PBI-Colombia accompanies NOMADESC and Justice and Peace Commission on humanitarian caravan to advance peace talks

Published by Brent Patterson on

PBI-Colombia has posted:

“In January, PBI accompanied the Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC) and the Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace (JyP) in a humanitarian caravan in the context of negotiations between the government and the ELN.”

It further explains:

“Since his inauguration, the new president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has stated that the “Total Peace” policy is one of his priorities. The policy seeks to open dialogues and demobilize all illegal armed structures.

Since then, four of these groups have declared a ceasefire and, in November 2022, negotiations were reinstated with the ELN guerrilla (National Liberation Army), which had been suspended during the Iván Duque administration.

A bill to bring the other armed structures before the justice system is also planned. The government defines these groups as “high impact criminal groups,” that lack a political character and these would include structures that arose out of paramilitarism, such as the Gaitan Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC, in Spanish).

As negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN enter the second phase, the challenges to achieve peace remain evident on a territorial level.

The objective of the caravan [that PBI accompanied]—which included high-level governmental representatives such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, ELN peace promoters, and Colombian and international civil society organizations—was to advance a partial agreement on humanitarian relief in two prioritized regions of the Colombian Pacific Coast.

Despite the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace and the Colombian Army had agreed on a peripheral military presence, at several points during the mission, PBI observed incursions of the XV Army Brigade. The military presence was interpreted as an intimidating act that put at risk the physical wellbeing of the communities since, historically, a militarization of the territory has not signified security guarantees for them.

During the humanitarian caravan, the importance of implementing the ceasefire, humanitarian de-mining, and conditions for the return of displaced communities, among other measures, was reiterated.

The communities expressed their concern regarding similar missions because, to date, the promises have not translated into concrete actions. On the contrary, the communities continue to be affected by a serious humanitarian crisis and the extent to which the armed actors are willing to lay down their arms is still in doubt.

Numerous voices also questioned the effectiveness of initiating negotiations between two actors, while the AGC reinforces its presence in the region amid a major military presence.

Additionally, there is concern about the persistence of illicit drugs being grown and trafficked under the control of armed structures, a factor that perpetuates violence in Colombia.

Without international measures and policies that lead to a global legalization of drug, efforts for “Total Peace” may fail, since this lucrative business could encourage the emergence of other drug trafficking groups, replacing the current structures as has happened in the past.

Among the most important conclusions of the humanitarian caravan is that the humanitarian relief measures to be defined in negotiations between the government and ELN must include an implementation and verification plan with community participation.”

Source: “Total Peace” in the face of territorial reality (PBI-Colombia, March 24, 2023).


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