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UN highlights Colombia’s progress in Human Rights

Article - September 12, 2013

Vice President Angelino Garzon elaborates on how Colombia, invited to join the OECD this year, is progressing in peace negotiations and is making great strides towards improving equality and human and labor rights

In record time, Colombia has been invited to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), following its ambition to belong to a club of countries with transparent economic practices which contribute to global development. Colombia applied for this membership of this elite club in 2010 and it will be the third Latin American country to join following Mexico and Chile. The OECD’s invitation for Colombia to launch accession talks with the multilateral organization represents a positive step that could help propel economic reform efforts and pro-growth policies, according to Fitch Ratings.
Colombia’s Vice President, who traveled to Paris in April to meet with OECD representatives, states that this effort is the result of the belief that “belonging to the OECD will allow Colombia to consolidate its good practices in governance, in transparency, in the fight against corruption and in positive economic and social development.” 
Angelino Garzon, who was also present at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), believes that OECD membership can also consolidate Colombia’s “best practices related to the defense of human rights, including labor rights and trade union freedoms.”
In fact Colombia submitted its second national report to the UPR Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva last April. As Mr. Garzon explains, they “had a renewed commitment with the Human Rights Council of the United Nations after the country’s first Universal Period Review in December 2008” when the country assumed voluntary commitments and accepted recommendations from various different countries. 
One of the recommendations Colombia received in 2008 was delivered by the government of Uruguay and insisted that Colombia seek dialogue with the guerrillas to find a path to peace for the country. President Santos has since acted on this recommendation as well as others aimed at developing a practice in promoting and defending human rights including labor and trade union freedoms, and obviously also including protecting defenders of human rights. The result for Colombia following the Vice President’s presentation at Geneva’s UPR last April was “highly positive” as officials noted there “was a very clear acknowledgment of the country’s advances and progress on human rights matters.”
Despite its internal armed conflict, Colombia is one of the countries with the highest number of International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions ratified in the world. The explanation for this, according to Mr. Garzon, is that “Colombia knows that its economic development and the pursuit of peace are closely linked to the consolidation of a policy of full respect for human rights including respect for labor rights and trade union freedoms.” In that respect, Santos’ government is committed to turning numerous ILO conventions and recommendations into laws of the Republic because, as the Vice President believes, “the ILO is an ally Colombia has in the development of a social dialogue and in the development of a consensus.”
On the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, Mr. Garzón declared that African-Colombian people deserve to live better and in this line the government has implemented specific policies focusing on the rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. Cali and Cartagena de Indias will host the Third World Summit of Leaders of African Descent from 12 to 18 September 2013, which can reinforce their leadership and fight discrimination.

Whilst the Vice President explains he is aware that “things have changed on a legal level and today indigenous people and ethnic minorities in Colombia have more rights and there are more laws that protect them,” he also makes a point by claiming that “people don’t live off laws, but bread” and thus admits that even though Colombia has laws forbidding discrimination, it still exists. One of the clear initiatives to fight the lasting wounds of this prejudice is the summit which has been organized by the U.S.’ national conference of Black Mayors and Colombia’s AMUNAFRO and includes invitees such as Martin Luther King III, Italy’s integration minister Cécile Kyenge, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff or the South African former president Thabo Mbeki. 
As Mr. Garzon points out in Colombia “unfortunately we still have to recognize that misery, hunger and unemployment are still personified by blacks, indigenous people, rural workers, females and young people,” and the summit wants to reinforce black leadership and show that “the black communities hold a great potential to govern cities, regions or the country.”


Adaeke Ajuluchukwu
16/09/2013  |  3:30
100% of 1

Afrocolombians have to unite for a clear leadership, the poorest people in Latin America these days are afros and indigenous people. I think the Cali summit is a sound initiative.

Chibugo Mbadiwe
16/09/2013  |  3:31
100% of 1

Dis guy da craze, i like dis man for president.

Henry Ferney
17/09/2013  |  1:30
100% of 1

Apoyemos a nuestros agricultores, somos todos hijos del campo