Bogotá, June 30, 2016. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (the Institute) held a public event in the city of Bogotá with the objective of promoting advocacy efforts aimed at the swift ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance by the Colombian State. Representatives of ethnic organizations, government entities, NGOs and the international community present in Colombia attended. The views expressed by the attendees coincide with the Institute’s position: the urgent need to coordinate advocacy efforts in order to encourage the Colombian State to ratify the Convention.

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of the Institute, gave a presentation which afforded attendees insights into the process that led up to the adoption of the Convention by the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in June 2013 and the dynamics that have influenced the Convention’s signature and ratification by several countries in the region. His assessment of these processes confirms the importance of the role that civil society organizations must continue to play to push executive and legislative actors to advance the ratification process.

In Colombia, legal regulations already in place have set up instruments to combat discrimination and provide for an environment that will enable the ratification process. Diego Grueso, Coordinator of the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement – CODHES), clearly explained this evaluation of Colombia’s legal structure in his presentation and in the policy paper he has prepared for the Institute, which provides a detailed analysis of the “normative elements to motivate and promote [the Convention’s] ratification in Colombia.”

Pastor Murillo, who attended the event in representation of the Ministry of the Interior, proposed that submitting a formal request to the Colombian government in order to activate the ratification process would be a desirable step forward. This proposal reflects part of the advocacy route that civil society organizations must follow. Another path on this route must be the creation of mobilization campaigns that incorporate an intensive educational component, so that citizens are familiarized with the Convention. Representatives of organizations such as the Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados (National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians – AFRODES), the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (Black Communities Process – PCN), the Consejo Laboral Afrocolombiano (Afro-Colombian Labor Council – CLAF), and the Sindicato de Trabajadores Públicos y Privados, Afrodescendientes, Palenqueros y Raizales de Colombia (Union of Afro-descendant, Palenquero and Raizal Public and Private Employees of Colombia – SINAFROCOL) highlighted these ideas.

The support of these advocacy efforts by international community actors in Colombia is also of great importance. Many of them have incorporated the promotion and protection of groups most vulnerable and prone to racial discrimination into their missions and agendas. Likewise, these actors have contributed to strengthening the understanding of the human rights perspective that guides the Convention by different organizations and institutions. Comments by Gabriel Muyuy of the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Alejandro Garcia from The National Democratic Institute (NDI) confirmed these contributions, and their commitment to support advocacy efforts.

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, through its representative in Colombia, Pedro L. Cortes-Ruiz, will continue to push for actions aimed at strengthening advocacy processes to drive the ratification of the Convention by the Colombian State. Specifically, efforts will be made so that ethnic organizations (Afro-Colombian and Indigenous) and LBGTI groups can coordinate advocacy initiatives directed at the legislative and executive powers.

The policy paper on promoting the ratification of the Convention by Colombia can be read in its entirety here (Spanish-only).