International Civil Society Organisations Alert: Imminent Humanitarian Tragedy in the Department of Chocó, Colombia

International Civil Society Organisations signatories of this statement issue an urgent alert regarding an imminent tragedy, that hovers over the civilian population in the Department of Chocó. This requires an immediate response from the corresponding authorities in accordance with Colombia’s obligations under International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), ethnic legislation and the cosmovision (worldview) of the Peoples living in the territory.

The presence and actions of illegal armed actors in the collective territories, especially that of the Ejército Nacional De Liberación (National Liberation Army – ELN) and the Autodefensas Gaitanista de Colombia (Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia – AGC), put people’s lives at risk, exacerbates the humanitarian crisis by creating hunger, confinements, displacements, deaths, forced recruitment, and permanent anxiety. Actions that also impact, the already precarious, municipal institutions with serious impacts on the civilian population.

The ethnic-territorial organisations state that, at times of greatest risk and profound impacts, they have not received the humanitarian emergency attention they are entitled to by the law, and that their complaints and proposals have not been duly addressed. The people in conditions of displacement and confinement demand humanitarian action for access to water and sanitation, housing, education, and health, with a differential approach to serve the ethnic population, women, children, and youth.

As international civil society organisations we urge the competent state entities to implement immediate and concerted actions in matters of preventing impacts on ethnic communities; strengthen their organisations’ self-protection strategies; and provide guarantees of security and differentiated protection measures for their leaders, respecting their autonomy and their own forms of governance.

We welcome the decision of la Mesa Humanitaria y de Construcción de Paz del Chocó (the Humanitarian Roundtable and Construction of Peace in Chocó) to meet in the department’s different subregions. We encourage the government authorities responsible to assume the implementation of the commitments reached during these meetings with promptness and accountability.

Within the framework of the pursuit of Total Peace, we urge the Colombian state institutions to take into consideration the ethnic territorial organisations requests to create participation listening spaces and to continue with the full implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement. Especially the Ethnic Chapter, to increase the number of dialogues between the National Government and the different armed actors, and to move forward with multilateral humanitarian agreements that serve as a protective measure for the life and integrity of chocoanos.

We join in the “clamour for the life” of the people and towns of the Department of Chocó

Bogotá 18 August 2023