Christian Aid in Colombia update Jan 2003

Internal conflict has been raging in Colombia for the past four decades. Contrary to popular perceptions, the war is not just about drugs. Behind the drugs war - and fuelled by it - another conflict is being waged: left-wing guerrillas against the state; right-wing paramilitaries and the state against the guerrillas. Innocent unarmed civilians are not only caught in the middle, but are also the victims of a military and economic strategy. Those with economic power want to get people off the land so they can exploit it for commercial purposes, leading to massacres and large-scale forced displacement.
Colombia's 'dirty war' claims thousands of civilian lives every year and involves the systematic abuse of human rights, violent evictions, massacres and torture. Civilians who dare to seek peace and justice and to uphold the principles of human rights, put their lives at risk, and members of Christian Aid partner organisations are among those who have been threatened, forced into exile or killed. More about human rights in Colombia.

Alvaro Uribe Vélez was sworn in as Colombia's new president on 7 August 2002. After four days in office, he declared a state of internal disorder throughout the country, a move that was criticised by many as it could lead to an increase in human rights abuses. He has also initiated plans to create a network of armed civilian informants to help the government track down and dismantle the paramilitaries and guerrilla groups. Many fear that this will only lead to more civilian deaths.

Christian Aid is working with 13 partner organisations to build a just Colombian society in which all fundamental human rights are guaranteed. Partners aim to promote and fulfil these rights, and to assist marginalised people, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. They also strengthen the skills of local organisations so that they can lobby effectively for their rights and for the peaceful resolution of conflict; and support people forced into internal exile.

Partner news

In November 2002, Director of Christian Aid partner the Regional Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS), Francisco Campo came to the UK and Ireland where he met representatives of the UK and Irish governments. Francisco Campos was threatened by suspected paramilitaries in June 2002. His visit has helped raise awareness about the escalating conflict in Colombia, especially in the region of the Magdalena Medio. He was also joined in the UK by Gloria Flores from Christian Aid partner, Minga.