We’ve added a fifth resource to this site’s page of “Explainer” documents: a graphics-heavy overview of the growing network of FARC “dissident” groups around the country. These are armed groups founded by, and mostly comprised of, fighters who either rejected the 2016 peace accord outright, or demobilized in 2017 only to take up arms again. The Explainer covers the groups’ origins and estimated size, their illicit revenue streams, their poor human rights record, the two main national dissident confederations, and some regions in which dissidents are embroiled in violent territorial disputes.
We’ve added a fourth article to this site’s page of “Explainer” documents: an overview of the National Liberation Army, ELN, Colombia’s largest existing guerrilla group. The Explainer moves rapidly through the ELN’s difficult history, its command structure and way of operating, its geography, its revenue streams, its poor human rights record, and Colombia’s experience engaging it in peace talks. All in a concise 5,400 words—but with numerous photos and maps.
We’re pleased to announce the addition of a new section to the colombiapeace.org website. This is the final feature that we had planned to add during the site’s early-2020 overhaul.
Explainers is a series of brief articles offering plain-language, fact-filled explanations of persistent, evergreen topics. Each looks at an aspect of Colombia’s conflict, peace effort, human rights challenges, or U.S. policy. The format is inspired by—but less ambitious than—the “card stacks” that Vox.com used when it first launched, but later abandoned.
These Explainers are never “finished.” We will edit and update them as new information emerges or situations change. Months from now, some may look quite different than they do now.
We’ve completed three Explainers so far, and plan to add approximately one per week between now and June. Right now, you can find Explainers about:
- Coca Cultivation and Eradication: An overview of the bush used to make cocaine, the criminal activity that has grown up around it, its relation to the conflict, and unsuccessful efforts to eradicate it.
- Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration: How the FARC turned in its weapons, and how ex-fighters are reincorporating into society.
- Protection of Ex-Combatants: The threats and attacks former FARC fighters are facing, and the measures the peace accord proposed to protect them.
Explainers about the ELN, and about Colombia’s efforts to build state presence in rural areas, will be coming soon. We expect to maintain a total of about 10 to 15 on the Explainer page.
We’ve just added a page with nine visualizations of data regarding peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. We’ll update these, and add more, as we make them.
At the bottom of each are shortened links to the documents from which we drew the information. The current collection of infographics covers the demobilized FARC population, U.S. aid, registered victims, U.S. cocaine prices, coca cultivation and eradication, cocaine seizures, homicides, kidnappings, and forced displacement.
We hope you find these useful. Like everything produced by WOLA on this site, you’re free to use them with proper attribution, under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
When trying to understand the complexities of peace accord implementation, security threats, and human rights in Colombia, we rely heavily on numbers to explain what’s happening. Whether you’re explaining reintegration of ex-combatants, pointing to coca cultivation trends, or advocating for more prosecutions of those masterminding social leaders’ murders, you often need numerical data. And the most current numbers can be hard to find.
In response to that need, a new section of this site just went live: a compendium of current numbers and statistics about peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. Each number has a link to the source document where we found it; the links are color-coded to indicate whether the source is an official document.
Right now, the page includes 85 individual bits of data, covering the following topics:
- Attacks on Social Leaders
- Child Combatants
- Coca and Eradication
- Crop Substitution
- Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration
- Dissident Groups
- FARC Political Future
- Protection of Ex-Combatants
- Public Security
- Stabilization and Rural Governance
- Transitional Justice
This page will never be “done.” It will need constant updating. It will also receive additions: there are some basic bits of public information still missing, and some topics will get added to this list. But at this point, the “numbers” page is good enough to share.
Here, for instance, is what the page’s “Attacks on Social Leaders” section looks like right now. Visit the page to view all topics.
- As of December 30, 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had verified 303 murders of human rights defenders and social leaders between the signing of the FARC peace accord and the end of 2019.
- The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría) counts a higher number: 555 social leaders killed between January 1, 2016 and October 31, 2019. That is 133 cases in 2016, 126 cases in 2017, 178 cases in 2018, and 118 cases in 2019.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights counted up to 120 killings of human rights defenders and social leaders in 2019: as of January 14, 2020, 107 cases were verified and 13 more were undergoing verification.
- Of these 107, 98% happened “in municipalities with illicit economies where criminal groups or armed groups operate.” 86% occurred “in villages with a poverty rate above the national average.”
- In 2018, the UN High Commissioner’s office counted 115 killings.
- More than half of 2019 social-leader killings occurred in 4 departments: Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, and Caquetá, though UN High Commissioner counted murders in 25 of Colombia’s 32 departments.
- “The single most targeted group,” the UN High Commissioner reports, “was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and specific ethnic groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians. The killings of female human rights defenders increased by almost 50% in 2019 compared to 2018.”
- The UN High Commissioner’s office counted at least 10 killings during the first 13 days of January.
- The NGO INDEPAZ counts 51 social leaders murdered between January 1 and February 18, 2020.
- INDEPAZ counted 23 murders of social leaders in the month of December 2019.
- On December 17, 2019, the Colombian Presidency’s human rights advisor, Francisco Barbosa (who is now Colombia’s Prosecutor-General) said that 84 social leaders were murdered in 2019, which he said was a 25% reduction from 2018.
- As of January 2020, 59 participants in coca crop substitution programs had been killed, according to the National Coordination of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana Cultivators (COCCAM).
During the government-FARC peace negotiations, WOLA used this site heavily to explain what was happening to an English-speaking audience. During the past few years, though, we’ve mainly used this space to share occasional blog posts.
We’re changing that. This website is undergoing a thorough overhaul, as you can see if you click the options in the menu at the top of the page.
The following resources, together with the blog you’re reading right now, are in place already:
✔️ A timeline, in reverse chronological order, of events relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia, with many graphics and links to sources. Entries to this timeline are tagged: clicking on a topic will result in a “sub-timeline” just for that topic. We don’t intend for make this a source for today’s news: we will update it about once per month, adding all of the previous month’s timeline entries at once by the middle of each month.
✔️ Links to reports about peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. That includes WOLA’s reports, reports from governments and International organizations, reports from non-governmental organizations, and in-depth journalism. These listings are also tagged: clicking on a topic will reveal only reports for that topic.
✔️ Public-domain photos relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. Again, tagged by topic.
✔️ Embeddable videos, minimum three minutes in length, relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia, tagged by topic.
✔️ In the sidebar on this site’s main page, links to current news relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia.
The following resources are under construction, but coming in March:
???? A constantly updated page of frequently sought numbers, with links to sources. In one place, visitors will find numerical data like approximate memberships of armed groups, peace implementation expenditures, hectares of coca, amounts of U.S. assistance, and much more.
???? A constantly updated collection of about a dozen brief “explainer” documents about important issues and entities. There will be pages about coca cultivation, dissident groups, transitional justice, U.S. policy, PDETs, and more—and their content will change often when we obtain new information.
???? Overall, the site still requires a lot of styling to improve readability, navigability, and aesthetics. That banner image at the top, for instance, looks very “2013.”
We’ve moved this site’s old pages (other than blog entries) to an archive section. Our new resources will go back only to January 2020, and build from there.
We look forward to spending the rest of the decade making this space a crucially important resource about Colombia’s uneven, often frustrating, but indispensable—and even sometimes courageous—effort to put its long conflict behind it.