AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Resumption of peace talks in a climate of hope, also with the support of OHCHR

Thursday, 26 January 2023 dialogue   peace   armed groups   violence   episcopal conferences   un  

Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - "In my meeting with President Gustavo Petro, I welcomed his government's new 'total peace' policy, including the commitment to fully implement the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC-EP. I also appreciated the resumption of talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN). The government can count on the specific expertise of my office to accompany the negotiations and advise on human rights issues, including victims' rights". These are the words of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Volker Türk, delivered yesterday evening at a press conference at the conclusion of his two-day official visit to Colombia, during which he signed a new agreement for his office's presence in Colombia until 2032.
Touching on the nation's various problems regarding human rights issues, Türk cited the violence of armed groups that communities experience on a daily basis: displacement, imprisonment, gender and sexual violence, massacres... "We must all support efforts to end this situation," the High Commissioner said, recalling how important it is for Colombian authorities to ensure that negotiations take human rights fully into account from the outset.
Gathering the voices of civil society, Turk urged specific attention to victims and affected communities, ensuring their participation, as well as ensuring the meaningful presence of women at the talks. "We totally support the current negotiations, we know they are difficult, nothing is easy to make peace, unfortunately it is much easier to make war", Turk added.
The High Commissioner emphasized, "During my meetings, I heard the hope of civil society representatives - one described the feeling of seeing blue skies after a hurricane - but they also pointed to Colombia's deep inequalities, especially in rural areas, such as why peace with armed groups alone is not enough, and why implementation of the 2016 agreement and rural development are fundamental".

Peace negotiation talks between representatives of the Colombian government and those of the National Liberation Army (ELN) resumed in November 2022, after an interruption that had lasted since 2018, by decision of Colombia's then president, Ivan Duque. This first phase took place in Caracas, as Venezuela is among the guarantor countries of the agreements (see Fides, 21/11/2022; 28/11/2022; 12/12/2022).
The second round of talks is scheduled to begin on February 13 in Mexico. Meanwhile, an extraordinary meeting of government and Eln representatives was held in Caracas, from January 17 to 21, which took place "in an atmosphere of sincere and constructive dialogue, in an atmosphere of seeking understanding", according to Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao Gaviria, who represents the Bishops' Conference at the talks. "Let us begin with an atmosphere of hope," he added, "of confidence that progress can be made in the search to end the suffering of many communities due to the clashes and create a climate of peace that also ensures reconciliation in the country.
Representatives of the guarantor countries (Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Norway and Venezuela) and the accompanying institutions of the peace negotiations (Colombian Episcopal Conference and the UN General Secretariat) highlighted with hope the commitment of the government and Eln "to strengthen the dialogue table and their reiterated will for peace, expressed in this extraordinary meeting". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 26/1/2023)