Bogota, November 1, 2016.  On October 28, the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), with support from the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (IREHR) held a meeting with 50 members of the internally displaced Afro-Colombian community in Cali, including several leaders of organizations representing displaced persons. The name of the meeting was Workshop/Dialogue – Afro-Colombians Displaced in Cali: Facing the Current Peace Process Situation. The event included participation of representatives of the office for consultation of the peace process of the Cali Mayor’s Office. Pedro L. Cortés-Ruiz, the Colombian Consultant and Representative of IREHR in Colombia, coordinated the event with the support of Erlendy Cuero, Vice-President of AFRODES.

The goal of the event was to promote a dialogue to help organizations deepen their analysis of and reflections on the current status of the peace process under negotiation between the Colombian government and the FARC paramilitary, as well to better understand the implications of the current scenario for displaced Afro-Colombian communities in Cali. Given the high level of uncertainty about the future of the peace process, and in light of the unfavorable outcome of the national plebiscite on the agreements, the event reinforced the commitment of AFRODES to maintain a proactive stance towards peacebuilding. This is especially important given that the “ethnic chapter” included in the agreements – the result of advocacy efforts in which AFRODES actively participated – is an achievement whose legitimacy must be maintained in any modifications made to the accords.

The event was very productive in at least three aspects: (1) it deepened educational actions regarding the accords directed toward community members who have not had an opportunity to learn about their content; (2) it helped to identify and analyze the content and mechanisms proposed in the accords that will specifically affect Afro-Colombian communities displaced in urban centers such as Cali; and (3) it helped identify advocacy priorities to be adopted and implemented by organizations of displaced Afro-Colombians in Cali, and helped them prepare for participation in the implementation process of the accords once the process of “renegotiation” concludes.

Regarding the educational aspect of the event, it is worth noting that although support for the implementation of the accords, especially the ethnic chapter, was confirmed, it was also made evident that large sectors of the displaced Afro-Colombian population do not have a sufficient understanding of the structure and content of the accords. A very valuable contribution to the dialogue came from the spontaneous participation of younger members of the group who expressed their more critical stance regarding the peace process, including criticism of some elements of the accords which have come under scrutiny throughout the nation.

As for the group’s collective analysis of the content and mechanisms proposed by the accords, the event concentrated on the Victims’ Accords – the Integrated System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. The reason for this emphasis is that the Victims’ Accord most directly affects the situation of displaced Afro-Colombians. Unfortunately, the accords’ lack of an adequate ethnic differential approach (with the exception of the ethnic chapter) is reflected in the invisibility faced by this subsection of the population, which represents the largest collective group of victims. In reviewing and discussing each element of this Accord, the group was able to identify the aspects critical to ensure that the implementation of the Victims’ Accord results in the restitution of their rights.

Finally, the event also allowed the group to identify advocacy priorities in anticipation of their participation in the implementation process of the Accords. In this sense, it was very positive to have the participation of representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Cali, who expressed agreement that civil society organizations must have a central role in these processes. For their part, the event’s participants offered analyses that accurately identified particular characteristics of the reality of displaced Afro-Colombian communities Cali which to date had not been included in public discussions on the peace process and the accords.

In its assessment of the event, IREDH confirms the need to further strengthen spaces for collective discussion and analysis by the communities most affected by the armed conflict. When imagining what form the implementation of the accords may take, we believe that strengthening the capacity of the displaced Afro-Colombian community to participate in the process is a necessary condition to ensure State institutions effectively guarantee their human rights within Colombian society.

For more information, please contact:

Pedro L. Cortes-Ruiz

Representative/Consultant for Colombia

Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights