Humanitarian Crisis in Chocó Intensifies

On 23 March 2020 the social organisations and communities in Chocó brought out a public statement about the deterioration that in the humanitarian situation and the increase in the violations of human rights and terrorising acts in Chocó , so far in the month of March. see below the parliamentary questions asked about the humanitarian crisis in Colombia a translation of the Public Statement issued by communities and organisations in Choco.

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Parliamentary Questions asked by Baroness Coussins on: 07 January 2020 regarding the situation in Choco and on the Pacific Coast of Colombia:

Parliamentary Questions asked by Baroness Coussins to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on: 07 January 2020 regarding the situation in Choco and on the Pacific Coast of Colombia

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the UK’s investment of funding to support the biodiversity hotspot on the Pacific coast of Colombia, of the (1) activities of paramilitary groups in the region, and (2) threat of displacement to the indigenous communities. HL114

Answered by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 15 January 2020: The United Kingdom recognises the unique biodiversity of Colombia’s Pacific coast and is committed to helping Colombia safeguard its environmental assets. Although this region is not the focus of our programming, the United Kingdom has implemented some climate change-related projects in the region, as well as some Newton Fund research projects on biodiversity and sustainability.

We are aware of reports of violence affecting certain areas in this region, and of the continuing presence of organised armed groups competing for control of illicit economies.

The British Government takes into careful consideration such factors when designing projects and deciding which to fund, and we continually monitor the effect of such risks on our programme work in consultation with colleagues working in Colombia. We also make a thorough assessment of the impact of all of our projects, including on the human rights of local communities.

We are steadfast in our support of the Colombian peace process, and UK-funded programmes across a range of issues from biodiversity to climate change help to improve the socio-economic conditions in rural areas and tackle the root causes of insecurity, building towards a sustainable peace.

Baroness Coussins: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of collusion between the Colombian security forces and illegal armed groups. HL113

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We are aware that organised armed groups operate in parts of Colombia, and of occasional reports that some members of the security forces are complicit in these groups’ activities. We support the Colombian government’s efforts to root out any such collaboration, including via our specific programme work to foster good governance and tackle corruption in security forces.

Colombia has made significant progress in its efforts to end the influence of paramilitary groups. We have seen little recent evidence of any widespread collusion between security forces and organised armed groups.

Baroness Coussins: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the threat to the security of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, especially the Embera–Wounaan, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, following reports of armed skirmishes between paramilitaries, the Army of National Liberation and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for control of the land. HL112

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: ​We are aware of reports of violence on Colombia’s Pacific coast. The presence of organised armed groups, fighting for control of illicit economies, disproportionately affects a number of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia. We support the Colombian government’s deployment of further security forces to attempt to guarantee security. More widely, long-term security depends on socioeconomic development of the region and vice versa, key reasons why Her Majesty’s Government remains steadfast in its support for the 2016 peace process and why the United Kingdom maintains significant development programming in Colombia

Public Statement from organisations in Chocó, English Translation:

Confinement and death in Alto Baudó (Chocó)

23 March 2020 Alto Baudó. The ethnic-territorial organisations and dioceses with jurisdiction in the department of the Chocó, together continue to denounce the intensification of the humanitarian crisis and of multiple violent acts committed against the population in the municipality of Alto Baudó.


The situation in the municipality of Alto Baudó has been marked over the last three decades by state abandonment and the presence of various armed groups. Together these factors have gravely affected the inhabitants, since as well as lacking access to basic human rights, they have suffered the onslaught of armed actors, who as a result of continual territorial disputes have provoked anxiety, the weakening of territorial autonomy, and despair.

Despite the constant denunciations, made throughout these years, instead of achieving a decrease in the crisis and non-repetition of actions violating the collective rights of afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, during March of this year, there has been an exacerbation of these situations with actions such as: brutal targeted killings generating terror amongst the population; a massacre where seven people were assassinated, including a pregnant woman; forced displacement and confinement of communities; economic blockades; deaths and mutilations by landmines; systemic recruitment of minors; sexual violence against women; threats towards leaders and communities, and the intent by illegal armed groups to supplant ethnic authorities.

Undoubtedly, at the root of all these negative occurrences lie, on the one hand, the crisis of the social rule of law due to the inefficiency and corruption of some State Institutions, and on the other hand, the territorial disputes between armed groups for the control of the production and commercialisation of illicit crops. Of particular concern are the existing ties between some government authorities, some members of the Armed Forces, and illegal actors.

Due to all the above, we demand that:

  1. The president of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, immediately deals with the calls which have been repeatedly been made from the Chocoano territory to protect the lives and the ethnic rights of its inhabitants, and respond to the situation in the department and in particular to the crisis in Alto Baudó.
  2. The Governor of Chocó, Ariel Palacios Calderón, to attend to the crisis through the judicial instruments provided by the Colombian Constitution, in the Municipality of Alto Baudó and in the different municipalities where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated.
  3. The mayors of Alto, Medio and Bajo Baudó, consolidate a strategy that permits them to attend collectively to the situation in the subregion, revealing the actions that cause victimisation, and including in the development plans concrete actions for the reestablishment of rights. Furthermore, we call on them to work with transparency and continuity in their municipalities.
  4. The judicial and control bodies carry out investigations in the face of institutional acts and the violent phenomena which affect the Chocó territory, and in particular the Baudó.
  5. National and international organisations in defence of human rights continue to draw attention to the constant and systemic violence and ensure the fulfilment of the fundamental rights of these communities.
  6. The Public Forces, fulfil its work of protecting the civilian population by breaking any link with illegal actors, respect the communal spaces of populated areas, without stigmatising and pressurising the communities.
  7. To the Illegal armed groups violating international humanitarian law, to respect the autonomy of the ethnic territories, and not use them as a theatre of war for their purpose of planting and commercialising of illicit crops.

The great challenges which confront the country as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic affect Baudó and the large majority of the Chocoano territory with extreme gravity due to the pre-existing humanitarian crisis and the precarious medical and economic situation of the inhabitants of the department. WE DEMAND IMMEDIATE HUMANITARIAN ATTENTION WITH A DIFFERENTIATED ETHNIC, TERRITORIAL AND GENDERED APPROACH.

Signatory Organisations:

  • Diócesis de Istmina                                                                      
  • Tadó – Diócesis de Quibdó
  • Diócesis de Apartadó
  • Foro Interétnico Solidaridad Chocó (con sus 108 Organizaciones)
  • Mesa de Concertación y Diálogo de los Pueblos Indígenas del Chocó
  • ACABA: consejo comunitario general del Río Baudó y sus afluentes