During the last two decades Colombia has been affected by a protracted conflict between the national government, the insurgent groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and criminal organizations known as BACRIM (Clan Úsuga, Rastrojos, etc.) The country has registered 9,584 land mine accidents, killing and maiming more than 11,000 people. This has positioned Colombia as one of the countries that has the highest number of landmine accidents in the world.
Conflict in Colombia has resulted in a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in neighboring countries (Venezuela and Ecuador); more than six million people were registered as internally displaced in 2014 (UNHCR). According to the report “Basta ya” (Stop now), written in 2013 by Colombia’s National Centre for Historical Memory, 80% of victims affected by conflict-related violence and landmines were civilians. Kidnapping, threatening, forcible disappearances and illegal trafficking are some of everyday matters that civil society is affected with; reaching more than 7,712,014 victims in the country
In November 2012, the Government of Colombia and the FARC entered into comprehensive peace talks in Havana, Cuba; the talks have resulted in a deadline of the 23rd of March 2016 for signing a peace agreement.
The final document will address five focus areas:
- Agricultural development policy: this includes access, infrastructure and land use; formalization of property; protection of reserve areas; social development (health, education, housing, eradication of poverty); consolidation of cooperatives through technical assistance, subsidies, credit and income generation; marketing and legal labor; and food security system. The agricultural development policy is fundamental to promote equitable integration of the regions and socio economic development.
- Political participation: this includes rights and guarantees towards political opposition parties (particularly for the FARC) and new movements that could appear after signing the final agreement; media access; promotion of direct civil and political participation at national, regional and local levels in all sectors of the population; and protection of vulnerable groups.
- End of conflict: this includes peacebuilding and security assurances; ceasefire and hostilities; weapon and landmine clearing; inclusion of FARC and ELN to political, economic and social life. Colombian government will coordinate and review convicted persons, and also those who have been deprived of liberty or collaborated with FARC-ENL; it will intensify the fight against corruption, impunity, slaughtering, killing, drugs and other trafficking, by eliminating criminal organizations and their networks, together with the defense of humanitarian and political movements.
- Eradication of illicit drugs: this includes developing programmes for replacing illegal crops and eradicating the illicit in every stage (production, marketing, and commercialization). Including community participation on design, implementation and evaluation of the programmes.
- Victims: compensation and health improvements for civilian victims of the conflict.
This historical agreement looks extremely promising, and will take effect immediately once the final peace deal has been signed in March 2016. As part of the peace negotiations, the FARC has agreed to work jointly with Colombian security forces to clear land mines in selected areas of Colombia as part of a peacebuilding pilot project. There is also an interest to initiate peace dialogues between the government and the ELN in 2015.
DDG in Colombia
Danish Demining Group (DDG) has been working in Colombia since 2010, when the country approved a new law allowing international NGOs to take part in mine action in Colombia.
Currently, DDG has two separate focal areas in Colombia: technical support to the Colombian government department in charge of mine action coordination, the Dirección para la Acción Integral contra Minas Antipersonal (DAICMA), and the setup of a humanitarian mine action program.
The first focal area, technical support to the DAICMA, financed by the European Union, involves the provision of mine action expertise through three consultants in the areas of coordination, prioritisation, development of National Standards, monitoring, conflict analysis, and technical operations advice. This project began in October 2014, and runs until April 2016.
The second focal area, DDG’s setup of a humanitarian mine action program, has been a long process, however due to the recently simplified accreditation process it is expected that DDG will receive its accreditation and permission to set up operations by the end of 2015. DDG plans to start with non-technical survey and MRE interventions, building up a local Colombian operational capacity to be able to start clearance operations in 2016. DDG also intends to explore opportunities for its Armed Violence Reduction programming, in support of the Colombian peace process which will begin in earnest in 2016.