Stopping irreparable harm: acting on Colombia’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities protection crisis

Despite security gains on the part of the armed forces and the demobilisation of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia paramilitaries, Colombia’s protracted internal armed conflict persists. Civilians continue to be hard hit by violence, displacement and human rights abuses perpetrated by armed groups. Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by this violence and displacement, leading to their cultural and physical extinction.

Protection mechanisms for ethnic minorities and their collective lands rights remain ineffective in spite of the Colombian Constitutional Court’s efforts. State-led security strategies, the mining boom, land restitution efforts and free-trade agreements bring with them additional security challenges for Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups.

This report seeks to describe the protection challenges facing ethnic minorities and to provide recommendations for how the international community can act to guarantee Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities’ protection. The main thrust of the recommendations is that the international community should put pressure on the Colombian authorities to apply in practice the model theoretical protection of communities’ rights that exist in the Colombian Constitution. The U.S. and Colombian authorities should be pressured to reconsider their indiscriminate crop-spraying programme that supposedly targets only coca crops, while countries who have concluded free-trade agreements with Colombia should be pressured to ensure that these do not further threaten the rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.