Our work in Colombia

Published: 15 June 2009 Updated: 4 August 2015

The starting point for our development cooperation with Colombia is to contribute to ending the nearly 50-year internal armed conflict in the country. Sweden sees a negotiated settlement as the only way to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation. Now there is hope as formal peace talks begin between the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla.

Sweden’s work focuses on two areas: peace and security, and human rights and democratic governance. The target is for sustainable peace to contribute to better living conditions and the opportunity to take an active part in social life. In its role as a bridge-builder and with its broad contacts, Sweden can have a positive influence on events here.

To carry out our work, we work with many different stakeholders, civil society, the Ministry of Agriculture and several UN agencies. Many Swedish civil society-organizations are also active in Colombia.

One strategic issue is to help break down the political and social exclusion in which major groups of Colombians live.

Peace and security

Sweden's efforts in peace building in Colombia began with the support to produce the UN Human Development Report – “Dead End with a resort” – in 2003. This groundbreaking report highlighted the structural causes of the armed conflict and came up with suggestions for solutions. Based on this report, Sweden and the UNDP elaborated a regional peace and development programme in six regions of the conflict-affected Colombia. This initiative is now a solid foundation for peace building at a local level.

Sweden's long-standing efforts to be a partner for peace in Colombia has been of great importance to start the peace process. Support to organisations in civil society has helped to keep the necessity of a negotiated solution to the conflict, alive in the public debate. Support to UNICEF has helped to prevent recruitment of children and young people to illegal armed groups and facilitated the demobilization. The Swedish Presidency of the donor group for gender equality has focused attention on sexual violence in conflict and the role of women as actors in peacebuilding. A prerequisite for a successful peace process and national integration is that the conflict victims obtain redress and recognition. Sweden supports this process in many ways, with a particular focus on strengthening the national capacity for transitional justice and the restitution of illegally acquired land.

Sweden is actively driving a political dialogue in Colombia. Civil society, including women’s organisations and peace movements, plays an important role in peace building. Through a special fund, we support more than 30 organisations in the Colombian civil society.

Human rights and democratic governance

Despite the progress made in strengthening the legal protection of human rights, the human rights situation remains severe, the armed conflict continues with further abuse that also includes sexual violence, especially against women, and forced recruitment of children to the guerrillas. Institutional cooperation must be improved and more resources devoted in order to realize the citizen’s demands on the government protecting and fulfilling their rights.

The Swedish support to organisations that gather victims of human rights violations has made them stronger and better equipped to participate in peacebuilding activities. State actors have also increased their capacity to meet their obligations. A national system for threatened human rights activists has provided greater protection to more than 10 000 people, and the MR Ombudsman has with Swedish support strengthened its local work, providing increased protection for vulnerable groups in rural areas. The system of transitional justice has been further developed and applied; more than 9,000 victims of the conflict has been involved in processes that provided increased clarity about the abuse, and other processes to provide redress have been initiated.

A national policy for gender equality has been developed by the state in collaboration with civil society, with support from Sweden. Both victims of the conflict as well as institutions, such as the General Prosecutor’s office and human rights ombudsman’s office, are now much better equipped to deal with the issue of redress for victims. The issue is handled with a more holistic perspective and includes, for example, the question of the restitution of illegally acquired land. Search for and identification of missing people is also of great relevance for rehabilitation of the families and can enable healing and contribute to reconciliation.

Sweden is supporting efforts that contribute to strengthening civil society and ensuring the state exercises its responsibility to its citizens. For example, Sweden is one of the biggest donors to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman. The ombudsman also has a presence in the rural areas, where there are sometimes no authorities other than the military. The inhabitants can submit reports to the ombudsman, who acts as a link to other authorities.

Sweden is also providing considerable humanitarian assistance, which is guided by the Swedish strategy for humanitarian efforts. The main parties here are the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Humanitarian aid is directed primarily to internally displaced persons and to strengthening the Colombian state's capacity to find viable solutions to the internal refugee crisis.

During 2013, we particularly focus on:

1. Implementation of the law on assistance to victims of the conflict and the return of stolen land,
2.Strategic actions on human rights with particular focus on human rights defenders
3.Women as actors for peace in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security.

Read more about the developments in Colombia.

Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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