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Human Rights in Colombia: An Underwhelming Balance

11 March 2013

During the Human Rights Council 22nd session, the Colombian Commission of Jurists organised a side-event with the aim of assessing the performance of the Colombian government in its obligations towards human rights.

The results are mixed and far from satisfying. Indeed, though the government has taken several legislative measures, they are not translated into concrete actions and remain solely formal. Symbolic domestication of recommendations is not sufficient: without material and concrete measures for implementation, the reality of Colombia will not change.

A few positive changes

The beginning of peace negotiations in August 2012 between the government and FARC rebels is a very positive sign for the improvement of the global situation in the country and shows the willingness of both parties to put an end to this age-old conflict.

In 2011, a law on forced displacements acknowledged the existence of an armed conflict in Colombia and established the direct responsibility of the Colombian State for this conflict, as well as its failure to protect civilians in such context.  According to the NGO representatives in the panel, this law is a significant step forward on the issue of forced displacements and land restitution.

In addition, it was acknowledged that since the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Colombia in 2008, there have been many realizations in the domain of human rights, and the government has implemented some valuable recommendations.

Major preoccupations remain

Impunity remains an issue of major concern in Colombia, in particular for cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence. Only 30% of reported cases of extrajudicial killings are investigated! The situation is even more appalling for cases of forced disappearances: less than 25% of reported cases are subject to investigations.

Furthermore, women are once again the main victims of this impunity since the vast majority  -almost 90%- of cases of violence against women are not investigated or do not lead to a definitive decision about the criminal responsibility of the offenders.

There is therefore an urgent need to tackle impunity and to give victims the justice and reparation they claim.  This can only be done by a fair justice system, but there is the rub: military tribunals investigate many of these human rights violations, which constitutes a violation to the human right to a fair trial.

Regarding the peace process between the government and FARC, most of local NGOs agree to say that civil society is not involved enough in the negotiations. This needs to be addressed, it is thus essential that the international community keeps monitoring compliance of the peace negotiations with human rights.

Human rights are thus revealed as a key factor in the conflict in Colombia. The international community has an obligation to contribute and monitor the compliance of human rights in Colombia particularly through the UPR mechanism. Indeed, so far as human rights are not respected by the government of Colombia and all actors within the country, a solution to the armed conflict will be far.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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