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In the Spotlight: LIMPAL Colombia’s Take on Colombia’s UPR Adoption

As Colombia prepares for the adoption of the outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR)  by the Human Rights Council  during its current 55th session, it’s crucial to examine the challenges and opportunities ahead. In this insightful Q&A with Liliana Garcia from LIMPAL Colombia (WILPF Colombia), she sheds light on Colombia’s human rights landscape, particularly regarding women’s rights. To read the full version of the Q&A, you can access it here in English and Spanish. This blog is also available in Spanish.

Image credit: WILPF
Liliana García Larrotta
21 March 2024

The UPR is a peer-review process through which each member state of the United Nations (UN) is reviewed against its obligations and commitments by other states, about every  5 years. It aims to enhance human rights protection globally. The review is based on information in three reports: one submitted by the state under review and two reports with information from the UN and civil society, respectively. The Colombian section of WILPF — known with the Spanish acronym LIMPAL Colombia — contributed to the civil society report in 2023. All recommendations made by other states to Colombia in the UPR Working Group were compiled in a report that will be adopted by the Human Rights Council on 22 March 2024.

Colombia has accepted almost all recommendations received in this cycle of the UPR. This signals the government’s commitment to addressing human rights concerns and implementing recommendations. Implementing these recommendations, engaging with civil society and further enhancing cooperation with international human rights bodies are fundamental steps to follow.

Swipe through the slider below to find a series of videos about the human rights situation in Colombia:

Q1: Can you summarise the situation of women’s human rights in Colombia, particularly regarding gender-based violence?

Colombia has faced a surge in violence stemming from territorial disputes and illegal economies, predominantly impacting rural communities and leadership roles, with disproportionate effects on women and the LGBTQI+ community. Gender-based violence remains a critical issue; the need to combat stereotypes, sexual violence, and impunity were already highlighted in the previous UPR cycle in 2018. Shockingly, between 2018 and 2022, 3,106 femicides and transfemicides happened, primarily perpetrated by firearms, often by partners in domestic settings. 

Despite regulatory frameworks, impunity levels for domestic violence exceed 90 per cent. Domestic violence remains prevalent, with over 274,000 active cases reported by February 2023. Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected, constituting just over 85 per cent of sexual violence cases. Additionally, women face challenges in access to work, equal pay, and social protection, challenges that are contributing to the feminisation of poverty. Due to the increase in violence against women and LGBTQI+ community, the women’s social movement has asked the government to declare a national emergency. This was declared effective on 5 May 2023 under the National Development Plan.

Q2: What is the Final Peace Agreement, and how has it addressed gender issues?

The Final Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) aimed to terminate the armed conflict lasting over 50 years, laying the groundwork for sustainable peace. Despite an initial setback following a narrow defeat of the peace agreement in the plebiscite for its endorsement, some modifications were made leading to the signing of the revised peace agreement on 24 November 2016. 

The Peace Agreement incorporates various components crucial for peacebuilding, including compensation for victims, addressing conditions prolonging the conflict and a transitional justice model ensuring truth and reparation for victims. Additionally, it marks a milestone by integrating a gender approach, recognising the disproportionate impact of armed conflicts on women and including measures to promote women’s rights. This strong gender focus was achieved thanks to the active participation of women and women’s organisations in the peace process.

However, challenges persist in the full implementation of the gender provisions included in the Agreement. As of November 2022, only 12 percent of them had been implemented, which shows that progress remains clearly insufficient. Budget allocations for gender indicators are inadequate, hindering efforts to close social and economic gaps. In 2020 and 2021, the budget allocated to the gender measures represented only three per cent of the overall budget for the implementation of the Peace Agreement. This three per cent is also a microscopic percentage of the funds allocated to the military sector. 

Furthermore, there’s a lack of comprehensive understanding of the gender approach and limited citizen participation in implementation, undermining the Final Agreement’s potential impact. Additionally, concerns arise regarding security guarantees for ex-combatants and their families, as evidenced by ongoing violence and displacement in the Former Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (AETCR), which are the government-established sites for reincorporation of former combatants. 

