The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is thrilled to report that one of its longtime Afro-Colombian partners, Marino Cordoba of the Association for Afro-Colombian Internally Displaced Persons (AFRODES), is among the three finalists for prestigious human rights award the Martin Ennals Prize.
Cordoba, the current head of AFRODES, advocates for the human rights of Afro-Colombians and displaced people in Colombia. Founded nearly 20 years ago by Cordoba, AFRODES is a coalition of 96 organizations from across the country, representing 90,000 displaced individuals. It has provides unmatched leadership and coordination for the most vulnerable victims of Colombia’s conflicts. WOLA awarded AFRODES with the 2010 WOLA Human Rights Award, in recognition of the organization’s outstanding and historic efforts to advance and protect human rights in Colombia.
From 2015-2016, Cordoba played a pivotal role in securing historic representation for ethnic minorities during Colombia’s peace process. When the Colombian government began negotiating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ethnic minority issues were entirely ignored. Cordoba made history by being the catalyst that brought together all of the major Afro-Colombian national, regional, and territorial authorities under a unified platform called the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA). The CONPA coalition engaged in a global and national campaign that was joined by Colombia’s main indigenous coalitions to form the Ethnic Commission for Peace and the Defense of Territorial Rights. This Ethnic Commission engaged in strategic advocacy that led to the historic inclusion of ethnic minorities in Colombia’s peace process.
Today, Colombia’s peace accord includes an “Ethnic Chapter” that transversally safeguards the rights and participation of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations in peace implementation. Among its provisions, it secures these communities’ right to prior consultation on matters associated with their collective lands. The Ethnic Chapter now serves as a tool for guaranteeing their rights for future generations, sustaining peace, and protecting the environment. The Ethnic Commission, of whom Cordoba is a pivotal part, is guaranteeing that post-conflict Colombia advances the rights of ethnic minorities.
Marino Cordoba has dedicated his life to advancing the rights of Afro-Colombians. Despite surviving five assassination attempts that led to his exile in the United States, Cordoba returned to Colombia to defend human rights and remains at grave risk. AFRODES has lost numerous leaders and family members in the fight for rights, including Bernardo Cuero, spokesperson for AFRODES, who was killed in 2017 in front of his wife. With over 343 social leaders killed since January 2016, Colombia remains one of the most dangerous places to be a human rights defender. Given Cordoba’s excellent work and his level of risk, we hope this nomination raises awareness of the plight faced by social leaders, defenders and Afro-Colombians in Colombia.