Colombia – Implementation of the Peace Accord in support of women

The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security, ABColombia and the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution (NOREF) held a joint event on the role the international community should play to support women in connection with the implementation of the Colombian Peace Accord on 23 November, 2017.

The three separate sessions focused on different thematic areas of women’s rights.

The main points which arose from the first session on Conflict Related Sexual Violence, Access to Truth and Justice for Colombian Women were:

  • The international community needs patience, understanding and determination to ensure the provisions of the Peace Accord are implemented. (Baroness Anelay)
  • Specific challenges to guarantee access to justice for women victims of sexual violence need to be addressed; it is difficult, for instance, to establish even how many women have been subject to sexual violence. The Investigation Commission Unit in the Gender Unit also still needs to be put in place. (Linda Cabrera – Sisma Mujer)
  • Women do not feel safe to talk about what happened to them during the armed conflict and fear retaliation, particularly with some armed actors now being reintegrated into civilian life. (Lida Emilse Paz – Cauca Regional Indigenous Council)
  • Given the justice system often fails women victims, it is important to focus on survivors’ healthcare needs so their well-being is assured. (Lisa Gormley – LSE)
  • Transformative reparations are important, i.e., reparations that tackle the discrimination that led to the violence, as are guarantees of non-repetition. (Lisa Gormley – LSE)
  • The demobilisation process has recognised all crimes except for sexual violence, which is not considered a grave abuse of human rights. Societal values around this need to be changed, and the victims of sexual violence should benefit from collective and individual reparations. Women victims should be allowed to be accompanied and to have mutual support networks. (Linda Cabrera – Sisma Mujer)
  • The state needs to transform historic attitudes to marginalised communities, which will be very difficult. (Mariana Casij Peña – Institute for integrated Transitions)
  • There is concern about continuous threats made against women leaders and women human rights defenders by illegal armed groups, such as paramilitary groups. A stronger focus is needed so these structures are dismantled. More resources are also needed for the National Commission for Security Guarantees and the Office of the Attorney-General. The international community needs to support civil society to monitor the situation and to provide protection to those in high-risk areas. (Alice Garside – PBI)
  • Women who speak out need accompaniment so the international community should be supporting those organisations providing accompaniment. (Louise Winstanley – ABColombia)
  • International co-operation needs to work at the policy level, including to strengthen the work of the Monitoring Commission, and provide political support in Bogota. Support for political dialogue with Government, Parliamentarians and state agencies is also important, so they deliver what they have promised. (Annika Otterstedt – Swedish Embassy Colombia)
  • One of the gender and human rights angles that the Irish Government has supported though the UN Multiparty Peace Fund is gender training across the police force and mobile units to address gender-based violence. (Caoimhe Ni Chonchuir – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ireland)
  • Violence against women is a top priority for the EU in Colombia, and aid is being given to women’s groups and women human rights defenders representing many groups. (Moya Michaela – EEAS)

The main points which arose from the second session on Socio-Economic Agreements, including the necessity for equality for women in decision-making bodies on land-rights, rural development and eradication of coca-crops were:

