Tag: Indigenous Communities

Join the Story: Con Líderes Hay Paz

Versión en español

After a year of massacres, police brutality, political upheaval, a worsening pandemic, and more in Colombia, peace feels more tenuous than ever before. Hundreds of social leaders have been targeted, threatened, and killed in the last year. 90 massacres—the highest number since before the 2016 Peace Accord—were carried out, largely in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities.

In response and in partnership with social leaders in Colombia, WOLA is launching a digital advocacy campaign, Con Líderes Hay Paz. The campaign aims to protect Colombia’s activists who are building peace in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities all over the country. In the last few months, WOLA has been working with social leaders—documenting their stories and boosting their voices—in order to raise awareness of the crisis Colombia faces today.

To pave the way towards a more peaceful, just, and equal society, the Colombian government must bring to justice those who threaten them and their communities, while increasing protections and supporting the work of social leaders. The international community—including the U.S. government, the European Union, the United Nations, and civil society groups—must play an important role in pushing the Colombian state to take prompt action in carrying out these efforts.

We encourage you to join the story. By subscribing to the campaign, you will receive exclusive access to the stories of courageous social leaders, advocacy materials and resources, and previews of the campaign’s upcoming documentary podcast REBUILDING PEACE—premiering February 2021.

Support their work. Protect their lives. 

#ConLíderesHayPaz


Únete a la historia: Con Líderes Hay Paz

Después de un año de masacres, brutalidad policial, agitación política, una pandemia que sigue empeorando y más en Colombia, la paz se siente más tenue que nunca. Cientos de líderes sociales han sido atacados, amenazados y asesinados en el último año. Hubo 90 masacres en el país, el número más alto desde antes del Acuerdo de Paz del 2016. Las masacres se concentraron en gran parte en comunidades afrocolombianas e indígenas.

En asociación con líderes sociales en Colombia, WOLA está lanzando una campaña de promoción digital, Con Líderes Hay Paz. La campaña tiene como objetivo proteger a los activistas de Colombia que están construyendo la paz en las comunidades afrocolombianas e indígenas de todo el país. En los últimos meses, WOLA ha estado trabajando con líderes y lideresas sociales—documentando sus historias y amplificando sus voces—con el fin de crear conciencia sobre la crisis que enfrenta Colombia hoy.

Para allanar el camino hacia una sociedad más pacífica, justa e igualitaria, el gobierno colombiano debe llevar ante la justicia a quienes amenazan a los líderes sociales y a sus comunidades, al tiempo que aumenta las protecciones y apoya su trabajo. La comunidad internacional, incluido el gobierno de Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea, las Naciones Unidas, y los grupos de la sociedad civil, debe desempeñar un papel importante para presionar al Estado colombiano para que tome medidas rápidas para llevar a cabo estos esfuerzos.

Te animamos a unirte a la historia. Al suscribirte a la campaña, recibirás acceso exclusivo a las historias de valientes líderes sociales, materiales y recursos de incidencia, y avances del próximo podcast documental de la campaña REBUILDING PEACE/CONSTRUYENDO LA PAZ, que se estrenará en febrero 2021.

Apoya sus luchas. Protege sus vidas. 

#ConLíderesHayPaz

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, ConLideresHayPaz, Indigenous Communities, Social Leaders

January 21, 2021

U.S. Congress Representatives Acknowledge Peace Hasn’t Reached Indigenous Communities in Colombia

On November 20, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress convened a hearing to discuss how the United States can leverage its role in Latin America and in multilateral institutions to protect the lives and culture of Indigenous people in the Americas. The hearing centered on many countries in the region and several speakers focused on issues specific to Colombia and its peace process. Congress representatives Jim McGovern, Deb Haaland, Christopher Smith, Hank Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Raul Grijalva led the event. Keith Slack, Director of Strategic Impact and Campaigns at EarthRights, provided an in-depth overview about violence against Indigenous groups in Colombia.

In Colombia, over 242 Indigenous leaders have been assassinated since the signing of the 2016 peace accords, including over 47 killed between January and June 2020. In their opening remarks, Representative Smith stressed how these assassinations often occur because Indigenous communities in Latin America are exploited for profitable gain and are further undercut by the lack of protection from their governments. Representative Haaland called attention to the Colombian government’s protection efforts for Indigenous leaders, but as evidenced by continued attacks against these leaders, concerted follow-up actions are rarely upheld. Representative Johnson revealed he has traveled to Colombia on several occasions and further documented that the rights of Indigenous communities in Colombia are sidelined. Racial discrimination is an underlying factor as to why these communities are recurrently exploited. Representative Jackson Lee also expressed concern at the lack of human resources dedicated for Indigenous people to protect their land, and ultimately stated that the rights of Indigenous people are human rights.

