The Truth, Coexistence and Non-Recurrence Commission presented its Final Report on the Colombia Peace Accords in Washington D.C, in an event held on July 15 by the United States Institute of Peace, WOLA, the Colombia Human Rights Committee, the Latin America Working Group, Humanity United, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
The report, which was first published on June 28, presents a stark picture of how the conflict has impacted the civilian population, which accounts for up to 90 percent of the estimated 9 million victims.
The Commission also explored how the conflict particularly affected ethnic communities, women, LGBTI+ people and others.
This approach, which WOLA has echoed, represents a unique and heroic effort to document how Colombia’s structural inequalities need to be addressed in a way that puts victims and the center of any discussions and future strategies.
“We have two Colombias, and we have two stories,” Cristina Espinel, moderator and Co-Director of the Colombia Human Rights Committee, said. She explained that the principal aim of the report is to build one united Colombia on a foundation of collective healing. But also said this healing can only be accomplished if people understand and respect the report. “Now we’re faced with the huge task of education.”
Jesuit Father Francisco de Roux, the Director of the Commission, agreed and went further talking about the need for Colombia to start a process of healing that must be accompanied by social and political change.
“Colombians are teaching reconciliation in the midst of the most brutal pain,” he said. “Colombia is a paradigm for reconciliation […] we need to leave fear aside.”
The report is just the beginning, Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA’s Director for the Andes, added.
“Now that this report is published, it’s up to all of us inside and outside Colombia, Colombians and allies, to help to transform Colombian society to assure that the conflict won’t be repeated,” she said. Sánchez-Garzoli added that legislators in the U.S. should take the report seriously and make the necessary changes to policies toward Colombia that will aid the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
The report also includes a series of policy recommendations for Colombia and international actors, including the United States. Among them is the need for both countries to lead a new vision for drug policy to move from a prohibitionist perspective toward legal regulation, renovating the security forces based on human rights instead of militarization, stricter regulations on the arms trade and advancing peace talks with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN).