Christian Aid welcomes peace deal in Colombia

By agency reporter
August 25, 2016

Christian Aid and its partners have warmly welcomed the announcement of the final agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group. However, they also urge the government to ensure implementation of the agreement and dismantle paramilitary groups as a matter or priority, to guarantee lasting peace.

The two parties made the announcement in Havana yesterday (24 August 2916) and the agreement is due to be signed in September with state leaders present. However, it will be up to the people of Colombia to ultimately decide whether or not to back this deal in a public vote set for October

For more than half a century, Colombia has been devastated by an internal armed conflict. The numbers are staggering; almost a quarter of a million people have been killed, there are an estimated eight million victims and at 6.9 million the country has the world’s largest number of internally displaced people. 

After almost four years of public negotiations the final peace agreement establishes a bilateral and definitive ceasefire between Colombian armed forces and the FARC. It includes action on six major points: rural development, political participation, ending the conflict, illicit drugs, victims’ rights and peace deal implementation, verification and endorsement.

Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid’s country manager in Colombia, stated: “The enormous effort made by the government and the FARC to reach this agreement must be congratulated. However, there remain many outstanding issues which could hinder the success of the peace process.

“The resurgence of paramilitaries is a major threat to peace building in Colombia.   Paramilitaries are responsible for most of the attacks and threats against human rights defenders today and they continue to be behind forced displacements and disappearances of people here. In fact, we have seen an increase in attacks during the peace talks.”

“Therefore, we urge the Colombian government to take action to dismantle these groups, including investigating, prosecuting and sanctioning any public official collaborating with these groups, to ensure non repetition.”

Mr Mortensen continued: “The international community must continue to support the peace process, both politically and financially. This support mustn’t just be now, but also in the years to come, when Colombia no longer has the world’s attention. The conflict has lasted for more than 50 years and it will take many years to build peace. International engagement is critical to the peace deal’s success.”

Mario Valencia, Director of Christian Aid partner Cedetrabajo said: “All Colombians should support and give their backing to the peace process. It represents a huge advancement for the country.

“A move to peace must also mean a move to social equality, inclusion, a reduction in unemployment and poverty, alongside a fall in Colombia’s inequality gap.”

Christian Aid’s partners have warned that the peace agreement does not fully safeguard against the repetition of future human rights violations and violence. Consequently, they are calling for a ‘High Level Commission for the Guarantee on Non-Repetition’, which should include involvement of civil society representatives.

Fr Alberto Franco, Director of Christian Aid’s local partner Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission, said: “One challenge is not to repeat history by signing an agreement not complying with it, and allowing the killing of participants to the peace process, as it happened after the agreement of 1984.”

“Another challenge is to see behind the immediate enthusiasm of the peace deal and to remember that peace-building also requires deep and lasting transformation of society. The peace process should mean the end of Colombia’s position as one of the world’s most unequal and corrupt countries, where people are often second to commercial interests.”

The peace deal includes specific measures to ensure victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation; and does not provide for an amnesty for perpetrators of serious human rights violations, such as sexual violence, whether committed by state forces, the FARC or paramilitary groups.

The agreement seeks to improve access to land, health and education for marginalised communities, to build a more inclusive political system to break the domination of political and economic elites, and to support voluntary substitution of illegal crops.

Christian Aid says it "strongly encourages the Colombian Government and the country’s second largest insurgency group, the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), to begin their formal peace talks that were announced in March."

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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