Colombia 101

The human rights situation in Colombia is among the most severe in the world. Colombia has Latin America’s longest ongoing civil war and is the country with the highest number of displaced people by violence and conflict in the Americas: more than 4.700.000 people represents almost 10% of the country’s population, with many displaced multiple times.

Colombia is also the most dangerous country for environmental defenders according to Global Witness and one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders, with 189 social leaders killed in 2022. Colombia is the 11th most unequal country in the world, with inequality being a primary indicator that can induce violent conflict and land distribution figures among the most unequal in the world. The country’s impunity rate is as high as 98.5% in alleged cases of extrajudicial executions and 94% overall.

In August 2012, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla group, initiated peace talks aimed at ending the long-standing conflict. After several years of negotiations, a historic peace agreement was signed in 2016, marking a significant step forward in Colombia’s journey towards peace. The agreement addressed various aspects of the conflict, including issues related to land reform, political participation, and transitional justice.

As part of the peace process, the government recognized the existence of victims of the state in Colombia’s armed conflict through the Victims and Land Restitution Law. This law aims to provide restitution and reparations to victims, as well as facilitate the return of land that was forcibly taken during the conflict. While progress has been made in this area, challenges remain in implementing the law effectively and ensuring that victims receive adequate support.

However, despite these positive developments, there are ongoing challenges and concerns. The peace accord in 2016 between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government ended a five-decades-long armed conflict and brought an initial decline in violence. But conflict-related violence has since taken new forms, and abuses by armed groups, including killings, massacres, and massive forced displacement increased in many remote areas of Colombia during the past years. Civilians in various parts of the country suffered serious abuses at the hands of National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, FARC dissidents, and paramilitary successor groups. Human rights defenders, journalists, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and other community activists face pervasive death threats and violence. The government has taken insufficient and inadequate steps to protect them.

The issue of land distribution and inequality in Colombia also persists. While the Victims and Land Restitution Law aims to address land-related injustices, progress has been limited. Land distribution continues to be highly unequal, with a significant concentration of land in the hands of a small number of owners. This disparity not only perpetuates social and economic inequality but also threatens Colombia’s rich biodiversity and vulnerable populations, including indigenous communities.

Furthermore, the expansion of mining concessions in Colombia poses risks to both the environment and local communities. Increased mining activities, coupled with exploitative working conditions and land displacement, contribute to ongoing human rights concerns. Efforts to balance economic development with environmental sustainability and the protection of local communities’ rights remain crucial.

Therefore, ongoing issues such as the presence of armed groups, land inequality, violence against social leaders, and environmental concerns require continued attention and efforts to ensure the protection of human rights for all Colombians.

For more details on the Colombian situation, check the issues section.