These obstacles underscore the imperative need for ongoing efforts to ensure the effective implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, and the implementation of the current government’s policy of Total Peace and the realisation of sustainable peace in Colombia 

Q3: Can you share some insights of the challenges indigenous peoples, particularly women, face in Colombia and the impact of the incomplete implementation of the Final Peace Agreement.

Indigenous communities in Colombia find themselves at the epicentre of a humanitarian crisis, facing a real risk of physical and cultural extinction due to armed conflict and forced displacement. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), 39 towns face extermination risks, and 35 communities are at great risk of disappearing.

In 2022 alone, a staggering 453,018 Indigenous people fell victim to violent actions such as confinement and forced displacement. Despite the inclusion of the Ethnic Chapter in the Peace Agreement, the stark reality is a meagre 2.4 per cent implementation of this chapter, leaving Indigenous rights hanging in the balance. The challenges extend to effective participation, collective reparations that fail to prioritise women’s needs, and the alarming increase in violence against Indigenous women leaders. The sluggish progress raises concerns about the effective protection of the rights and self-governance of Indigenous Peoples, emphasising the need for urgent and comprehensive implementation.

Q5: The militarisation of public spending is also mentioned in the joint report despite the government’s policy of Total Peace. What are your observations on this and what do feminists recommend to counteract this worrying trend?

Despite the current government’s Total Peace policy, the military budget was increased by nine per cent in 2023, overshadowing allocations for the Final Peace Agreement and women’s equity initiatives. LIMPAL Colombia emphasises the need to redirect resources, advocating for a progressive reduction in military spending towards prioritising peacebuilding and gender equality efforts. We call for a transformative overhaul of the Security and Defense sector, urging policymakers to broaden the concept of human security to encompass women’s daily experiences of violence. This reform should challenge militarised masculinities and promote justice through civilian legal channels, rather than relying solely on military approaches.

Moreover, the proliferation of small arms exacerbates violence in Colombia, with firearms involved in a significant portion of homicides, particularly impacting women. LIMPAL Colombia stresses the importance of integrating a gender perspective into disarmament policies and regulating arms marketing to stem the illegal arms trade. This entails reassessing the concentration of weapon control within the military and enhancing surveillance and control mechanisms to facilitate effective disarmament. By addressing these challenges, Colombia can mitigate the militarisation of public spending, foster sustainable peace and advance gender equality initiatives, aligning with its commitment to building a safer and more equitable society.

Q6: In the joint report that LIMPAL Colombia submitted to the UPR jointly with Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir Colombia, CDD-Colombia and Corporación de Apoyo a Comunidades Populares, Codacop , you have indicate that despite the Constitutional Court’s decriminalisation of abortion up to the 24th week of gestation in 2006, access to safe abortion remains limited and punishable by the Penal Code in Colombia. Can you describe the existing barriers to women’s sexual and reproductive rights and their impact?

Despite significant legal strides, Colombia continues to grapple with barriers to accessing safe abortion services, perpetuating a climate of fear and stigma surrounding reproductive rights. The Just Cause Movement (Causa Justa in Spanish) has identified various obstacles, particularly affecting members of marginalised groups. These obstacles include inadequate knowledge among healthcare personnel, unnecessary requirements for accessing abortion, and inadequately regulated exercise of conscientious objection. Restrictive interpretations of the legal framework further compound these challenges, fostering confusion and misinformation exploited by anti-rights movements. These barriers not only impede access to essential healthcare but also perpetuate discrimination and marginalisation, hindering progress towards gender equality and reproductive autonomy. Addressing these systemic challenges requires comprehensive reforms and education initiatives to ensure the effective implementation of abortion regulations and uphold the fundamental rights of all in Colombia.

Related resources to follow the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia:

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Liliana García Larrotta

Liliana is a psychology professional with expertise in feminist and gender studies. She’s dedicated to empowering women’s political participation and rights enforcement, and she’s passionate about preventing gender-based violence. With a focus on gender, women’s rights, and ethnicity, Liliana has supported women and girls across Colombia. She spent three years at the WILPF Colombia, with two years as an advocacy and research professional.

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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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