Month: August 2016

ACSN Celebrates Inclusion of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Rights in Final Colombia Peace Accord

August 26, 2016

On August 24, history was made when the parties to Colombia’s brutal more than 50 year internal armed conflict announced that they had reached a final peace accord. We congratulate the parties to the conflict for persevering and ending the conflict. This peace accord also includes an “Ethnic Chapter” that helps pave the way forward for a differentiated approach in implementing the different aspects of the agreement (rural land reform, victims’ rights, resolving the problem of illicit drugs, political participation and implementation/verification of the accord) taking into account Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities’ rights. The Ethnic Chapter sets forth a set of principles and safeguards that the parties agree to follow in order to guarantee ethnic rights.

This is a big win for ethnic rights because right to prior, free and informed consultation will be applied in the implementation of the accord. These groups will have access to the Land Fund and the Territorial Focused Development Plans (PDET) will be designed jointly with ethnic authorities in their areas. The participation of ethnic authorities is guaranteed in the different aspects of the institutions set up to implement the agreement. It establishes a High-Level Special Body for Ethnic Peoples to serve as a mechanism for participation in all processes of implementation and verification of the agreements.

The Ethnic Chapter states that verification mechanism that will include international participation will be created in order to monitor, identify and contribute to effective implementation of ethnic rights in the post-accord era. It recognizes that in addition to the conflict, ethnic groups have suffered due to colonialism, slavery, exclusion and injustices. Further, it stipulates that these communities have specific individual and collective rights that are enshrined in international and national norms that Colombia has committed itself to uphold.

ACSN salutes the women and men of the CE for their efforts and sacrifices taken in order to guaranteeing a better future to forthcoming Afro-Colombian and indigenous generations. The Ethnic Chapter’s contents were produced through a lengthy process led by the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Defense of Territorial Rights (CE), a platform that consists of the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA), the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Mayor Government of the Traditional Indigenous Authorities of Colombia. The CONPA consists of nine Afro-Colombian networks including FISCH, CNOA, AFRODES, PCN, CLAF, ACONC, ANAFRO, Mujeres Kambiri and Afro-Colombian religious entities. This grouping led a multi-year national and international advocacy effort. At the national level, the demands of these groups were reasserted through various non-violent pacific protests including the National Agrarian Strike. The support of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights is much appreciated.

At the international level, the CE gained support from the Barack Obama Administration, the U.S. Congress including Black Caucus Representatives Hank Johnson and Keith Ellison, U.S. Special Envoy Bernie Aronson, U.S. Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, the ACSN network, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), USW, WOLA, Race & Equality, other civil society actors, the peace process’s guarantor countries, USIP and diplomatic corps in Bogota. We also express our deepest gratitude to all who took action to support the CE in order to make this possible.

ACSN Demands Serious and Immediate Responses from the Colombian Government and the United States on the Crisis Facing the Department of Choco

The Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) would like to express its deep concern regarding the current humanitarian crisis in the Department of Choco, due to the violation of human rights by the Colombian State. In 2014, social and ethnic organizations in Choco came together with the Diocese of Apartado, Istmina and Quibdo to express their concerns, which the Ombudsman’s Office recognized after it issued the resolution 064 of 2014 with specific recommendations for each of the national and regional institutions to overcome the crisis. That same year, several member organizations of the Choco Inter-Ethnic Solidarity Forum and the Diocese of Quibdo sat before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where the Ministry of Interior promised to work alongside organizations and the Church to create a human rights plan for the Department of Choco and Buenaventura, yet progress has not been made on this front. This is why since July 20, the people of Choco have been protesting by deciding not to raise the flag of the Republic of Colombia but instead Choco’s flag to protest the state’s historical neglect.

Civic resistance manifested in daily marches began on August 17. Led by the Committee for the Salvation and Dignity of Choco that encompasses all organizations and unions in the department that back the protest, a reported 70,000 people marched in Quibdo yesterday along with protests in all the municipalities of the department. The population is reacting against the historical neglect by the state that has left 65.9 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 37.1 percent under extreme poverty with inadequate living conditions. The lack of security to civilians has generated constant displacement and humanitarian emergencies in the department. Until March 5, 2015 19 children died due to malnutrition and water pollution. Systematic corruption is dealt only with interventions rather than real efforts to end this problem.

The protest includes the different sectors of the department, including the Catholic Church represented by the diocese of Quibdo, who have sympathized with the protest and its mission. The list of demands that the people from Choco request from the Colombian government is as follows:

  1. Ensure road construction in Choco that connects the department with the rest of the country
  2. Investments and concerted action to ensure the fundamental right to health in the department of Choco
  3. Affirmative action to consolidate and ensure the integrity and territorial control of Belen de Bajira by Choco
  4. Investment on education and culture as a basis for human development for ethnic and mestizo groups that live in Choco
  5. Institutional reform for territorial development and administrative autonomy of the Department of Choco
  6. Infrastructure to municipal capitals and major settlements of the Department
  7. Promotion and consolidation of state and private programs for employment and departmental productivity with ethnic focus
  8. Investments to ensure the completion in 2016 of the entire sports infrastructure originally scheduled for 2015 National Games
  9. Mass communication and digital connectivity for social development
  10. Easing of public policies for the implementation of sectoral agendas on ethnic peace, borders, victims, human rights, gender, disability, children, youth, adults, sexual diversity, security, education, health, sports, housing and potable water

At this point it is required to implement the recommendations made by the inter-sectoral commission for the advancement of the Afro-Colombian population in 2009.

