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What Should Colombia Do to Protect Human Rights?

16 April 2013

Colombia will soon be under review at the Human Rights Council (HRC) for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), to be held on April 23.

However, before this peer review by States, UPR-Info organised a pre-session during which civil society organisations and national human rights institutions are given the floor. In this way, UPR-Info facilitates civil society to share our assessment of the human rights situation in a country since the previous review and the progress accomplished by the State under review to implement the recommendations.

WILPF was there not only to monitor this pre-session on Colombia, but also to suggest recommendations to the State delegations that were present at this session. During the UPR, only States can make official recommendations, but NGOs are the ones providing them with ideas of possible recommendations and pushing them to make the right ones. Hopefully, States will share our concerns in the course of Colombia’s review later this month.

These are the main recommendations provided by civil society during this pre-session. See below to download WILPF’s official recommendations.

Condemning and ending land grabbing and forced displacements

After Sudan, Colombia has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world. This is mainly due to the phenomenon of land grabbing, i.e. large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries, mainly by domestic and transnational companies and governments.

In Colombia, this phenomenon, which is mainly taking place in regions rich in mineral resources, remains widely unpunished. If land-grabbers acknowledge the appropriation or falsification of title deeds, the principle of opportunity a crime will be punished only if its prosecution is considered opportune is applied, and they can thus remain unpunished.

Though a law on restitution of land has been passed, Colectivo de abogados remains concerned about the lack of training of officials who implement this law. It is worrying to see that the implementation of this law remains totally dependent on the will of the government: they are the ones who ultimately make the decision on land restitution to the original owners. This law has been in place for almost two years now and the results are still far from satisfactory.

Respecting freedom of conscientious objection to military service

To date, young men have to either do their military service or pay compensation. After they have completed their service, they receive an official document that is required to enter universities and even to find a job.

Even those who refused to do their military service are required to present such a document, which is contrary to their freedom of conscience. Therefore, many are discriminated against and are denied access to education and work.

Photo of a Colombian soldier handling a rifleACOOC expressed great concern about the “military hunting”: those who refused to take part in military service can be arbitrarily detained for an extended period of time and forced to subscribe and comply with their military obligation.

Therefore, Colombia should recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service in its legislation and guarantee that conscientious objectors are able to opt for alternative service without being arbitrarily detained.

As asserted by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, most of the previous recommendations made at the last UPR of Colombia are still relevant to date and can be reiterated at the upcoming UPR session.

WILPF’s recommendations

In addition to all these recommendations made by our colleagues from civil society, WILPF stressed the lack of women’s involvement in the peace process.

Indeed, despite the UN Security Council resolution 1325 calling for the adoption of a gender perspective in post-conflict reconstruction, no women have been engaged in the main team of the peace negotiations so far.

Colombia has not yet developed its National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the resolution 1325 at domestic level, while such a plan would be an essential tool for the recognition of women as main contributors to peacebuilding, especially in the current context of the peace negotiation between the government and FARCs.

The NAP 1325 would also contribute to the monitoring and accountability of the government in implementing this resolution, which will provide clear steps towards justice and reparation for women victims of different forms of violence, gender-based violence and forced internal displacement during the 60-year armed conflict.

For more details, download WILPF’s recommendations to Colombia in English and in Spanish.

Interested in the situation of human rights in Colombia? Then, check out our two previous articles on Colombia!

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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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