  • 60 years of conflict has changed the distribution of the population, with 70% of people now in cities because of displacement and land-grabbing. In rural areas, poverty is very widespread; 20% of rural families have women heading the household, and many were victims in the conflict. Huge socio-economic injustice led to the conflict, and rural reform measures in the Peace Accord, e.g., on poverty eradication and comprehensive development plans to ensure access to services, are meant to tackle this. If the underlying causes of the conflict are not resolved, including the concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few, conflict will return. (Janneth Lozano – CODACOP)
  • The barriers to women’s economic participation, including underlying cultural aspects, need to be tackled. (Janneth Lozano CODACOP)
  • Three measures with a gender perspective are being carried out in priority territories: training women in non-traditional areas in rural education; prioritising women heads of family; creating more co-operatives and community groups. Institutions and budgets need to be adequate, and political commitment forthcoming, in order to implement the measures in the Peace Accord. (Janneth Lozano – CODACOP)
  • There is concern about mining activities because of their devastating effects on local communities. Those who oppose the current development model are often portrayed as enemies of development and pressured to end their protest. (Janneth Lozano – CODACOP)
  • There must be greater recognition of women human rights defenders, because defending land rights is very dangerous. (Edilia Mendoza – Rural Women’s Network)
  • An indigenous perspective to development, and the implementation of the Peace Accord, is also needed, with mechanisms put in place to establish indicators and concrete objectives. Substantive socio-economic progress is needed and it is important that this can be measured in future. (Rosa Emilia Salamanca – CIASE)
  • The right to protest and demonstrate must be protected. (Rosa Emilia Salamanca – CIASE)
  • With regards to implementation of the Peace Accord, the socio-economic inclusion of women is expressed in general terms, and no clear tools have yet been defined. An integration strategy to incorporate women into economic life should focus on women controlling resources in connection with the design and implementation of economic projects, and the expansion of the economy of care, e.g., canteens and childcare. (Victoria Sandino Palmera – Fuerza Alternativa)
  • The model being used in connection with rural development zones is questionable and, often imposed on communities without consultation. (Victoria Sandino Palmera – Fuerza Alternativa)
  • Though proper support for the agrarian sector and investment in infrastructure is vital, infrastructure is not gender or indigenous neutral; community consultation is therefore is very important to ensure the needs of rural women are being met. (Laura Mitchell – NOREF)
  • Support forthcoming from the international community is only a tiny fraction of what is needed to implement the rural development chapter in the Peace Accord. There is frustration over the slow pace of the resolution of land issues, which should be speeded up. (Eamon Gilmore – EU Special Representative)
  • In all financing of projects by the EU Trustfund, gender perspectives are considered. (Moya Michaela – EEAS)
  • In Bogota, all Embassies are working on gender integration across all four Trustfunds. The international community can co-ordinate better, and assist the Colombian Government with its prioritisation. (Annika Otterstedt – Swedish Embassy Colombia)
  • CEDAW’s General Recommendation on rural women is a very good resource for advocacy, and the Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDGs 5, 10, 11, and 16) are a very good policy cross-check. (Lisa Gormley – LSE)
  • Women should be monitoring local budgets, not just as a transparency exercise but to increase the sense of citizen participation. (Hilde Salvesen – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway)
  • As regards coca-crop substitution initiatives, women’s roles and needs have to be properly considered. (July Samira Fajardo Farfan – Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero)

The main points which arose from the third session on Women, Political Participation and Security were:

  • UK Parliamentarians from all sides must come together to support the Colombian peace process. (Helen Goodman MP)
  • In 2017, the participation of women was 38% in the Accord decision-making bodies, although in some bodies there are no women. Women need to participate in an informed manner in national decision-making, and dialogue with women is needed to reshape public policy on security in Colombia. (Rosa Emilia Salamanca – CIASE)
  • Women on some committees are only being consulted on issues regarding gender. More generally, it is important that the Colombian Government widens access for NGOs in different arenas. (Louise Winstanley – ABColombia)
  • A security strategy is needed for the FARC’s political reincorporation, including to prevent violence against former FARC women combatants. It is also important to ensure that women’s role in peace-building is recognised and remembered. (Victoria Sandino Palmera – Fuerza Alternativa)
  • Four areas regarding security are essential in connection with implementation of the Accord: the restructuring of security policies in Colombia for women, as the conflict has resulted in the militarisation of security resulting in more risks for women and girls, especially as regards sexual violence; greater security for women human rights defenders and community leaders given the increased risks facing HRDs, with more women having requested protection measures, and only 18% of those having received them; support for and protection of women victims of the conflict in connection with truth and justice mechanisms, to address women victims’ fears of retaliation; a focus on the security of women and environmental protection to deal with potential security vacuums when FARC leaves and international companies move in. (July Samira Fajardo Farfan – Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero)
  • Demilitarisation must be prioritised and the continuing presence of armed groups linked to mining and drugs dealt with. (Janneth Lozano – CODACOP)
  • Women’s political participation will help to make peace durable. There is, however, stigmatisation of women’s political participation, and the state needs the will to stop that. (Lisa Gormley – LSE)
  • Following elections in Colombia next year, there may be a new Government which is not committed to the implementation of the Accord. There needs therefore to be a broadening of ownership of the agreement, to drive it beyond election cycles. (Eamon Gilmore – EU Special Representative)
  • The Colombian Government values spaces for dialogue, to bring together international partners which have done invaluable work. It is important to hear about the challenges and difficulties, but also to recognise the progress that has been made. (German Espejo – Colombian Embassy)

The PHRG will continue to monitor the situation in Colombia closely, particularly to ensure that human rights defenders are better protected and to champion greater inclusivity and participation in the implementation of the Colombian Peace Accord, and to raise its concerns with the relevant interlocutors.