In a letter to President Joe Biden, 22 U.S. and international civil society organizations urged the administration to make the Colombian government’s full implementation of the 2016 peace accords the central tenet of U.S. policy to Colombia. The groups included major faith, labor, environmental, human rights, humanitarian, and Colombian-American organizations.
“We urge you to restore peace and protection of human rights as the principal goals of U.S. policy in Colombia,” the letter states. “This would start with whole-of-government messaging focused on the following priorities: urging the Colombian government to fully implement the accords; encouraging a humanitarian accord with the ELN, as well as encouraging negotiations on a peace agreement should circumstances permit; through the U.S. role in the UN Security Council, promoting consolidation of peace in Colombia; and continuing to provide substantial U.S. assistance for implementation.”
The letter recognizes that the Biden administration has made promising, early signals of its intent to make peace and protection of human rights as the principal goals of U.S. policy in Colombia. It notes that it is critical for the U.S. government to continue assistance to Colombia’s Truth Commission and the Unit to Search for the Disappeared, and should begin assistance for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which has registered significant advances in bringing about accountability for some of the most brutal human rights abuses committed during Colombia’s conflict.
The letter notes that given the disproportionate impact of post-accord violence and displacement of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities, the United States must prioritize the implementation of the 2016 peace accord’s Ethnic Chapter— a section of the accords that safeguards the rights of Afro-descendant and Indigenous Colombians. To support the protection of Black and Indigenous lives in Colombia, the U.S. government should also promote humanitarian dialogues and agreements that protect civilian populations in ethnic territories, and encourage the Colombian government to uphold the civic accords reached with Buenaventura and Chocó Civic Strike Committees (these were agreements that came about following a 2017 massive strike by Buenaventura residents, calling on the government to address their basic needs for potable water, infrastructure, security, and dignified work).
“Top-line public messaging regarding the U.S.-Colombia partnership should be careful not to overshadow acknowledgment that major obstacles remain to peace accord implementation, military reform, and protection of human rights defenders,” the letter states. The letter urges “an intensive focus on preventing violence against human rights defenders and community leaders,” including Colombia’s endangered environmental, labor, and Indigenous and Afro-descendant activists.