Sample Colombia Delegation Themes
Witness for Peace partners with many colleges and universities in the U.S. to create delegations customized to fit the group’s interests. We guide your group's preparation for the trip to Colombia and help organize events upon the group's return to the U.S.
The following are sample delegation themes. We also tailor delegations to individual group objectives.
A War on Drugs or a War on People?
Colombia has endured decades of brutal armed conflict. Meanwhile, U.S. involvement exacerbates internal disputes, leading to gross human rights violations and creating one of the world´s largest humanitarian crises. Since Plan Colombia was undertaken in 2000, the United States has sent $7 billion to Colombia - mostly counter narcotics and military aid. But instead of reducing coca production or bringing peace, Plan Colombia only subjected the population to more violence. Witness for Peace delegates see the effects of U.S. policy firsthand, learning about positive alternatives from the communities at the frontlines of misguided and inhumane approaches to stopping drug trafficking. Delegates travel to Guaviare or Putumayo to witness the effects of U.S. military aid and aerial fumigations, returning with the knowledge and skills necessary to advocate against Plan Colombia and for investment in Colombian people.
Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal
Almost half of the electricity in the United States comes from burning coal. This Witness for Peace delegation takes participants to two regions devastated by coal mining: one in Kentucky and one in northern Colombia. The delegation begins with a tour organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC). Then delegates travel to a mining region in Colombia, the country that over the past decade has been the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere, as well as the country with one of the highest rates of violence. Foreign corporations control Colombia’s coal mines and much of the coal is exported to supply power plants in the eastern U.S. These corporations have been accused of serious human rights violations and in some ways actually benefit from the violence. Traveling to northern Colombia, Witness for Peace delegates meet with human rights activists, trade unionists, displaced persons, members of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities and other demographics affected by coal production in Colombia. Meetings focus on how we, as U.S. consumers, can work in solidarity with these communities and organizations to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations.
Meet Colombian Communities Resisting Repression
While claiming to fight narcotics and guerrillas, the U.S.-backed Colombian Army and its paramilitary allies often drive subsistence farmers off their land to make way for large-scale agribusiness. The proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States would make a bad situation worse by giving wealthy investors increased incentives to take over land. Despite death threats and ongoing violence, some displaced people are returning in a nonviolent effort to regain their stolen lands. For example, in the region near Panama, where paramilitary death squads and the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade violently displaced 15,000 people in 1997, large cattle ranches and monocrop plantations replaced sustainable farms and forests. While the case is held up in court, returning families are establishing a toe-hold in the region by forming humanitarian biodiversity zones. These communities rely on international attention for their survival. Witness for Peace delegates will have the extraordinary opportunity to meet with the leaders of these communities. They will also meet with political analysts, human rights defenders and both U.S. and Colombian government officials.
Colombia: Human Rights and Indigenous Movements
Colombia is home to approximately 80 different indigenous groups, at least 27 of which are in danger of extinction according to the United Nations. It is estimated that since 2002, more than 1200 indigenous people have been killed in the ongoing internal conflict. However, indigenous movements to maintain or regain land rights and preserve cultural traditions are thriving. These movements face oppression and violence from both illegal armed actors and the government. Witness for Peace delegates travel to Cauca to visit these indigenous groups and their leaders and learn about their efforts to secure their future existence. They also meet with human rights workers, community leaders and both U.S. and Colombian government officials. Join this delegation to bear witness to the impacts U.S. policy has on the state of human rights in Colombia and to learn what you can do to take action upon your return to the U.S.
Corporate Abuse, Military Repression, Displacement and the Proposed Free Trade Agreement
This year the U.S. and Colombia are considering signing a free trade agreement (FTA). Colombia is one of the most biodiverse, natural resource-rich countries in the world. Unfortunately, fertile soils have not led to peace or justice. In 2007, the U.S. corporation Chiquita Brands International admitted to financing Colombian paramiltaries to protect their economic interests in Colombia. These squads had massacred thousands of people and displaced numerous communities from their land. Then Chiquita used the confiscated land to expand their agro-business. Taking advantage of the ongoing internal conflict, many other corporations have been accused of grave human rights abuses, forced displacement of communities, worker exploitation, murdering trade union leaders and crimes against the environment. This delegation focuses on how the new free trade agreement could exacerbate environmental degradation, abuses of farmers’ rights, and the displacement of individuals and entire communities. Delegates return to the U.S. able to counter misinformation about the FTA and effectively advocate against its passage.
Other Delegation Themes
- Defeating Global Corporate Greed With Global Workers Solidarity
- Militarism in Colombia: the Devastating Economic and Humanitarian Consequences
- Colombian Women: Leading the Way to Justice and Peace
Witness for Peace can also customize delegations for your group. Please contact Ken Crowley at Ken@witnessforpeace.org for more information.
Click here for the Colombia delegation schedule.
Click here to see where delegations travel in Colombia.