After decades of conflict, the Colombian government signed a historic peace agreement last year with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). While the road ahead for the implementation of the peace process in Colombia will be long and difficult, there are many reasons to be hopeful. WOLA Executive Director Matt Clausen recently traveled with Congressman Jim McGovern to meet with key community leaders in the northern Cauca region of Colombia, where they witnessed much of this hope, in addition to many challenges that Colombia still faces.
The northern Cauca region is emblematic of the progress Colombia has made, as well as the confusion and disarray it faces. Former FARC combatants have laid down their arms in these zones, turning in their weapons and residing in often ill-equipped or unfinished temporary encampments prepared by the Colombian government. The people living in these zones go about their daily lives—yet there are still consistent threats of violence from paramilitaries, and there has been an alarming wave of attacks against human rights defenders and social leaders this year. WOLA met with a diverse range of people with unique perspectives on Colombia’s current situation–UN officials, ex-FARC combatants, a former WOLA staff member living and working in the region, Afro-Colombian community leaders, and campesinos.
Below is a photo essay of Clausen’s visit to a region that embodies the complexities of the conflict in Colombia, but also one that maintains hope for peace.