CERD Committee urges Colombia to compile accurate data statistics on its Afrodescendant population

The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a recommendation to the Colombian State to adopt an appropriate methodology that ensures “accurate and trustworthy” data statistics are collected on the Afro-Colombian, Black, Palenquera & Raizal population, for its next population census.

The recommendation was presented alongside more than 40 other recommendations published in a follow-up document to the CERD country review, held on November 27 and 28 in Geneva, during its 100th period of sessions.  During the review, the Committee carried out an extensive review of the level of compliance of commitments carried by the State since its last review in 2015 that seek the eradication of any form of racial discrimination and racism in the country.

With respect to the 2018 Population Census, the Committee expressed concern that the data published on the Black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal Communities “doesn’t accurately reflect” the reality – given that the final results present nearly a 31% decrease in the specified population with respects to the figures of the 2005 Census. The CERD Committee stressed that the State must “ensure that the criteria for self-identification be applied and collected appropriately.”

This issue was precisely shared to the Commitee by Colombian civil society organizations during the review in November, calling it a “statistical genocide” against Afro-descendant populations. Civil society also stressed that the numbers published in 2018 further deepen the levels of social invisibility for these communities, and seriously limit the possibility to create public policies that can transform their condition of structural exclusion.

Reparations to Victims and the Ethnic Chapter

Another recommendation from the CERD Committee to the State was to conduct “extensive and effective investigations to process and sanction those responsible for violations of human rights committed against members of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities affected by the armed conflict.

The violence in Colombia, which continues to persist even after the signing of the Peace Accords, has created a context of risk for indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. In particular, the Committee expressed its concern at the increase in paramilitary intrusion into ethnic communities’ territories, the selective killings of Afro-descendant and indigenous community leaders, the increase of internal and mass forced displacement and the lack of protection given to these communities and the continued recruitment of children by non-state military actors.

With these issues in mind, the Committee urged the Colombian State to implement the “necessary means to ensure an integral reparation to the victims [of the conflict,] and to guarantee the distribution of necessary resources.”

In addition, the Committee expressed concern about the lack of implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Accords and recommended that it be implemented by way of appropriate financing and through the participation of members from indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, particularly women. The recommendation then adds that “the processes of leadership selection in indigenous and Afro-descendant communities be respected.”

In Colombia, the situation of violence, vulnerability and marginalization continue to affect ethnic communities directly and disproportionately, as seen by the alarming levels of social leaders killed, threatened and displaced from their territories, this according to Colombian human rights defenders.

Other recommendations

  • To ensure that all the cases of racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech or violence for racial reasons be investigated and that those responsible for these violations be trialed and correspondingly sanctioned.
  • To categorize as a crime any diffusion of ideas that promote or justify racial hate and to prohibit organizations that promote racial discrimination and/or instigate it – as a way to comply with the previous recommendations of the Committee,
  • To increase efforts to prevent and eliminate the forced recruitment of indigenous and Afro-descendant children and youth by non-state armed actors and to ensure the application of means to de-mobilize and reintegrate them into society.
  • To guarantee protection of indigenous and Afro-descendant people against discrimination from State entities and government employees, as well as any other person, group or organization.
  • To increase efforts to combat the multiple forms of discrimination to which Afro-descendant and indigenous women are subject to, in order to ensure that they have adequate and effective access to justice, work, education and health (including reproductive health,) regardless of cultural and linguistic differences.
  • To adopt the necessary measures to prevent sexual violence against indigenous and Afro-descendant women and to guarantee victim’s access to adequate assistance and methods of protection that are both effective and culturally respectful.

Statement of Declaration

Race and Equality urges the Colombian State to take note of the recommendations from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which seek to guarantee respect for the rights of the Afro-descendant and indigenous population in Colombia. We also urge the Colombian State to work alongside Afro-descendant civil society as the only true mechanism that guarantees participation, inclusion and true dialogue seeking to overcome the barriers of discrimination, racism and marginalization – structural conditions as a result of the invisibility of acts of discrimination which are still present in today’s social fabric.

Likewise, we call on civil society organizations to follow-up on each of the recommendations made by CERD, so that their statements can be used as accountability for the rights of all ethnic groups in Colombia.  

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