Human rights organizations alert the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombia and the NHRF about their security conditions

The meeting between human rights organizations and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bogota is the first of two meetings that will be held in March to address the context for human rights defenders’ work and share recommendations to improve their protection.

Nearly 20 civil society organizations expressed their concerns about the complicated situation for defenders of women's rights, land and environmental rights and peace in a meeting with the Norwegian Ambassador to Colombia, John Petter Opdahl and the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) yesterday.

The participants explained the insecurity they feel in their regions, which complicates their work in defending human rights. Camilo López, project coordinator of Fundación Estrella Orográfica del Macizo Colombiano (FUNDECIMA), commented: "Although homicides decreased due to the restrictions related to the coronavirus, massacres increased and more criminal organizations appeared, putting the progress of the Peace Accords at risk". Likewise, Dayana Blanco, general director of ILEX Acción Jurídica, highlighted the situation of indigenous communities and Afrocolombian communities of different ethnicities, stressing that there is a need to take into account "the racial ethnic approach to protection measures". She also commented on the "under-reporting of the number of indigenous and Afro-LGTB defenders, leaders and social leaders murdered and threatened".

For the organizations it is important to maintain cooperation with other partners as well as to have coordination spaces to follow up on the situation and establish thematic meetings on specific issues that require attention from the international community. Germán Romero, a lawyer working in the organization dhColombia, shared the need to "follow up on the protection measures for leaders and accompany the agreement of collective measures for Afro-descendant and indigenous communities". María A. Palacio, manager of Corporación Sisma Mujer, pointed out some concerns about women's rights aggravated with the appearance of the pandemic. "There was a worsening of stigmatization during 2020 and the burden of care for women increased," she said. Given this, Palacio recommended supporting "concrete gender measures as part of the main agenda."

“There was a worsening of stigmatization during 2020 and the burden of care for women increased” María A. Palacio, manager of Corporación Sisma Mujer

The Norwegian Ambassador to Colombia, John Petter Opdahl, said he was very committed to the work being done by civil society and was "very aligned" with their recommendations. "We are here for you and we are convinced that you are going to play an important role in helping to achieve a sustainable and lasting peace," he added. In addition, the NHRF Colombia country director, Caroline Aarsæther, stressed the importance of these meetings: "We appreciate having this space with the Embassy to make visible the great courage of Colombian civil society organizations that we will continue to support to help promote their causes at the international level".

“We appreciate having this space with the Embassy to make visible the great courage of Colombian civil society organizations that we will continue to support to help promote their causes at the international level” NHRF Colombia country director, Caroline Aarsæther

This space was possible thanks to the collaboration agreement signed between the Norwegian Embassy in Colombia and the Norwegian Human Rights Fund , where the latter supports around 50 projects of Colombian civil society organizations working on issues of access to justice and peace; security, protection and guarantees for human rights defenders and environmental and land rights.

Photo: Meeting with communities in Putumayo, coordinated by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) during 2020. Credit: CIJP