Intervention on behalf of FORPP and Conpazcol at the UN round table with the Netherlands, Costa Rica, the Philippines and Sierra Leone
TODAY COLOMBIA IS IN A PROCESS OF RECONCILIATION AND TOTAL PEACE THANKS TO CIVIL RESISTANCE, PROTECTION, SELF-PROTECTION AND MOBILIZATION EFFORTS LEAD BY INDIGENOUS, BLACK AND CAMPESINOS AND THANKS TO THE WORK OF VICTIMS, AND THE SUPPORT AND SOLIDARITY OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL UNARMED CIVIL PROTECTION ORGANIZATIONS.
Enrique Chimonja Coy:
Thank you very much for this space to share and talk about resistance, reconciliation, and the protection of lives and construction of comprehensive peace which is led by communities throughout the country through active non-violence, an action that is articulated and strengthened in Colombia and many parts of the world.
I am Enrique Chimonja Coy, part of the Colombia team of the Fellowship Of Reconciliation Peace Presence organization in the USA, which has been accompanying community initiatives of self-protection and peace-building for 20 years, initiatives that invite all people of conscience to end the structures of violence, war and fostering peace through the transformative power of active non-violence.
I am part of a large number of families and organizations that are searching for more than 200,000 missing people. I am a survivor of the political genocide for which the Colombian State is currently condemned by the honorable Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the OAS. I believe this is reason and motivation enough to conclude that weapons do not build peace, that weapons do not save or protect life, their nature is and has always been to kill life, and it does not matter if they are in the hands of the legal force of the State or if they are in the hands of an illegal or revolutionary actor.
As a survivor, seeker and weaver of integral reconciliation, I am part of a network of community processes known as the Association of Communities Building Peace in Colombia – Conpazcol, which leads in Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant territories, both in rural and urban areas, concrete and successful initiatives for the application, demand and affirmation of International Humanitarian Law, which today is better known through projects such as Humanitarian shelters, Humanitarian Reservations, Places of Refuge, Mother Houses for Peace, Biodiversity Zones, Humanitarian Zones, Peace Communities, Humanitarian and Biodiverse Territories, Interethnic Territories for peace, Humanitarian Axes for life – all are initiatives in affirmation of Humanitarian Law, the principle of distinction and respect for all armed actors. These projects involve specific areas and territories, delimited and made visible as exclusive places for the civilian population and that, within their self-protection mechanisms, have national and international support from non-armed civil protection organizations, such as the Fellowship Of Reconciliation Peace Presence and many others.
It is necessary to give context to Colombia’s current political situation. As President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Francia Márquez have expressed, today we position ourselves as a world power of life. And those of us working for peace support that condition, but not because the president or vice president says so, or because it is the name of the current public policy or National Development Plan, NO – we are a world power of life thanks to civil resistance and to efforts led by 115 indigenous peoples present in Colombia (similarly, tomorrow marks 531 years of resistance and contention due to territorial displacement and cultural extermination caused by colonialism). Due to these efforts, we embody the power of life thanks to the fabric of territorial protection of the Afro-Colombian people, as well as thanks to the resistance and concrete proposals for peace from campesino communities. We are the power of life because, through civil resistance and life plans, we protect all life, including the biological diversity of the territory, as we seek to restore that which has been affected by the current extraction model.
As survivors, aware of the serious violations of Human Rights and the permanent infractions of Humanitarian Law, we continue weave peace, we continue to be mobilize and organize to overcome legal and social impunity, and we continue in civic action for the construction of comprehensive peace, with the hope that in this government the process of laying down weapons and accepting justice for all armed actors – as included in the public policy of dismantling and the total peace law – can become a reality.
The process can advance by engaging in social and political dialogue with armed actors, and it can advance with temporary bilateral cessations at the national level – a process that we celebrate from the territory. However, this is not enough, given that the cessations are only applied to the State, while illegally-armed actors face no cessation, nor do they include the cessation of hostilities against the civilian population that resists in the midst of control and armed confrontation.
The commitment to total peace has deepened the humanitarian crisis (despite the will of the government, not because of the will of the State), this crisis has caused the death of at least 135 social leaders, human rights defenders, environmental leaders and signatories of the peace treaties from January 1st to last Saturday, October 7th, 2023. Reports also show 1,549 assassinations since the signing of the Final Agreement of 2016. According to human rights platforms, at least 750 violent events were reported, the majority with direct effects on the civilian population. Let us also remember that in 2022, Colombia topped the list of countries with the highest number of murdered environmental leaders with 60 cases of the 117 that occurred globally. At this time, many communities await the government’s guarantees of total peace to overcome the confinement and forced displacement in which they find themselves.
In this scenario, it is important to recognize, make visible and support the HUMANITARIAN and civil resistance initiatives that are being woven in territories such as Antioquia, Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Huila, Atlántico, El César, and other regions of Colombia so that they continue to generate concrete guarantees of protection for the lives of civilians. This will also strengthen and hopefully multiply throughout the national territory. This multiplication will support the growth of civilian participation in dialogues for total peace and hopefully allow for continued protection initiatives, the creation of SELF-PROTECTION mechanisms, implementation of agrarian reform or comprehensive Rural reform and promote the implementation of other components of the peace agreements, ultimately placing human security as a fundamental basis of the total peace policy.
Colombia, as well as the rest of the world, finds itself in an opportune moment, in which it can prioritize the protection of life through unarmed civil actions and overturn processes that uproot the use of weapons as a mechanism to achieve peace. Our solidarity with all the victims and peoples who suffer and resist armed conflict is unwavering, and we extend an open invitation for them to come visit Colombia, learn about the humanitarian initiatives and, to the extent possible, replicate or recreate them according to their contexts.
Thank you so much.