Vote Against the Peace Accords Reinforces the Need to Support Colombia’s Ethnic Communities Who Voted Yes

Bogota, October 3, 2016. Given the result of the nationwide plebiscite rejecting the Peace Accords, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights urges continued support for Colombian ethnic communities’ peacebuilding efforts. Although at the national level the NO vote received 50.23%, minimally edging the YES vote’s 49.76%, in the regions most affected by the conflict and inhabited mostly by ethnic groups the majority of the population voted in favor of the implementation of the Accords. The initial reactions of ethnic communities’ organizations and coalitions who have supported the peace negotiations and achieved the inclusion of an “ethnic chapter” in the Accords have been to express their continued commitment to support a negotiated end to the conflict.

There now exists a high level of uncertainty about what will happen to the peace process. Despite this, both the government and the FARC have publically affirmed their commitment to maintain the bilateral ceasefire. Moreover, political leaders who opposed the Accords have called for the construction of a “Grand National Pact.” The renegotiation of the Accords appears to be the most likely option moving forward.

In this scenario, where would the ethnic communities find themselves? Most concerning would be that the guarantees for respect for ethnic communities’ rights achieved thus far through the inclusion of the “ethnic chapter” find themselves in serious jeopardy, given that, for now, their implementation will not be carried out as planned. Moreover, although both sides have expressed a commitment to maintain the ceasefire, the vulnerability of ethnic communities to violence carried out by other armed actors continues to be a cause for serious concern. This applies to ethnic communities in rural areas as well as to those who have been internally displaced to marginalized urban areas. The rejection of the Accords fosters a political climate that, unfortunately, does not help the country move toward becoming a society where conflicts are resolved without violence.

The international community, especially the Inter-American System of Human Rights and the human rights bodies of the United Nations, but also national and international human rights organizations, should be attentive in monitoring Colombian ethnic communities’ human rights situation. Moreover, they should provide the necessary support to ethnic communities’ organizations so that they may help ensure that the guarantees achieved through the “ethnic chapter” are respected during the possible renegotiation process. This backing should also include support for ethnic communities’ effective participation in upcoming political processes regarding the Accords.

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