Colombia’s humanitarian situation remains severe in spite of ongoing peace talks with rebel group FARC and is likely to endure following a peace deal, the United Nations said Wednesday.
A report raised concerns over other illegal armed groups’ violent impact, expressed Colombia’s need to retain international assistance following a peace deal and posited peace recommendations to the South American nation’s government.
The report, entitled “The humanitarian dimension in the aftermath of a peace agreement: proposals for the international community in Colombia,” was commissioned by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and supported by the Norwegian Centre for Peace-building (NOREF.)
It examined Colombia’s peace prospects by analyzing previous conflicts within Colombia and abroad, documenting Colombia’s conflict situation between November 2012 and September 2014 and considering Colombia post-conflict dynamics.
Colombia’s shaky legacy of rebuilding post-conflict combined with the fact that peace talks have not been undertaken during a bi-lateral ceasefire have rendered Colombia precariously placed in the event of a peace deal, expressed the report.
“In the last few years the Colombian government has made significant efforts to acknowledge the conditions of the victims of the conflict and address their needs. Nevertheless, despite improvements in some humanitarian indicators, the humanitarian situation in the country remains severe ,” said the report.
“While the peace talks between the government and FARC have had an indirect positive effect on some humanitarian indicators since they started…. others such as restrictions on mobility, strict social control measures and pressures on communities are more frequent as a result of the changing strategies of armed groups,” the report explained.
At least 347,286 people were displaced in Colombia between November 2012, when the talks began, and September 2014, stated the report.
Between January 2013 and November 2014, 1.4 million people were subjected to restrictions on their mobility and constraints on their access to basic goods and services essential for their survival.
“The negotiations have taken place while the conflict has continued…other armed groups should be added to this scenario and are having serious effects on the civilian population….these groups are responsible for a growing part of the humanitarian effects on the population that are not merely residual and could become more prominent in a post-agreement setting,” said the report in reference to the effect of other militia groups, such as the ELN.
“The legacy of past peace processes and previous peace agreements in Colombia shows that post-agreement scenarios may lead to the deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situations, which may obstruct the peace process itself,” the report warned.
Colombia remains “at-risk” and an early withdrawal of humanitarian assistance following a deal between the FARC and the government may be detrimental to Colombia’s transition towards peace, said the report.
This must be qualified by the chilling fact that 62 people dedicated to leading social organizations, defending human rights and claims to land were killed in Colombia in 2014.
In January 2015 alone, this figure reached 10; double that of the previous year.
“International experience shows that an early withdrawal of humanitarian assistance may have negative impacts on at-risk groups and the evolution of the peace process, especially when the regions most affected by the conflict face important development gaps and challenges,” explained the report.
The paradox is that while humanitarian aid is being recommended, the statistics indicate that providing humanitarian aid in Colombia remains extremely dangerous.
One of the report’s recommendations was the development of a “single international community strategy that frames the humanitarian, development, and peace-building dimensions, and that considers the protection of human rights and the situation of victims as key elements in any post-conflict peace-agreement scenario.”
Secondly, humanitarian actors should continue to call for the inclusion of humanitarian considerations in a peace agreement and support the government in the implementation of relevant humanitarian provisions. This especially applies the use and recruitment of children, disappeared people, and gender-based violence, among other important issues.
Finally, the government should endeavor to strengthen institutional capacities at the local level. To do this, “it is necessary to make additional efforts to strengthen the capacities of local institutions through the allocation of human, technical and financial resources, especially in areas where the FARC-EP has a strong presence,” said the report.