During 2016, the PBI Project in Colombia redoubled its efforts to respond to a changing and demanding context, shaped by the final months of peace negotiations in Havana between the Colombian Government and the FARC.
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Throughout the year, Colombian civil society organisations came together for peace education initiatives through which collectives and communities reflected on the content of the Peace Agreements and were given training to build their capacity and develop mechanisms to monitor the agreements and ensure that they are fulfilled. PBI prioritised this line of work throughout the year, with the goal of strengthening these peace-building spaces which were so vital during the period leading up to the signature of the agreements.
As well as its efforts regarding the peace agreements, PBI continued to accompany organisations and communities and their work defending human rights, with particular emphasis on those who are protecting land and territory, and defending their rights in the face of economic interests. These sectors are considered to be the most threatened, together with those who work on the peace agreements.
Achivements: The Field Team carried out 211 profile-raising visits to the NGOs it accompanies, spent 1,037 days accompanying them, and held 316 meetings with the people and organisations it protects.
This intense activity led to an exponential increase in all aspects of PBI’s work in terms of its integral protection model. The 2016 results are an unequivocal demonstration of efficient resource management and the tireless commitment of PBI’s volunteers at a key moment in Colombian history. Below are some figures which demonstrate, not just PBI’s prolific work in 2016, but also the increased risks defenders are facing despite a reduction in the statistics on violence in the country.
PBI provided 1,037 days of physical accompaniment in the field, which is an increase of 49% compared to 2015 with the same amount of volunteers. This achievement is partly attributed to the consolidation of the Bogota Team, which was reopened mid-way through 2015. These numbers confirm the new Bogota Team’s potential reach which has enabled the Uraba and Barrancabermeja teams to focus on their regions, and also increase the accompaniment in the rest of the country, yielding a broader impact in new regions and consolidating the impact in existing areas.
The communications work reached unprecedented levels, with 70,000 visits to the blog, 37% more than in 2015. PBI is reaffirmed as a reference throughout the world to find out about the human rights situation in Colombia. Some of the outstanding communications work in 2016 includes the focus on women defenders, and efforts for the message about our history and the way our organisation functions to reach the general public.
The Advocacy Team responded to three waves of threats and murders in the country by activating the Support Network, and increasing the number of advocacy meetings by 48% compared to the year before. Three delegations of the diplomatic corps were organised and accompanied, as well as seven international speaking tours by defenders in Europe and the US. These enabled the communities to explain first-hand the risks they face, and to build up their international support networks. In Europe, the advocacy was bolstered by a second position focused on multiplying PBI’s impact by working with PBI Country Groups in Europe. At an international level, we highlight advocacy on issues discussed at EuroLat, PBI’s contribution at the Human Rights Council when the UNHCHR report was published, and the letters from US Members of Congress which were supported by PBI and other organisations, rejecting the increase in attacks suffered by defenders in 2016.
Achievements: 411 advocacy meetings were held in Colombia, and 209 were held internationally.
PBI’s psychosocial work also focused on accompanying local and regional initiatives for peace, justice and truth. Thanks to an increase in resources (from two to three people in 2016), 52 workshops were held, reaching 932 people, which represents the biggest impact ever in PBI Colombia’s history in this line of work. Of all the spaces we took part it, we highlight the Schools for Memory and Non-Repetition, a joint initiative of several organisations, which supports the efforts of communities and organisations to record, document and reflect on the root causes of violence and what is needed for peace.
Achievements: The Psychosocial Team held 52 workshops, in which 923 people took part.
This year, we are concerned to observe the gradual fall in financial support for human rights protection in Colombia. And yet, the increase in attacks and murders of defenders in 2016 demonstrates that their security situation is deteriorating as a result of their work and the attempts to supress it. We must not fall prey to the illusion that Colombia has become a place where defending human rights is guaranteed, now that the Government and FARC have signed an agreement. The figures, reports and testimonies point to a very different reality, one where people who advocate for building a sustainable peace with social justice, more than ever, need the support of the international community in terms of protection, raising awareness and funding.