On behalf of non-governmental organization Amazon Watch, Leila Salazar-Lopez provided recommendations to protect Indigenous communities in the Amazon region. Over 73,000 Indigenous people throughout the multistate region have been killed by the COVID-19 disease, many who are elders and holders of cultural knowledge. Despite these distressing circumstances caused by the pandemic, agribusiness expansion and land grabbing has accelerated, as a result of illegal arson empowered by complicit government enablement and systemic racism. Salazar-Lopez called for a multi-year moratorium for any destruction; the strengthening of local and multilateral environmental agencies, so strategies from both Indigenous peoples and scientists inform policies implemented by governments; the endorsement of the Amazon Climate platform, to support ecosystem restoration efforts and Indigenous land rights; and the protection of environmental defenders. 

Melania Canales Poma, President of the National Organization of Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru, spoke on collective and individual rights for Indigenous people in the region. The extractivist policies of mining and agriculture when intersected with gender and Indigenous communities further deprive Indigenous women of their agency. Indigenous women must be included in all facets of the policy change process. Additionally, Policy Director of the Bank Information Center Jolie Schwarz discussed the weak state of multilateral accountability. In Colombia, Schwarz noted how the World Bank approved an $8 billion loan in 2016 following ratification of the peace accord. The loan was supposed to support territorial planning commitments but failed to consult with Indigenous people. These communities were entirely removed from the planning process. For these reasons, Schwarz recommends that the United States and the international community protect Indigenous rights in all aspects of development projects, provide rigorous assessments of the impact on Indigenous communities throughout a project, and outline clear procedures for raising concerns over potential violations of Indigenous sovereignty. 

Violence against Indigenous groups in Colombia has become acute during the pandemic. Keith Slack described the situation as a “potential ethnocide,” acknowledging the land grabbing role of corporations, drug cartels, and paramilitary groups that advance the destruction of Indigenous cultures. The mass murder of Indigenous people occurs every day in Colombia and has become worse with COVID-19 lockdowns that prevent Indigenous leaders from changing location, a key protection strategy. Slack stressed there needs to be respect for Indigenous sustainability and the right to refuse the exploitation of land without fear of retaliation. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is set to hear the case of Indigenous violations, and a successful outcome will set an important precedent. Recommendations to the incoming Biden administration include ensuring that human rights protection bodies are responding accordingly to violations; establishing transformational partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society, and Indigenous peoples; implementing comprehensive global guidelines through the State Department for adequate protection of at-risk human rights defenders; and pushing Congress to adopt further legislation for corporate responsibility in grave human rights abuses in the region.

Indigenous communities throughout Latin America continue to greatly contribute to food security, environmental protection, and conflict resolution. However, they are in crisis and the hearing urged for the creation of a working group on Indigenous peoples. Brian Keane, a former USAID advisor on Indigenous People’s Issues for U.S. Foreign Assistance, provided several recommendations for the Biden administration. It needs to continue reforming U.S. foreign assistance. There needs to be model that respects Indigenous sovereignty because they are not passive participants of development, but rather active catalysts that move their interests forward. Traditional knowledge and their sustainable practices are key in promoting viable living structures and must be included in the development process. Keane also proposed that a Native American representative should fill the Secretary of the Interior position. The Biden administration must ensure full implementation of USAID’s policies on promoting the rights of Indigenous people and ensure that these policies are also enforced in large infrastructure projects. The United States needs to reengage in multilateral efforts to protect human rights, which includes supporting the work of the UN with Indigenous groups and placing them at the forefront of the UN Security Council.

Ultimately, the United States must repair its relationship with Indigenous groups, who have been neglected by the Trump administration. In Colombia, this relationship is strengthened by supporting the full implementation of the 2016 peace accord.

Tags: Human Rights Defenders, Indigenous Communities, U.S. Congress

December 1, 2020

Webinar from July 21, 2020–Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord: A Framework for Ethnic, Women’s, and LGBT+ Rights

We’re pleased to share video of last Tuesday’s two-panel discussion of the state of Colombia’s peace accord implementation. The first panel presents the principal findings of the fourth comprehensive report on the peace accord by Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The second includes insights from experts on women’s rights, gender, and LGBT+ provisions.

This video does not include the translators’ track: speakers choose the language in which they prefer to speak. The first panel is in English, the second is in Spanish.

