After more than 50 years and over 340,000 lives lost, the end of the conflict between the Colombian Government and FARC guerilla forces is now in sight. The Federal Foreign Office has been engaged in Colombia for many years.
Since the appointment of Tom Koenigs as the German Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process by Foreign Minister Steinmeier, cooperation has been extended further. This includes support for the political settlement negotiations as well as humanitarian assistance, stabilisation and postconflict peacebuilding measures.
Help for the victims of the conflict
Ana Perfol, 26, has two children and is a village elder in a rural area of Colombia. She tells her story:
I’ve been driven out of my home several times. Last time we returned seven months ago. Apart from the fear of renewed violence, illegal gold mining is one of our biggest concerns. The river is becoming more and more polluted. We can no longer fish here, we have to go out to sea to fish. The Caritas organisation has helped us build a community hall. We meet here regularly to discuss all the issues affecting the community. Together we want to try and tackle the problems one step at a time. There are a lot of them, but it’s a start.
Germany’s engagement in Colombia helps people like Ana Perfol. Since 2005, Germany has made available around 28 million euros in humanitarian assistance, 5 million euros of which in 2016. The aid is intended to improve the situation for internally displaced persons and the population affected by the conflict. Promoted measures include:
- assistance and protection for particularly vulnerable people,
- healthcare centres,
- distribution of aid,
- water supply and sanitation facilities,
- accommodation for displaced persons,
- mine clearance.
Measures to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers
To ensure peace in the long term, the legislative packages on victim compensation and land restitution need to be applied effectively. To this end both the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Max Planck Foundation with the support of the Federal Foreign Office are implementing measures designed to strengthen the rule of law. Above all, minorities are to receive access to state benefits. Other support measures target civil society organisations performing important work to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers and working to develop local conflict resolution mechanisms.
With the signing of a permanent ceasefire between the Government and the rebels on 23 June in Havana, the peace settlement is now tangibly close. Foreign Minister Steinmeier assured Colombia of Germany’s support for the way ahead:
Germany will continue to do all it can to support Colombia in its efforts for a long-awaited peace, as it has done for the last ten years. We will therefore additionally play a part in humanitarian demining, establish a German-Colombian peace institute based in Colombia and provide an environmental advisor to the staff of the new Ministry for Post-conflict and Human Rights.