For decades Catatumbo has been the epicenter of sociopolitical violence and armed conflict. The region encompasses ten municipalities in the department of Norte de Santander, on the Venezuelan border. The 2016 signature of the Peace Agreement brought hope of peace and a dignified life for the communities. However, the lack of its comprehensive implementation has obstructed addressing the armed conflict’s structural causes and has left communities at the mercy of intensifying violence. The Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers Collective (CCALCP)—a group of women lawyers and human rights defenders with 22 years of experience defending human rights—is one of the organizations that accompanies the Catatumbo Peasant Association (ASCAMCAT) and the peasant communities of Catatumbo, whom they represent through strategic litigation to demand compliance with the Peace Agreement.
According to Julia Figueroa, president of the lawyers collective, the peasant communities of Catatumbo have experienced a violation of their rights due to non-compliance with the Peace Agreement and, in particular, due to the humanitarian and economic crisis caused by non-compliance with the National Comprehensive Program for Illicit Use Crop Substitution (PNIS) established in point 4 of the Agreement. Specifically, the Government promised to implement the PNIS to generate the material conditions for well-being and a good life in communities that subsist on illicit use crops, as is stipulated in point 4.1. The population that CCALCP represents is part of the first PNIS pilot plan, which began in 2017 in four rural communities of Tibú (Catatumbo), these are: Caño Indio, Palmeras Mirador, Chiquinquirá, and Progreso 2.
Continue reading Julia Figueroa: “Defend the Peace Accords from inside Catatumbo It has become a very high risk “
My First Ten Days as an Accompanier with the Urabá Team (PBI Colombia)
I am Itsaso and part of the PBI field team in Urabá. I am 31 years old. Yep… I am one of the oldest team members and am feeling nostalgic, happy and proud of myself for everything I have done over the last almost seven months as a part of the Urabá field team. I felt so many emotions, uncertainty, doubts, fears, and eagerness when I got here that I want to look back, remember those first days, and try to feel them again. So, I will light a bit of incense, make a cup of tea, and give myself a little massage before I start remembering and initiate this trip through time. I think about why I began this new project… to learn up close about the resistance and struggles of human rights defenders and, from my position and work with PBI, to accompany these initiatives to build a more peaceful world.
Ready, set… Here we go!
Continue reading Diary of a PBI volunteer
With the promise of establishing substantial changes in Colombia, based on social and environmental justice and a transformation of the security policy, recently inaugurated President Gustavo Petro, faces serious challenges at a time of increasing sociopolitical violence. According to 500 Colombian human rights organizations, the outgoing Iván Duque administration left a legacy of “hunger and war,” which became systematic human rights violations, increased violence against leaders and human rights defenders, a reactivation of the armed conflict, an expansion of paramilitary and other armed groups, as well as the expansion of illicit use crops and cocaine production in the country. 
In this context, the new president stated that he will prioritize social dialogue as a pillar to resolve the armed conflict, which has persisted over six decades in Colombia. He also highlighted the need to protect to communities and human rights to overcome the country’s historic inequalities. The Petro administration has declared that “Total Peace,” a law recently approved by Congress, will be a cornerstone of his policy to disarm all illegal armed structures, open negotiations with armed groups, bring criminal organizations before the justice system, and definitively end the conflict. The “Total Peace” policy includes several proposals from “Somos Génesis,” a network of over 180 ethnic-territorial communities, victims of the armed conflict, and who, since 2020, have been calling for the signature of Global Humanitarian Agreements and dialogue with the armed actors, allowing them to live in peace in their territory. Unfortunately, these petitions were not addressed by the prior administration.
Continue reading Colombia: “Total Peace”
For some time now, Peace Brigades International has been reflecting on the concept of holistic protection. Contributions from women defenders and feminist organizations have brought to light the need to question militaristic protection models but also to understand protection in all its dimensions. Holistic protection is a political mindset that seeks to create protection models that question the state monopoly, power relations, and individualism but it is also rooted in the idea that what is “personel is political”. That is to say, protection is also related to the ties that we create, and with our affections, identities, bodily pains, values, symbols, and ties with nature. That is why we talk about meaning or spirituality, the body-mind-heart dimension, and the collective dimension of protection. Protecting ourselves is more than just surviving, it is being able to continue with our activities as defenders of rights, it is also constructing our lives, nourishing our dreams, and strengthening our bonds.
Accordingly, protection is connected to care and, thankfully, with healing. Protecting ourselves is creating tools to prevent painful situations, that is to say, taking decisions in the face of risks generated by the context. In contexts that also have so much socio-political violence, the risks are high, as are the impacts experienced as women who seek to prevent or live with these risks. Thus, to protect ourselves we must recognize everything that the violence has, and continues to, generates in us, giving it space and value.
Continue reading What is healing?
The struggle of women in search of their loved ones, victims of enforced disappearance
“So many years have gone by since my son was disappeared. Although time goes by, months and years, I won’t stop searching for him or the truth about what happened. Those of us mothers who search for our disappeared loved ones, we don’t see obstacles, we don’t hear discouraging voices; we are strong women with our eyes set on the horizon, searching for those who were taken from us; we are thousands of mothers searching for truth, a body to cry over, and more than anything… that this doesn’t happen again”.
Continue reading “Bring them back alive, because they were taken alive”