WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

USAID on the trail to the Ciudad Perdida (Getty Images)

16 Mar 2023 | Commentary

WOLA Meets with USAID and Other Civil Society Actors

This letter is a summary of the information we received along with our analysis given our expertise monitoring U.S. assistance to Colombia.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) held its Annual Human Rights Consultations with civil society organizations on February 16th. These dialogues with civil society representatives from key U.S.-based non-governmental entities that have been monitoring Colombia’s human rights situation for many years, and WOLA has been an active participant of these consultations since their inception.

During the consultations, participants have the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the USAID and Colombia’s human rights programming, while voicing their concerns and insights related to the human rights situation in the country.

This year, USAID made efforts to diversify the participants for the dialogue by having one person from each civil society organization present to express their concerns. The primary topics of discussion for this year included 1) the implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord’s Ethnic Chapter, 2) rural development, and 3) land reform. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) received 25 responses from partners and summaries of what some presented at the consultations in Colombia.

Below is a list of the top priorities brought up by partners to be addressed during the consultation:

  • The implementation of the 2016 peace accord with the FARC in particular the Ethnic Chapter, rural development and the gender provisions.
  • Peace efforts must be implemented with an ethnic and gender focus. Additionally, they called for more clarity on what Total Peace entails.
  • Protection of social leaders advocating for human rights, Afro-Colombian and indigenous rights, and against corruption. Women and LGBTQI+ leaders require more attention. Indigenous and Cimarron guards and other collective protection efforts require support.
  • Restorative justice and transitional justice.
  • Human security with a territorial focus such as productive projects that help to prevent violence in rural areas. Efforts that provide a solution to illicit crops and include measures that allow for rural farmers, ethnic groups to remain in rural areas with their needs met (health, education, water, infrastructure, sanitation, economic development opportunities that are attractive to youth so they stay in the countryside). Helping to develop national and international markets for rural communities’ products. Projects that teach children about peace so as to change society’s view on violence and armed conflict.
  • Support to women and LGBTQI+ organizations so they can advance gender justice. Femicides and violence against women has increased in Colombia during the pandemic.
  • Humanitarian assistance to Colombians affected by conflict and displacement especially in the Pacific region.
  • Projects that guarantee employment, training and education for marginalized youths. In Quibdó, violence perpetrated by youth and against youth has hit an all time high. In Cali, Buenaventura, Tumaco in particular such efforts are needed to prevent youths from being recruited into illegal armed groups and illicit economies.
  • Help to advance Law 70 of the Black Communities.
  • Victims’ rights and participation.

To view the entire letter of points brought up by WOLA and its organizational partners, click here.