· The inclusion of the voices of women and minority groups was key to the 2016 peace agreement
The human rights of women and minority groups must be considered alongside a recognition of the varied and complex factors needed to sustain the fragile peace process in Colombia, Christian Aid has said.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia, the international development agency is emphasising that the need to sustain peace has never been greater – with worrying reports of the murders of 226 social leaders and human rights defenders in 2018 alone.
Christian Aid is also re-iterating the importance of respect for human rights – including economic and social rights – as well as the inclusion of the voices of women and minority groups in the peacebuilding process.
The focus on human rights as a means to build peace is what enabled the perspectives of women, ethnic groups and marginalised communities including Afro-Colombians and indigenous groups to be included in the 2016 agreement, according to the report entitled Engaging with the peace process in Colombia: Reflections from Christian Aid’s programme.
Karol Balfe, Christian Aid’s head of From Violence to Peace, said: “While not perfect, the Peace Agreement in Colombia offers the most transformative potential for the promise of peace in a generation. The many reforms outlined in the agreement are intended to correct social inequalities and institutional deficits in Colombia that are widely considered root causes of the armed conflict.
“This is a crucial moment for peace in Colombia – with a new government visibly less committed to the Final Peace Agreement and an escalation of attacks against human rights defenders, the need to sustain peace in Colombia has never been greater than now. Because peace is by no means guaranteed and will require sustained and ongoing effort.”
Christian Aid also points to a worrying reported increase in sexual and gender-based violence despite the peace process.
In order to sustain peace, Christian Aid urges, a further commitment is needed to tackle the magnitude of conflict-related sexual violence against women in Colombia and respect for women’s rights will be key indicators used to measure change in peacebuilding.
Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid’s country manager in Colombia, added: “The role of civil society in peace is important and too often overlooked.
“In Colombia, independent civil society organisations played a key role in influencing the transitional justice system and in facilitating the participation of conflict-affected communities and victims in the peace talks and giving them a voice in the process, particularly for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.”
While there has been advancement in the implementation of the peace agreement over the past few years, Christian Aid is urging action on the more difficult aspects such as achieving rural reform, inclusive economic development, enhancing citizen participation, reincorporating former combatants, substituting crops of illicit use, and addressing the concerns of victims and providing mechanisms for transitional justice.
You can read the full report – Engaging with the peace process in Colombia: Reflections from Christian Aid’s programme here.
Christian Aid has recently launched its 'Be A Peacemaker' Christmas fundraising appeal for 2018, to support local efforts to tackle conflict and violence in countries such as Colombia.