenous peoples to cut down trees and plant acre after acre of palm oil crops, which is unsustainable for the future and bad for the environment. What are the Government saying to the Colombian Government to bring the peace process back on track so that indigenous people can have their land back?

Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

DFID supports the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a public-private initiative with 90 member organisations that is focused on realising private sector commitments to eliminate deforestation in the supply chains for palm oil, beef, soya and paper. This is one of our many initiatives to address the consequences of palm oil production.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations he has made to his Colombian counterpart on the safety and security of the 9,000 FARC members living outside of official reincorporation zones in Colombia.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom welcomes the Colombian Government’s longstanding commitment to assisting former guerrilla fighters transition to civilian life following the peace agreement of 2016. We have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. We have done this through programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former fighters and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

We also raised our concern about this issue at the United Nations Security Council session on Colombia on 13 January, where we called on the Colombian government to accelerate its reintegration programmes for former combatants. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the violence against (a) social activists and (b) FARC former combatants in that country; and if he will make a statement.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom shares the concerns of the Colombian Government regarding the ongoing violence in Colombia as organised armed groups fight for control of illicit economies. We have been vocal in expressing our concern about the persistent high levels of violence and threats towards social activists, former FARC combatants and others, and the impact this has on the future of peace.

We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations spoke on this issue at the UN Security Council on 13 January. Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

We remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they work towards sustainable peace, and will continue to work closely with the Colombian Government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has made an assessment of the implications for his policies of the 8 January 2020 UN Security Council Mission to Colombia report on the state of the Colombian peace process; and if he will make a statement.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is proud to act as penholder for the Colombian peace process in the UN Security Council, and supports the important work the UN Verification Mission does to monitor the progress made following the 2016 agreement. We welcomed the Special Representative‘s latest report to the Security Council, and agreed with his assessment of the situation.

We were glad to see President Duque’s announcement that he would like the UN Mission to stay in Colombia until at least 2022, and commend the Colombian Government on the successes it has achieved so far.

As we mentioned in the UN Security Council session on 13 January following the Special Representative’s report, the United Kingdom remains particularly concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, community leaders and former FARC combatants. We have called on the Colombian Government to prioritise the tackling of this violence and to improve security conditions around the country, as well as accelerating implementation of reintegration programmes for former fighters. The United Kingdom is also committed to continuing its own programming to support the Government’s efforts and mitigate risks to communities.