On 15 August 2018, just after the presidential inauguration ceremony, ABColombia and its five member organisations CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trocaire sent a letter to the new Colombian president Ivan Duque to congratulate him and highlight some key issues for the new Government. You can download the full letter in English and Spanish.
We recognised that many challenges lie ahead for your government and therefore write to you today to ask you to take bold steps to advance inclusive, just and sustainable peace and development. Key for sustainable peace and development is the incorporation and respect for diverse views of development across different sectors of society.
ABColombia welcomed the appointment of a gender-balanced cabinet and the commitment to sustainable development and the promotion of equity Duque expressed in his inauguration speech. Likewise, the emphasis in the new president’s speeches on inclusion is encouraging.
Two important constitutional mechanisms to ensure inclusion in decision making regarding development are: free, informed and prior consultation (consulta previa) and the Consulta Popular.
ABColombia members have concentrated a good part of their support to organisations working in the rural areas of Colombia addressing issues of human rights violations, poverty and inequality. ABColombia therefore considers that Ivan Duque’s commitment in his speech in Catatumbo to “social justice” is immensely important. In this respect there are key challenges for the new government across Colombia in areas where the conflict has been at its most acute. The implementation of the PDETs together with the participation of the local communities will be important in this respect. ABColombia therefore recommends that the new government ensures that the PDETs are developed and implemented together with grassroots communities.
The situation on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, where ABColombia supports many local partners, is particularly acute and they are suffering a humanitarian crisis. ABColombia therefore encouraged the new government to engage in dialogue with the Church and local organisations in Chocó and to respond to their call for improved basic services and local infrastructure, to tackle corruption and to strengthen local state institutions. At the same time, the letter highlights the importance of ensuring the full and rapid implementation of the Constitutional Court Decision T-622, which provides a framework for addressing many of these issues, including that of illegal gold mining.
A further major challenge is that of land concentration, which has been exacerbated by internal forced displacement and dispossession of land during the conflict. Land restitution has been extremely slow; it is essential that this process has further resources committed to it, and effective oversight to ensure that it is accelerated. An accurate and complete land registry is essential before developing large scale projects, if victims’ rights and the rights of communities previously excluded are to be upheld. In this respect ABColombia highlighted the new draft Land Law, as there are concerns that it could further exacerbate land concentration and further provisions within the law, including legalising land appropriated through irregular means and allocating public land to mining and energy projects; this would further deepen inequality and exclusion, which is a root cause of violence. ABColombia therefore recommends that further consultation is taken with ethnic communities before proceeding with this law.
Transitional Justice and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is important to the victims of the conflict in terms of truth, justice and non-repetition. It will therefore be essential for all armed actors, both legal and illegal, to take part in this system and to tell the truth, in order to provide a firm foundation for building sustainable peace in Colombia. Given the commitments made to victims in your inauguration speech we look forward to seeing the policies involving the JEP fully implemented and ask that your government ensures a victims-centred approach is adopted.
We encourage you to promote an environment in which peace dialogues with the ELN can continue and to establish as soon as is possible a bi-lateral cease fire.
Local and regional actors, churches and other civil society actors are fundamental in any peace-building process, so we urge you to ensure that they fully participate in decision making bodies related to peace and development. We hope that under your government, Colombia can achieve a just and lasting peace and inclusive and sustainable development.