WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Civil Society in Colombia’s Catatumbo Region Demand a Humanitarian Accord, Not Militarization

10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EDT Wednesday, 7 April 2021

(Photo: Corporación Vivamos Humanos)

The Washington Office on Latin America, Corporación Vivamos Humanos, and the Catatumbo Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Working Group* invite you to our webinar on April 7:

Video invitation:

The decrease in violence generated by the 2016 peace accord with the FARC was short-lived in Colombia’s embattled Catatumbo region. Located in North Santander department in a geographically remote area along the Colombia-Venezuela border, inhabitants in Catatumbo have long suffered violence and displacement due to the presence of multiple illegal armed groups that fuel their violence with funds from illicit economies. 

The national government’s strategy to address this insecurity has been to deploy more than 10,000 soldiers to the area and feature Catatumbo as a Zona Futuro (“future zone,” traditional conflict zones where the Duque administration plans to send in a security force surge). This strategy has contributed to persistently high rates of violent actions against the civilian population, as evidenced by the increase in numbers of homicide, forced recruitment of minors, and sexual violence; as well as the expansion of paramilitary structures.

In 2020, Catatumbo experienced six massacres, 17 murders of social leaders, and numerous former combatant homicides. Additionally, 1,180 persons were forcibly displaced from their homes and another 33,627 “confined,” having their freedom of movement restricted, which generated a humanitarian crisis. Particularly disturbing, five persons were killed extrajudicially by the public forces during forced illicit crop eradication operations. Rather than seeing a dismantlement of illegal armed groups, paramilitary groups such as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces in Tibú and those in the metropolitan area of ​​Cúcuta are becoming stronger. 

Catatumbo’s civil society—which includes the Catholic Church, social organizations, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian authorities, political parties, trade unions and women’s organizations—have formed the Catatumbo Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Working Group. This coalition is calling on all the armed actors present in the region—including the FARC’s dissidents, EPL, ELN, paramilitaries and Colombian armed forces—to cease hostilities and abide by a humanitarian accord in Catatumbo, which would guarantee the security of the civilian population. During this virtual event, we will hear from some of the leading proponents of this initiative to learn about the humanitarian accord, why it’s necessary, the obstacles it faces, and what U.S. policymakers and civil society in the United States can do to support it.


Event Details:
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. EDT (Washington D.C., USA)
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. (Bogotá, Colombia)

Register on Zoom below

Juan Carlos Quintero 
Catatumbo Rural Workers’ Association (ASCAMAT)

Ashcayra Arabadora
Leader of the Barí Indigenous Peoples  

Father Jairo López
Catholic Church

Ernesto Samper
Former President of Colombia and Donor of Corporacion Vivamos Humanos


Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli
Director of the Andes, WOLA


Simultaneous interpretation between English and Spanish will be available on Zoom only.

*The following organizations from the Catatumbo Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Working Group are supporting this event: Corporación Vivamos Humanos, Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), Movimiento por la Constituyente Popular (MCP), Pueblo Barí, Corporación para la Paz y el Desarrollo Alternativo (COPAZ), Programa de Prevención, Protección y Seguridad de Defensores y Defensoras de Derechos Humanos del Nororiente Colombiano, Comité de Integración Social del Catatumbo (CISCA), Poderpaz Corporación Poder, Democracia y Paz, Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT), Red de Mujeres Comunitarias del Catatumbo, Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas, Asociación para la Promoción Social Alternativa (MINGA), Corporación Red Departamental de Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Asociación de Juntas de Mesitas y San Miguel ASMESAN, Asociación de Personeros del Catatumbo, Consejo Comunitario Afrocolombiano de la Gabarra y Tibú, Partido Político Comunes- Norte de Santander, Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Educación de Norte de Santander (SUTENS), Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reservas Campesinas (ANZORC), Fundación Cultura de Paz, Fundación Progresar and El Derecho A No Obedecer.