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Pioneering long‑term peace: German humanitarian assistance and stabilisation in Colombia Colombia

09.12.2016 - Article

For some time Germany has been actively working to help stabilise Colombia and support the victims of the conflict.

The longest armed conflict in the western hemisphere is coming to an end. Colombia’s President Santos will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday (10 December) for his engagement. He will be accompanied by Tom Koenigs, Envoy of the Federal Foreign Minister to the Colombian Peace Process. For some time Germany has been actively working to help stabilise Colombia and support the victims of the conflict.

Landmine victim Jesús Azar received medical treatment and retraining
Landmine victim Jesús Azar received medical treatment and retraining© Caritas International

In Colombia the fighting between guerillas, paramilitary forces and the government claimed more than 340,000 lives and drove six million people from their homes in the course of over 50 years. After successful talks with the FARC guerilla (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and signs of a negotiation process emerging with the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), the country is now potentially nearing the end of the national armed conflict.

Germany has been working for peace on the ground for more than ten years – since 2015 also with the involvement of Tom Koenigs, the Envoy of the Federal Foreign Minister to the Colombian Peace Process. In the area of humanitarian assistance and for projects to stabilise the country, Germany is the third‑largest bilateral donor nation, providing almost 50 million euros. Intensive assistance and protection measures were able to significantly improve the situation of particularly vulnerable people. Germany’s contribution to the peace process involved strengthening specific areas of civil society, supporting rule of law mechanisms and stabilising regions particularly affected by the conflict.

Informing about landmines and supporting victims

Clearing the countless landmines in Colombia
Clearing the countless landmines in Colombia© Halo

Colombia has the second-largest number of landmines, after Afghanistan. Between 1990 and 2013 the number of reported landmine victims alone was more than 10,000. Many areas of agricultural land are mined, which robs the rural population of their livelihood. Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance is therefore another focus of Federal Foreign Office support.

Caritas, for example, is working to improve accident prevention and minimise risks. This organisation alone has trained more than 100 multipliers who have been able to instruct over 10,000 people through courses on how to reduce risks. Funds to provide legal, medical and humanitarian support for landmine victims as well as individual therapy and self‑help groups are further instruments that can be used to improve the lives of the Colombian people.

Caritas provides counselling for landmine victims
Caritas provides counselling for landmine victims© Caritas International

Public dialogue for long‑term peace

The peace process between FARC and the Colombian Government not only had to overcome political hurdles but has also met with resistance from some segments of the population. Inadequate knowledge and deep‑seated resentment is often a major factor in this.

The organisation “Viva la Ciudadania” is working to encourage Colombian civil society to play an active role in the peace process. It holds workshops and forums to explain what the peace process is about and propose ways of getting actively involved in implementing it. The most important tool is public dialogue, which improves factual knowledge, promotes constructive debate and fosters a peaceful balance of interests. For peace in Colombia can only be maintained in the long term with adequate participation and appropriate support from its people.

The conflict and German support in figures
The conflict and German support in figures© Auswärtiges Amt

Ensuring appropriate reparation

Act 1448 signed in 2011 by the Colombian Government recognises the impact of the conflict between FARC and the Government and provides for compensation for the more than seven million registered victims. One challenge is compensation for people who have suffered discrimination due to their ethnic background, sexual orientation or a disability, for example.

This is the focus of a project run by the Max Planck Foundation, which assists the state organisation “Unidad para las Víctimas” in guaranteeing reparation measures for victims of the conflict. Experts analyse the compensation processes in the provinces of Caquetá, Meta and Putumayo, advise the Unidad in Bogotá and provide further training for the organisation’s staff. The goal is to ensure greater consideration of the specific requirements of members of minorities affected by discrimination.

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