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CIVICUS speaks to Carlos A Guevara coordinates the information
system for Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders), a non-governmental protection program for human rights defenders in Colombia. He is a journalist, audio-visual producer and social communicator specialising in human rights, armed conflict, public opinion, digital rights, peace building and humanitarian assistance based on the “do no harm” principle. He has extensive experience in supporting, training and consulting with social and human rights organisations in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico on issues of advocacy, management of public opinion and human rights, communication for protection, risk analysis, self-protection and management of communications in crisis situations.
1. What is the current status of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the guerrillas?
The negotiation process with the world’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) began in 2012 and has so far produced many results. Some people remain sceptical but the truth is that agreements have already been reached regarding the most sensitive issues, such as illicit crops, drug trafficking and reparations for victims. The last issues are being addressed including physical safety for those who demobilise. Two days ago another very positive development took place, as the ELN (National Liberation Army), the other guerrilla group that still stands in Colombia, announced the establishment of a second dialogue table that is going to start working on the basis of what has already been negotiated with the FARC. Merging both tables however does not seem feasible because the two guerrilla movements are quite different in both aims and structure: the FARC are much larger and have more territorial power and a vertical structure, while the ELN’s more horizontal structure means that negotiations and decision-making processes are more complicated and take longer.
CIVICUS speaks to Rolando Bú, the director of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH), a civil society umbrella organisation that brings together 86 Honduran NGOs. He has over 26 years of experience in civil society and volunteers at environmental and youth support NGOs. He discusses the security situation for Honduran human rights defenders and what can be done to improve the environment NGOs operate in.
1. Several recent assassinations of human rights defenders seem to corroborate the description of Honduras as the most dangerous country in the world for indigenous and environmental activists. What are the obstacles faced by human rights activists in Honduras?
The climate of insecurity in Honduras has multiple causes. One of the biggest problems is the fact that judicial institutions are weak, which makes them very vulnerable to penetration by organised crime ─ which in turn has grown exponentially over the last decade. These infiltrated institutions have not been able to prevent or promptly investigate killings, which has been apparent in the cases of human rights defenders assassinated for their work for land rights and against the exploitation of natural resources. Another, closely related factor is the concession of environmental licences allowing large domestic and foreign companies to make large investments to exploit those natural resources, often to the detriment of the ancestral territories of indigenous people.
Armando Chaguaceda Noriega is a Cuban political scientist and historian who specialises in the study of civil society and the political regimes of Cuba and other ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas) countries. He has extensive experience of participating, both in his native country and in other parts of Latin America, in several organisations and activists’ networks built around a progressive, anti-authoritarian perspective. He is a member of Amnesty International and a professor at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico.
1. After decades of isolation, Cuba returns to the Organization of American States and has received the visits of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Do you think this “opening to the world” will have any short- or medium-term effects in respect of democratic reforms or civil society freedoms?