Ireland is a committed supporter of human rights defenders, open civil society space and the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms. I am aware of the recent events in Cauca province, which unfortunately act as a reminder of the challenges that Colombia is facing as it implements the peace agreement.
The absence of the State in former conflict areas following the demobilisation of the FARC, including in the Cauca province, has resulted in other armed groups gaining control of these areas, primarily to control the illegal economy. This has implications for the security of the local communities, particularly for human rights defenders and community leaders, as witnessed in Cauca.
Our new resident Embassy in Bogotá has been engaging with civil society, EU and multilateral partners on the human rights situation in the country, since it opened at the beginning of the year. We also regularly raise this issue in our exchanges with the Colombian Government.
Earlier this year, former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, in his position as EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process, a role in which he is supported by my Department, led the 11th session of the EU-Colombia Human Rights Dialogue. Particular reference was made to the disproportionately high level of violence against indigenous leaders, and the need for collective protection measures.
Ireland supports the Colombian Government’s full implementation of the peace agreement. The peace process is fundamental to improving the human rights situation in the country and Ireland has contributed over €14 million in support of this since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on human rights, conflict prevention, peace-building and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.
As well as financial support, Ireland has also provided ongoing support in the form of lesson-sharing based on our own experience of peacebuilding and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. We also participate in the EU’s ongoing campaign to recognise and champion the work of human rights defenders in the country.
Officials in my Department in Dublin and at our Embassy in Bogotá will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Cauca and across Colombia, as Ireland continues to support Colombia in its transition to a stable, peaceful, post-conflict society.