Canadian organizations issue joint letter of concern about Colombia

A group of nearly 50 organizations from across Canada have issued an open letter expressing their concern over weakened peace process in Colombia, which has been consistently undermined by the government of President Ivan Duque. The group – representing labour, faith, human rights and international solidarity organizations – is calling on the Canadian government to pressure the Colombian government to respect human rights and uphold its obligations under the peace agreement.

We reprint the letter here:

Canadian organizations call for unequivocal commitment to peace and respect for human rights in Colombia

On the eve of the International Day of Peace, the undersigned Canadian organizations are joining to express their profound concern over an escalating human rights crisis in Colombia and continued threats to the Colombian peace process.

In 2016, a historic peace agreement was reached between the Government of Colombia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), with great hope of bringing an end to 52 years of armed conflict. Less than one month ago, the peace process was dealt a serious blow when several former commanders and now dissidents of the demobilized FARC announced their return to arms. They cited a lack of compliance by the Colombian state with the peace agreement and the systematic killing of social leaders and demobilized FARC members.

By all accounts, President Duque and his political party have systematically undermined the peace agreement. They have consistently underfunded several of its key components; openly attacked the transitional justice system, and moved slowly on reintegration of ex-combatants into civilian life. Disturbingly, they have promoted and enacted legislation that is in direct opposition to the agreement, in particular with respect to the provisions related to agrarian reform and rural development – issues that gave rise to the armed conflict and that are vital to a sustained peace. Prodded by the United States administration, the Duque government has also abandoned the agreements related to crop substitution. All of these measures have had a disproportionate impact on rural women, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations.

We are deeply concerned that little or no action has been taken to constrain paramilitary death squads that continue to threaten and kill community leaders with impunity. Since the peace agreement was signed in December 2016, at least 700 social movement leaders and 142 demobilized insurgents have been murdered. During the same period, an additional 260,000 Colombians were forcibly displaced, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons
(IDPs) in Colombia to approximately 7.8 million – the highest number of IDPs in the world. In June of this year the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, Agnes Callamard, called on the Colombian government to “cease inciting violence” against demobilized FARC members.

As Canadian organizations, we reiterate our solidarity with the people of Colombia and their desire to build a country where peace and justice prevail, and where deeply entrenched political, economic and social inequalities are addressed. We share their conviction that the peace agreement is an important step in this process and that it must be vigorously defended.

We call on the Government of Canada to use its close relationship with Colombia to:

  • Speak out forcefully to condemn the killings and the dangerous backsliding on implementation of the peace agreement.
  • Press the Colombian government to uphold its obligations to protect the lives and rights of social leaders, human rights defenders and demobilized insurgents.
  • Press the Colombian government to comply with its obligations under the peace agreement and to advance without further delay on its full implementation.
  • Insist on the resumption of the negotiation table between the National Government and the ELN guerrilla, understanding that the only way out of the conflict is through dialogue.

We urge the Government of Canada to redouble its political and economic support for peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia and ensure that Canadian trade and investment interests in Colombia are in no way undermining the peace process.

    1. Americas Policy Group / Groupe d’orientation politique des Amériques
    2. Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale
    3. Avocats sans frontières Canada
    4. Basilian Centre for Peace and Justice
    5. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
    6. British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union
    7. Canadian Association of University Teachers
    8. Canadian Jesuits International
    9. Canadian Labour Congress / Congrès du travail du Canada
    10. Canadian Peace Congress
    11. Canadian Union of Postal Workers
    12. Canadian Union of Public Employees
    13. Centre international de solidarité ouvrière
    14. Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice
    15. Christian Peacemaker Teams – Canada
    16. Christian Peacemaker Teams – Colombia
    17. Centrale des syndicats du Québec
    18. CoDevelopment Canada
    19. Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance
    20. Colombia Working Group
    21. Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
    22. Common Frontiers
    23. Defendamos la Paz internacional
    24. Development and Peace – Caritas Canada
    25. Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
    26. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
    27. Fondation Salvador Allende Montréal
    28. HOLA Latino Group
    29. Horizons of Friendship
    30. Inter Pares
    31. Justice, paix et intégrité de la création
    32. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
    33. Latin American & Caribbean Solidarity Network
    34. Mennonite Central Committee Canada
    35. MiningWatch Canada
    36. National Union of Public and General Employees
    37. Nobel Women’s Initiative
    38. NORDIK institute – Algoma University
    39. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
    40. Oxfam Canada
    41. Oxfam-Québec
    42. Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie
    43. Public Service Alliance of Canada / Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada
    44. Teamsters Canada
    45. The United Church of Canada / L’Église Unie du Canada
    46. United Steelworkers / Syndicat des Métallos
    47. Unifor


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