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Colombia: Peace is Possible

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Colombia is enduring the worst human rights crisis in the Western hemisphere today. The current conflict is rooted in a long history of extreme inequality and political exclusion, though it has intensified dramatically in recent years due in part to the infusion of drug-related profits that many of the armed actors currently receive.

Colombia has the second largest number of internally displaced people in the world. Since the mid 1990s more than 3 million Colombians have been forced from their homes as a result of violence and threats by armed actors and efforts to forcibly gain control of land and resources from marginalized communities. Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities have disproportionately been targeted in this ongoing tragedy.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provides humanitarian assistance for those impacted by the conflict and supports local and international efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to a very violent situation. In partnership with the Colombian Catholic Church, CRS works to strengthen civil society and create a culture of peace in the face of the country's prolonged and complex crisis. CRS promotes education for peace and advocacy for policies that will form the foundation of a just and lasting resolution to the current conflict. And CRS helps to rebuild families and communities by promoting peace, community organization and economic opportunities.

CRS Policy Position

In its advocacy for positive change in U.S. policy towards Colombia, CRS promotes greater awareness about the human rights and humanitarian crisis and the most important issues identified by the Colombian and U.S. Bishop Conferences, including:

Support efforts to bolster a negotiated, political path towards peace

The Colombian Conference of Catholic Bishops emphasizes the importance of continuing on the path to a negotiated peace process as the only viable long-term strategy for resolving the conflict. To date the United States has had a limited role in international efforts to support national peace processes.

Increase development and humanitarian aid to Colombia

The United States can make a significant positive contribution to long-term peace and stability in Colombia by shifting the focus of its foreign aid toward effective social development. Assistance to the internally displaced should be increased and its impact well documented. Aid to the internally displaced is one of the most positive elements of the U.S. aid in Colombia but remains a small proportion of the overall U.S. funding.

Include basic standards for the protection of human rights in all aid programs

Particular importance should be given to promoting the rights of the victims of the conflict to "truth, justice and reparations," an end to impunity, and to ensuring strict application of human rights conditions on U.S. assistance.

Phase out aerial fumigation, and increase appropriate alternative development

The Colombian Bishops have stated their clear opposition to fumigation, both as an ineffective strategy to address the serious problem of coca production and drug trafficking, but also because fumigation has destroyed food crops, raised contamination and health concerns and led to increased rates of violence and displacement in areas where is has occurred.

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