Defending human rights

IssueNovember 2005
Feature by Susi Bascon

Since the Colombia Project was set up 11 years ago, Peace Brigades International has maintained a continuous presence in the regions most affected by the armed conflicts in Colombia.

PBI's aim has been the protection of internally displaced people and of human rights in general. In order to accomplish these aims, the project uses various different working strands. Some of its main “forces” are the presence of observers/international accompaniers, as well as the provision of mental health and psychosocial support.

It is also necessary to raise awareness in different sectors of the government, military authorities and civil society, of the concerns and the attention with which the international community follows the human rights situation in the country. On the international level, PBI Colombia has been raising awareness of the lack of an effective state protection programme and the necessity to monitor the implementation of human rights.

From the field

In many circumstances PBI, and the organisations whom we accompany, have faced dangerous security situations. As a consequence, it has been crucial to inform the international community so that they could not only express concern to the Colombian government, but also call for action to be taken to protect volunteers and those they accompany. Without this accurate information, direct from the field, this concerted action could not be possible.

During the first six months of 2005, PBI Colombia maintained 35 international observers, with a presence in the offices of human rights organisations and in communities of displaced people, with the aim of making these safe places, free from human rights violations. New accompaniment requests from different regions of the country are regularly being made. PBI continues to invest its main resources in the regions where teams are currently maintained (Bogota', Barrancaberrneja, Medelli'n and Uraba') and intends to intensify its work.

Widening focus

Complex funding and political scenarios, due to the changed climate for human rights work since 9/11, has led PBI Colombia to refine its strategic plan for the period 2005-2008.

Although the reason for PBI's existence continues to be focused on protection, both for human rights defenders and displaced communities, accompaniment tools are also used to highlight three of the main causes of human rights violations and attacks in Colombia: impunity (hugely apparent in Colombia), economic interests and resistance-based organisational processes.