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, Compliance with Commitments, Gender Perspective, Indigenous Communities, LGBT+

July 27, 2020

Protect Colombia’s Peace

Published by the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, WOLA, and 22 other organizations on July 23, 2020.

Outlines the current challenges of Colombia’s peace process, across the board, and makes recommendations for U.S. policy.

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, Attacks on social leaders, Coca, Compliance with Commitments, Drug Policy, Gender Perspective, Illicit Crop Eradication, Indigenous Communities, LGBT+, Migration, PDET, Reintegration, Stabilization, Transitional Justice, U.S. Aid, U.S. Policy, Victims

July 23, 2020

Webinar Tuesday July 21: Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord: A Framework for Ethnic, Women’s, and LGBT+ Rights

Cross-posted from wola.org. Join us tomorrow at 10:00AM Eastern. RSVP at WOLA’s website.

Join the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the International Institute on Race and Equality, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Colombia Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) for an online forum.

The inclusion of an Ethnic Chapter, as well as women’s, LGBT+, and gender rights issues in the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was not only historic, but a model for future peace accords globally. Now, in its fourth year of implementation, while the Colombian government has made progress in some areas, challenges remain in terms of implementing certain commitments in a timely, comprehensive way.

On June 16, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame published its fourth comprehensive report on the peace accord. As part of its formal role as an independent arbiter of Colombia’s peace deal, the Kroc Institute uses data collection and analysis, based on a wide array of quantitative and qualitative variables, to assess where Colombia is advancing in implementing the peace accord commitments and where challenges still remain. The Ethnic Commission, composed of leaders from Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories and civil rights groups, also released its most recent report on the implementation status of the Ethnic Chapter.

Join us to learn more about the findings of these reports and updates from experts on women’s rights, gender, and LGBT+ provisions. U.S.-based organizations including LAWG, WOLA, and others will share a collective set of recommendations for U.S. policy towards Colombia entitled, “Protect Colombia’s Peace.”

Event Details:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. GMT-4 (Washington, D.C.)
9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. GMT-5 (Bogotá, Colombia)

First Panel: “Towards Territorial Transformation”: The Kroc Institute’s Fourth Report on Implementation
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Panelists:

  • Josefina Echavarría
    Director, Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) at the Kroc Institute
  • Elise Ditta
    Research Associate, Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) at the Kroc Institute
  • Daniel Cano
    Political Relations Coordinator, Barometer Initiative at the Kroc Institute
  • Rebecca Gindele
    Specialist, Barometer Initiative at the Kroc Institute
  • Moderator: Adam Isacson, Director of Defense Oversight, WOLA

Panel 2: Peace Accord and Cross-cutting Approaches
11:00 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.

Panelists:

  • Luis Fernando Arias
    Secretary-General, National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC)
  • Ariel PalaciosNational Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA)
  • Wilson Casteñada
    Director, Caribe Afirmativo
  • Diana Gómez Correal
    Professor, Interdisciplinary Center for Development Studies (CIDER) at Universidad de los Andes
  • Larry Sacks
    Colombia Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Moderator: Carlos Quesada, Executive Director, International Institute on Race and Equality

Final remarks
12:10 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Panelists:

  • Lisa Haugaard
    Co-Director, Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
  • TBD
    EU/international representative
  • Josefina Echavarría
    Director, Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) at the Kroc Institute

The event will be chaired by Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Director of the Andes at WOLA.

Simultaneous interpretation into English and Spanish will be available.

RSVP at WOLA’s website.

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, Compliance with Commitments, Indigenous Communities, LGBT+

July 20, 2020

Podcast: Demining sacred space in Colombia’s Amazon basin

This is the June 24, 2020 edition of WOLA’s podcast.

Tom Laffay is an American filmmaker based in Bogotá, and is a recipient of the inaugural 2020 Andrew Berends Fellowship. In 2018, his short film, Nos están matando (They’re killing us), which exposed the plight of Colombian social leaders, reached the halls of the U.S. Congress and the United Nations in Geneva.

This film was commissioned by The New Yorker and supported by The Pulitzer Center.

In this edition of WOLA’s podcast, Laffay discusses his new short film, Siona: Amazon’s Defenders Under Threat. The New Yorker featured it on its website on June 25, 2020. Laffay follows Siona Indigenous leader Adiela Mera Paz in Putumayo, Colombia, as she works to demine her ancestral territory to make it possible for her people displaced by the armed conflict to return. Though the armed conflict with the FARC may have officially ended, the Siona people not only face post-conflict risks, they also face threats from extractive companies. In the episode, Laffay describes the history of the Siona people and their territory, their relationship with yagé, and the courageous work undertaken by leaders like Adiela Mera Paz.

Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Tags: Audio, Demining, Indigenous Communities, Podcast, Putumayo, Video

June 25, 2020

June 22, 2020

Embera indigenous community leaders in Pueblo Rico, Risaralda, denounce that a group of soldiers raped a 12-year-old girl. The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalia) reports that seven soldiers have pleaded guilty, but 25 more “may have had knowledge of this act.” President Duque promises, “We will get to the bottom of the investigations, and if we have to inaugurate the use of life sentences with them, we will do so.” An Army spokesperson says that the institution will not be providing defense lawyers for the accused.

Ultra-conservative ruling party Senator María Fernanda Cabal, known for her incendiary statements and for being the wife of the president of Colombia’s cattlemen’s federation, tweets that the rape allegation might be a “judicial false positive” instigated by those who wish to defame the armed forces.

Tags: Human Rights, Indigenous Communities, Military and Human Rights, Risaralda, Sexual Violence

June 22, 2020

16 International and Colombian Civil Society Organizations Denounce the Military’s Murder of Indigenous U’wa Leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar

On June 2, 2020, EarthRights and 15 other international and Colombian civil society organizations, including WOLA, published a statement condemning the murder of Indigenous U’wa leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar and the militarization of the ancestal U’wa territory.

Joel Aguablanca Villamizar was murdered on May 31, 2020 in the Department of North Santander during a Colombian military operation against fronts of the National Liberation Army (Ejército Nacional de Liberación, ELN). The Indigenous community has adamantly stated that their leader had no link to the armed group.

The militarization of the territory has had a detrimental impact on the indigenous U’wa population. The organizations demand that authorities investigate and punish those responsible in a timely manner and implement the necessary measures to prevent other senseless murders from occurring in the future.

Below is the text of the statement:

Human rights organizations condemn the murder of indigenous U’wa leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar and the militarization of ancestral U’wa territory

Washington D.C, June 2, 2020: Last Sunday, indigenous leader Joel Aguablana Villamizer was murdered by the Colombian army in the Chitagá municipality of Norte Santander, Colombia. Joel was an indigenous leader and education coordinator for the U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Cabildos (ASOU’WA). The army murdered Joel as part of a mission to capture Darío Quiñonez, alias Marcial, third leader of the Efraín Pabón Pabón Front and commander of the Martha Cecilia Pabón Commission of the National Liberation Army (ELN). Earthrights Executive Director Ka Hsaw Wa issued the following statement in response:

“In carrying out this operation, the Colombian National Army and the ELN did not respect the basic principles of international humanitarian law, threatening the life and security of the U’wa civilian population, including five minors.

“The military operation that resulted in Joel’s murder was carried out in close proximity to the U’wa United Reservation, which is part of the U’wa Nation ancestral territory. This highlights the impacts that the Colombian government’s fight against armed forces still has on the indigenous U’wa population. The U’Wa have been declared an endangered group by the Constitutional Court of Colombia.

“The organizations below stand in solidarity with the U’wa voices who denounced this heinous act and who stated that ‘[they] are not going to allow this unfortunate situation to be considered a false positive for the Colombian State, since the murdered U’wa brother was never linked to the ELN insurgent group (A​ SOU’WA Communiqué​).’

“We are concerned and outraged at the frequency of events such as this one. According to the Catatumbo Peasant Association (Ascamcat), with the death of Joel Aguablanca there have already been three cases of extrajudicial executions in the department of Norte Santander in 2020 (​El Tiempo, 2020​).

“We demand that authorities investigate and punish those responsible in a timely manner and implement the necessary measures to prevent other senseless murders from occurring in the future. Likewise, we will bring the situation to the awareness of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. EarthRights is currently supporting the U’Wa in a long-standing land rights case at the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights”

Signatures:

  1. Almáciga (Spain)
  2. Alma y Corazon (USA)
  3. Amazon Watch (USA)
  4. Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA) (Regional-Americas)
  5. Colombia Human Rights Committee (USA)
  6. Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (Colombia)
  7. EarthRights International (Amazon)
  8. Indigenous Environmental Network (USA)
  9. Mujer U’wa (USA)
  10. Perifèries del món (Spanish State)
  11. Rainforest Action Network (USA)
  12. Rete Numeri Pari (Italy)
  13. University of California Irvine Community Resilience Projects (USA)
  14. Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) (USA)
  15. Wayunkerra Indigenous Women’s Initiative (Switzerland)
  16. Yaku (Italy)

Tags: ELN, False Positives, Indigenous Communities

June 11, 2020