Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Human Rights and Development

The violation of human rights is at the heart of the many damaging consequences of the Colombian conflict. In most cases, it is the civilians that are hurt the most, and whose rights are violated by corrupt soldiers, paramilitaries, guerrillas, and other actors such as drug and human traffickers. Ironically, those who are marginalized have the highest stake in the resolution of the conflict.

Women, rural sectors in general and the rural poor in particular, youth, Afro-Colombians, and the indigenous people have a history of political, social, and economic inequity in Colombia, and much of the nascent literature emerging about these groups focuses on their victimization by the war, by economic policies, and by discriminatory practices. Of the approximately three million internally displaced Colombians, one-third are of African descent, more than half are women, and half are under age of fifteen.

At least 13 percent of Colombia’s rural population is now displaced, and rural poverty in Colombia reached 69 percent in 2004, up from 64 percent the previous year. Afro-Colombians (the largest minority group in Colombia, constituting about 25%-30% of the population) and indigenous communities (about 2% of the population) suffer disproportionate poverty, displacement, environmental degradation, ill health, food insecurity, and the absence of state infrastructures to promote and protect their most basic human rights.
According to the Colombian Bishops’ 2002 Ten point plan for peace, the Colombian Church recognizes that no peace is possible without a “clear criteria for sustainable human development, for cultural, economic, political, juridical and ecological development. Thus a very broad agenda is essential for the journey toward peace”.

The Colombian Church believes in the inviolability of fundamental human rights, especially the right to life. Violence as a means of political action should thus be renounced, and respect for international humanitarian law should not be violated.

The Colombian Church and Peacebuilding (PDF document), edited by Virginia M. Bouvier, contains a chapter by Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao of the Colombia Episcopal Conference and more than thirty others who share their insights on the prospects for peace.