The Colombian government’s response has been to stigmatize and make excuses stating that the government has invested in the Department in recent years. The national government shifted the blame to regional leaders rather than to assume responsibility for its citizens. It does not demonstrate a political will to seek real solutions to the serious situation the people of Choco face. Leaders of the Department of Choco welcomed President Santos appointment of the Minister of Environment, Luis Gilberto Murillo and Vice Minister of Culture, Zulia Mena who know firsthand the historic neglect of the state to the Department of Choco and especially its needs. Therefore, the statements made today by the Minister of the Environment to the press where he catalogued the protest as inopportune amaze the people of Choco. The only thing the Choco’s people expect of Afro-Colombian leaders is to at least show solidarity and respect of all manifestations that seek the just demands for basic rights and ability to live in dignity.

As a network that monitors closely the human rights reality, socioeconomic rights and other rights of Afro-Colombians we call on the government of Colombia to find a real solution to the demands of the people of Choco. At the same time we continue to demand that the parties at the negotiating table incorporate an ethnic chapter and recommendations presented by the Ethnic Commission in the final peace agreement. Only if the government shows willingness to solve the problems of ethnic groups that lead to results, and ensures that voices are heard under the right to free and informed prior consultation in the design of policies, programs and projects created for their regions will you begin to see real changes for this population.

In turn, the Government of the United States who has been an ally for communities of African descent should ask Colombia to prioritize and protect the fundamental economic, political and social rights of ethnic communities in the country. It should ensure that agreements between the two countries affecting the Afro-Colombian communities such as human rights conditioning in military aid to Colombia, the Labor Action Plan between the US and Colombia and Plan of Racial Action (CAPREE) are implemented in a way to support the advancement of the rights of same and reduce social inequality and racial discrimination in that country.

For more than 40 years the people of Choco have carried out strikes, which the government responds with agreements that are never implemented.

For more information on this situation please contact Euclides Rengifo Cordoba to

ACSN Urges Inclusion of the Ethnic Commission’s Recommendations in the Colombia Peace Accord

After ignoring the recommendations of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous territorial and traditional authorities in Colombia’s peace process for over 22 months, the parties to the Colombian conflict negotiating in Havana, Cuba finally received a delegation that included representatives of the Ethnic Commission on June 26 and 27. This historic dialogue was due in part by international pressure to include ethnic voices in the peace talks by the international community including the United Nations, United States, U.S. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and U.S. and European human rights organizations.

As decided upon in Havana, the Ethnic Commission presented the parties with a detailed documented titled the ‘Ethnic Chapter’ that contains detailed, pragmatic and realistic recommendations for how to guarantee a sustainable, durable peace that upholds the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. This document consists of nine principles that must be applied in all of the pre-accords that will guarantee their effective implementation in areas where ethnic communities are present. Based upon international norms and Colombia’s national laws, as well as, key Constitutional Court orders that uphold ethnic minorities rights such as Orders 004 (indigenous), 005 (afrocolombians) and 092 (women) these authorities are guaranteeing that the accords not only serve the needs and rights of their communities but that they are effective and supported by these communities when applied on the ground. The document has “safeguards” for these communities that guarantee that rural development in these areas addresses the long-term needs and historic discrimination and marginalization faced by these communities. It also includes recommendations on how the various objectives of the illicit drugs, political participation and victim’s accords can best be met. Lastly, it deals with implementation and verification of the final accord in a manner that upholds ethnic rights and guarantees non-repetition of events. Throughout, the document the specific vulnerabilities and rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous women and global anti-racism agreements are integrated in accordance with international norms including the CEDAW and CERD.

It must be emphasized that these recommendations are a historic roadmap consulted and written by the most prominent Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders and territorial authorities that will guide Colombia in order to prevent future cycles of violence in these areas which are at the highest risk when it comes to challenges for the accord’s implementation. Without the help or prompting of the international community and Colombian authorities, the Ethnic Commission is making a major contribution towards humanity.

Therefore, it is unconscionable that given the Ethnic Commission’s tremendous efforts and seriousness with which they have upheld their commitments to the parties to the Colombia conflict, that it appears that the Colombian government is not taking these recommendations seriously. Also that it may not integrate most of them in the final accord.

Given this, we urge the international community, guarantor countries, United Nations, U.S. Congress, European Parliament and all activists and organizations in solidarity with ethnic groups in Colombia to contact the following persons today. These persons should be asked to commit to upholding ethnic rights and guaranteeing a sustainable peace that builds a pluralistic society that respects its minorities and cultural differences by contacting the following persons:

Minister of the Interior Fernando Cristo’s office, @CristoBustos @MinInterior

Minister for Post-Conflict, Rafael Pardo:

Colombian Government Peace Negotiator, Sergio Jaramillo

Also all are encouraged to send tweets to:

Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, U.S. Embassy in Bogota, @USEmbassyBogota

National Security Council, White House, @WhiteHouse

DRL Department of State, @State_DRL, @Malinowski (Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor)

Western Hemisphere, @WHASpeaks , @WHAAsstSecty (acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs)

The parties at the negotiating table in Cuba: @EquipoPazGob, @FARC_EPaz

Please use the hashtags: #FinalAgreements #EthnicChapter #ComisionEtnica

For further information please contact the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) at