Peace is not possible without social leaders in Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and rural communities.
Social leaders in Colombia are fighting for both their lives and their communities, as the country’s fragile grip on its peace process is slipping. In 2016, after over half a century of internal armed conflict, Colombia and the former guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a historic peace accord. This remarkable achievement ended the longest running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere and laid out a roadmap—which is unique in that it integrated the recommendations and rights of victims, women, Afro-Colombian, and Indigenous peoples—to tackle the main drivers of physical and institutional violence. But President Iván Duque administration’s faltering implementation of the peace accord has contributed to the recent intensification of violence in rural and ethnic territories, and social leaders and their communities continue to bear the brunt of it.
Following the peace accord’s ratification, social leaders began the difficult, grassroots work of implementing key components of the accord in Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and rural towns and villages throughout the country. These human rights activists push for voluntary coca substitution programs and community-based development initiatives in regions subject to drug traffickers, illicit armed groups, and economic and political elites. They seek land, labor, and environmental rights in communities where extractive industries like mining operate. They pursue justice for the millions of human rights abuses committed during Colombia’s protracted conflict. Every day, their work—which is often critical of the lack of peace accord implementation in their communities—directly challenges the power of violent interests in Colombia.
But peace is disintegrating because the Colombian government undermines and fails to protect the very individuals and communities working to sustain it. Social leaders across the country are being systematically threatened and assassinated by armed actors, with more than 500 social leaders killed since the 2016 signing of the peace accord. The death of a social leader often silences the communities advocating for peace, thereby facilitating the ability for violent actors to reassert control. Without the critical work of these human rights activists fervently working to bring the accord’s commitments to life, lasting peace in Colombia is not possible.
Con Líderes Hay Paz is a digital advocacy campaign launched by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) to support and protect the work of social leaders advocating for peace, and is carried out in communication and partnership with them. The campaign offers advocacy resources such as action group guides and policy recommendations that seek to bring attention to the realities faced by social leaders and what can be done to ensure peace is consolidated in Colombia. The campaign also features a four-part documentary podcast series entitled Rebuilding Peace in Colombia, which follows the stories of Afro-Colombian leaders Leyner Palacios Asprilla, Erlendy Cuero Bravo, Danelly Estupiñán, and Indigenous leader Darío Mejia.
Join us on Wednesday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m. EDT to learn more about the campaign directly from the social leaders featured in our documentary podcast series. They will discuss the dangers of government neglect and armed violence that are unraveling Colombia’s fragile peace. The panel will also include a presentation by Camilo González Posso, president of the Institute for Peace and Development Studies (Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y Paz, INDEPAZ), a local NGO that closely and comprehensively monitors the situation of social leaders. The international community—activists and policymakers alike—must press Colombia to both protect social leaders, and support their work by fully implementing the peace accord.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Colombian time)
Register on Zoom below
Leyner Palacios Asprilla
Commissioner, Truth Commission
Social Leader and Survivor of the 2002 Bojayá Massacre
Researcher and Human Rights Activist, Black Communities Process of Colombia
Afro-Colombian Human Rights Leader in Buenaventura
Erlendy Cuero Bravo
Vice President of the National Association for Displaced Afro-Colombians
Social Leader and Advocate for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians in Cali
Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Indigenous Zenú Social Leader and Political Scientist
Camilo González Posso
President, Institute for Peace and Development Studies (Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y Paz, INDEPAZ)
Podcast Host for Rebuilding Peace in Colombia
President and CEO, Darryl Chappell Foundation
Podcast Host for Rebuilding Peace in Colombia
Director for the Andes, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Simultaneous interpretation between English and Spanish will be available on Zoom only