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Executive Summary

Résumé exécutif

Résumé exécutif: Colombie

Ce rapport explore les lacunes et les occasions potentielles qui ont un impact sur les groupes ethniques de Colombie, après des années de conflit armé

Global Centre for Pluralism

Overall Score: 3.5

This assessment was completed in 2021.

The recent election in Colombia has brought to power a coalition that has been very vocal about improving conditions for the country’s most marginalized and excluded peoples. With this recent development, there is now an opportunity for new policies and practices that can strengthen pluralism in the country. Understanding the dynamics around exclusion and marginalization of specific peoples will be vital to making progress. The Monitor report focuses on Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Roma communities to explore critical gaps and potential opportunities impacting pluralism in Colombia.

The assessment recognizes two dominant, contradictory tendencies. First, previous Colombian governments formalized an array of laws and policies in negotiating peace that can bridge the gaps and actualize the opportunities to strengthen pluralism. Second, previous Colombian governments selectively implemented critical policies and at times took actions conflicting with the spirit and letter of some laws and commitments. Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Roma communities generally experience many of the exclusions resulting from those contradictory tendencies equally. Monitor analysis also reveals the discrete policies and practices acutely affecting Afro-descendants and Roma people.

Legal Commitments

Successive Colombian governments acceded to some important international legal instruments and codified a number of group-based rights and freedoms in national law while not extending these commitments to all peoples equally. Additionally, not all monitoring mechanisms are permitted even when laws are in place, making it difficult to appreciate the full impact of the disparities between peoples.

Practices and Leadership

Non-implementation of specific laws and formally adopted policies fuels cycles of protest and mobilization by Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and peasants whose leaders are also violently targeted at times. Champions of pro-pluralistic policies frequently turn to the courts where the tutela – a judicial writ demanding protection under the law – features prominently as a measure to defend rights. State refusal to collect certain types of data about marginalized peoples masks targeted inequalities and severe forms of exclusion facing some peoples. State authorities can also depress a specific group’s numbers, such as in the case of Afro-descendants, in a practice activists have referred to as statistical genocide. Important societal actors, particularly political parties, the mainstream media, and the private sector, have a propensity to exacerbate the marginalization of specific peoples by denying them a meaningful presence and role in their respective spheres of work.

The Monitor report focuses on Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants and Roma communities to explore critical gaps and potential opportunities impacting pluralism in Colombia.

Group-based Inequalities, Inter-group Relations and Belonging

Inter-connected patterns of inequality reflect a type of vicious spiral producing serious negative outcomes for Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Roma people. Land dispossession and forced displacement underpin economic disparities that drive poor social outcomes and cultural inequalities. A lack of meaningful political representation and access to justice ensures the causal forces of inequality can operate with a high degree of impunity.

Unsurprisingly, the assessment of inter-group relations and sense of belonging suggests a high degree of shared experience across Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Roma people, but is difficult to verify due to substantial legal restrictions on what kinds of data can be collected.

Monitor Takeaways

Recognizing the state’s deliberateness in not acceding to specific international laws, not extending national protections to all peoples, and not collecting data on group-based experiences is essential to understanding the nature of marginalization in Colombia. For example, Colombia’s unwillingness to recognize the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitoring mechanism and prevention of a country visit by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent invisibilizes Afro-descendant marginalization. Obscuring and erasing the results of violence, exclusion, and inequality enables a lack of accountability and perpetuation of the problem. A similar pattern of legal exclusions and harmful practices affects each of the other groups, demonstrating a degree of calculated intent.

Notably, the forms of exclusion are also defining the terms for rights-based mobilizing efforts. Civil society organizations and community leaders maintained a strong and steady capacity to organize and demand full protection under the law. Group-based inequalities propelled affected groups to focus on the law, repeatedly employing a combination of coordinated protest and court action reflecting an unwavering commitment to developing the rule of law. The strength of this dedication to expanding legal equality can serve as a source of resilience as the government works to establish legal equality and implement the necessary policies to actualize that equality.

Group-based inequalities propelled affected groups to focus on the law, repeatedly employing a combination of coordinated protest.

Solidarity among marginalized peoples is also a defining feature of mobilization among those groups studied in this report. Afro-descendants, Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Roma communities scored the same in all but one of the five indicators examining inter-group relations and belonging. This helps to explain the collaboration and coordination among key actors in the civil society sector and community leadership networks and represents a potential source of transformative power for national leaders and decision-makers looking for partners in charting a path towards a more pluralistic Colombia.

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The Monitor’s recommendations echo what experts, activists and stakeholders have long called for in Colombia and provide several pathways to pluralism for the country.

  • Ratify international treaties and recognize the authority of international bodies overseeing their monitoring and enforcement
  • Extend constitutional and legal protections for Indigenous groups to Afro-descendants. Create protections for the self-determination and diversity of the Roma peoples and the peasantry. For this, the establishment and respect of autonomous communal authorities is essential.
  • Protect and respect minority rights through the implementation and enforcement of constitutional mandates and provisions, and relevant policies and laws. This should include strengthening capacities of state institutions to ensure implementation, as well as an exploration of the reasons for the lack of enforcement.
  • Review existing security mechanisms for social leaders and organizations and adjust to reflect changing regional, ethnic and gender demographics.
  • Strengthen state capacities to produce complete, systematic and disaggregated data on the implementation of international and constitutional obligations.
  • Significantly improve information about rights violations and impunity. Focus should be on gathering available information across institutions and producing complete and systematic data on minority or oppressed groups. Civil society and international institutions play an important role in demanding the production of such data.

Documents supplémentaires

Évaluation Nationale du Moniteur: Colombie

Après une longue guerre civile, le processus de paix en Colombie doit s’attaquer à l’inclusion de toutes les communautés ethniques et marginalisées.

Colombia: Country Profile

As a vastly diverse country, Colombia's approach to pluralism is closely tied to its peace process.

Colombia: References

To access more information that supported the development of the Colombia report, you can access the references below.