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An important message for victims of sexual violence in Colombia: "We DO believe you"

In a symbolic ceremony, victims of sexual and gender based crimes submit their testimonies to the Truth Commission in Colombia. 5 June 2019. Credit: Corporacion Humanas Colombia
WFM (including its CICC program representative), Corporación HUMANAS, and Norad representatives meet with Colombian civil society and SGBC victims in a number of events in Colombia (Bogotá and Quibdó), to discuss different actions and hear a number of testimonies, on an agenda focused on Women, Peace and Security, and the application of Resolution 1325.

On 4-7 June 2019, Corporación HUMANAS, a leading women’s rights organization in Colombia, member of the Coalition for the ICC (CICC), invited the World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM) and its program, the CICC, as well as the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) representatives, to a number of activities organized with victims of sexual violence and other human rights defenders and grass-root organizations, in Bogotá and Quibdó, Colombia, working on the implementation of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

WFM’s Development Associate, the CICC's Regional Coordinator for the Americas, and Norad representative, travelled to Colombia to participate in two specific sets of events in Bogotá and Quibdó focusing on the implementation of Resolution 1325. The representatives of WFM and the CICC seized the opportunity to share the Coalition’s work in Colombia over the past two decades, and reflect on the role of justice within peace, as well as the specific attention to sexual and gender-based crimes.

Workshop with Commissioner and Secretary of the Truth Commission 

On 4-5 June, Corporación Humanas organized a symbolic and meaningful ceremony with the Colombian Truth Commission, which brought together around 40 people including 14 women from the departments of Santander (northern part of Santander), Tumaco, and Putumayo. Also present at the event were members of the diplomatic community; representatives of the Truth Commission; and representatives from a number of international nonprofit organizations. The women from across these regions came together with the purpose of presenting over 100 testimonies of sexual and gender-based crimes committed against them and their communities in the context of the armed conflict. These testimonies were presented to a Commissioner and to the Secretary of the Truth Commission, established after the signing of the Peace Accords in November 2016. In a very emotional ceremony, women around the table gave an overview of the violence in their regions, and submitted the testimonies. The Truth Commissioner and the Secretary offered very moving words, reaffirming to the women across the room the following words: “The Truth Commission DOES believe you” (“La Comisión de la Verdad SÍ les cree”).

The ceremony and the statements of the victims and the Truth Commission itself were very meaningful for Colombia in a context in which SGBC crimes risk not being included within the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), under allegations that these crimes are not related to the conflict. The possibility of exclusion from the SJP has created uproar among women organizations and human rights defenders, since SGBC crimes fall under the category of crimes that can be attributed to all perpetrators during the conflict (Armed and Security Forces, armed groups, paramilitary groups), and thus, risk being used as a negotiating card.

In the framework of this meeting, the representatives of WFM and its program, Coalition of the ICC, met with HUMANAS, NORAD and FOKUS (a Norwegian NGO which works, inter alia, on implementation of Resolution 1325) to coordinate activities ahead and explain the agenda for the following days.

Working Meeting with the Group of Women, Peace and Security, and Workshop in Chocó, Quibdó

On June 6th, a small delegation of representatives from HUMANAS, NORAD; and WFM/CICC traveled to Quibdó, Department of Chocó, to meet with over two dozen women activists, who provided further updates on the role that women continue to play in promoting peace in the region, using Resolution 1325 as a key component. Some of these women form part of the Departmental Network of Chocoan Women, who co-wrote the Report that was launched last February on the human rights situation of the women in Chocó, a thorough report highlighting some of the most pressing and urgent needs for the women in the department, both at an urban and a rural setting.

On the next day, young women professionals from Chocó, among psychologists, journalists, university professors, social workers, teachers, victims, and social leaders, as well as university students, were brought together in a Workshop. The Coalition spoke about the justice component of the peace accord and how the Coalition monitors it in light of the Preliminary Examination (P.E.) before the International Criminal Court (ICC), providing some background into the Preliminary Examination (P.E.). Participants also discussed the progressive approach to reparations from within the Inter American Human Rights system. In turn, WFM explained its work around Resolution 1325, monitoring developments both at the UN headquarters in NY as well as globally.

Adriana Benjumea, Director of HUMANAS, further spoke about their presence in Rome during the Rome Conference, and the role that the Women’s Caucus played both in developing some of the gender provisions of the Rome Statute, as well as in the current monitoring by women’s groups of ICC case-law regarding gender and sexual-based crimes. She further explained the importance of justice for Resolution 1325, and its need to read and implement this resolution in conjunction with UNSC Resolutions 1820 and 1888.

For the Workshop, participants were then separated into five groups, each one representing one of the points of the Peace Agenda (between the Colombian government and FARC): Access and return to land; Political participation; the end of the armed conflict; the solution to the Drug Problem; and Victims. Working together with a toolkit that HUMANAS conducted of every gender measure within the Peace Accord, each group focused on one specific measure to be implemented within each one of the five points of the Agenda. Each group dramatized one of the measures: from access to health for victims of SGBC; implementation of daycares for infants whose mothers are working on the fields; participation and quotas of women in regional elections; reparations to victims; and ensuring safety for displaced communities returning to their lands. This activity was a heart-warming experience that allowed participants to better understand the importance of ensuring full implementation of the Peace Accords across the country, and of ensuring the proper implementation of the gender measures within the Accords, with the proper participation of women.

Background information

Corporación HUMANAS

Corporación HUMANAS is a leading women’s rights organization in Colombia, which spearheaded the discussions around SGBC during the Peace Negotiations, travelling to Habana on several occasions to meet with the negotiating parties, and conducting a number of workshops with different women organizations across Colombia to explain the agenda and advocacy actions during the Peace Negotiations.

Information about HUMANAS’s work on Peace and Justice, including their historic role in bringing women’s issues into the Peace Negotiations in Habana, can be found here: https://humanas.org.co/pazconmujeres/index.php

1325 week around the UN open debate on Women, Peace and Security

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution (S/RES/1325) on women and peace and security on 31 October 2000. This resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction, and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.