WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
25 Oct 2022 | WOLA Statement

U.S. Government Commits Itself to Advance Inclusive Peace in Colombia

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement, on October 3, that the United States will become the first international accompanier to the Ethnic Chapter of the 2016 Colombia peace accord. 

During a signing ceremony in support of the comprehensive implementation of the ethnic chapter, Secretary Blinken said: “The Ethnic Chapter sets out a vision for an inclusive peace that addresses this history of inequity and ensures the rights of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people going forward. It’s a vision that the United States shares and that we’ve long worked to try to help make a reality.” 

For over 17 years, WOLA has worked alongside Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, Palenquero and Raizal grassroots organizations, to promote U.S. support for their individual and collective rights, as well as the integration of ethnic rights into the 2016 peace accord.

WOLA shares Secretary Blinken’s assessment that the internal armed conflict in Colombia disproportionately impacted ethnic communities. He affirmed: “Over five decades, 38 percent of Afro-Colombians (and) 27 percent of Indigenous people registered as victims of the conflict. By 2017, nearly a million had been forcibly displaced. Countless others suffered atrocities and human rights abuses – massacres, torture, disappearances, killings, sexual violence. Too often, those crimes went unpunished. These injustices were rooted in centuries of racism – a living legacy of slavery and colonization.”

Secretary Blinken’s announcement is the logical next step to the political and financial support that the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) have given these issues in the past two decades. It also addresses recommendations made by members of the U.S. Congress and U.S. civil society organizations to the government for over a decade.  

WOLA is glad to learn that U.S. agencies will work together to advance the rights of ethnic peoples enshrined in the ethnic chapter. The organization applauds the U.S. Embassy in Bogota’s efforts to develop a strategic plan with the High Instance for Ethnic Groups (Instancia Especial de Alto Nivel con Pueblos Etnicos, IEANPE) to advance this process. 

WOLA urges the U.S. Congress to facilitate funds and other support required to guarantee an effective implementation process. WOLA stands ready to assist both the U.S. and Colombian governments, our partners, and others to make the ethnic chapter a reality on the ground.