September began with a FORPP accompaniment of the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission in Buenaventura, where the Regional Meeting for Peace was held. Many civil society organizations fighting for their ethnic and territorial rights expressed their concerns and their own definitions of peace in the presence of governmental representatives, international organizations and local leaders. After this event, the ambassador of Norway and members of the United Nations (UNHCR, OHCHR) came to visit the Humanitarian Space Puente Nayero and met with community leaders to listen to their history and their current concerns linked to paramilitary threats and robberies, as well as to mega-development projects in the area.
Later, we celebrated Julia’s birthday with people from the Humanitarian Space and the neighboring street Punta Icaco with a cake and some demonstrations of currulao, the traditional music and dance from the Colombian Pacific Coast. At the end of this accompaniment, the National Protection Unit delivered a boat for the Wounaan people of Santa Rosa de Guayacán. They returned to their territory in 2011 but have been waiting for this boat to help increase their safety as they navigate the Calima River where armed actors are still a threat to them.
On September 15th and 16th, FORPP co-organized a forum about international accompaniment in a post-peace agreement scenario in Colombia. It was an occasion for international accompaniment organizations and their partners to think about the difficulties and successes of international accompaniment in the country since 1994, and to highlight potential challenges for protection after the signing of a possible peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla. A panel on this topic was held at the Javeriana University where experts on protection shared their views and agreed on the vital importance of maintaining international accompaniment for Colombian human rights organizations in the context of a peace agreement implementation.
In Tamarindo, our FORPP program coordinator Maren accompanied ASOTRACAMPO, a community organization, located outside of the city of Barranquilla, who created a Humanitarian Space in the face of ongoing threats of displacement and by armed actors and mega-development projects. The community welcomed representatives of the United Kingdom Embassy on September 22nd to share their testimonies on the difficult situation they are living and discuss ways in which the United Kingdom could help them. They also presented an impressive exhibition of photographs documenting the destruction of livelihood and suffering caused by the multiple displacements endured by the community.
We ended the month with another accompaniment of the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission in Buenaventura. Maren and Michaela visited the stadium where a Wounaan community from the San Juan River have been displaced since December 2014 and are living in inhuman conditions without sustainable solutions for returning to their territory. On our blog, we republished an in-depth article written by Robin Llewellyn who met with the Wounaan displaced community. The article reveals the difficult reasons for which they had to leave their land and describes their current fight for a dignified and safe return to that land. In Puente Nayero, the community received the ambassador of Canada for a visit of their Humanitarian Space, to expose the problems they still face and present their future projects, including the construction of a cultural center. Additionally, representatives of other community processes accompanied by the Commission had the opportunity to express their concerns: the displaced community of La Esperanza, the displaced Wounaan, the forcefully relocated community of San Antonio, and the community of Punta Icaco.
In addition to our permanent accompaniment in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, FOR Peace Presence spent 10 days on the ground in September. These accompaniments were spread across the provinces of Antioquia, Atlántico and Valle del Cauca. We published one piece on our blog and one publication on an external site. We had also four official meetings.
Thank you all for your support and for following us. See you next month!