In 2017, Colombia revealed the unwavering resilience of its people and showed the world how different communities around the country, from Punta Gallinas, in La Guajira, to Quebrada de San Antonio, in Nariño, worked to rebuild the bonds of trust and recover the social fabric after so many years of polarization and confrontation. For the first time in more than five decades, Colombians were able to live free from the noise of guns and the violence generated by the longest armed conflict in Latin America, which has left 8.3 million registered victims, 31% of which are children and adolescents. The peace accord signed between the State and the former FARC-EP guerilla in September 2016 is an example of how human rights, democratic values, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation can prevail over war, hatred and revenge.
As expected, the peace agreement, the disarmament and demobilization of the guerrilla group did not automatically solve the country's profound social problems. Throughout the past year, the peace process faced obstacles and suffered delays that on several occasions gave rise to harsh criticism that questioned its relevance and sustainability. However, the data speaks for itself: the 2017 homicide rate is the lowest recorded in the past 30 years and there has also been a dramatic fall in the number of kidnappings, accidents caused by antipersonnel mines, internal displacement and other events related to the armed conflict. The country has begun receiving peace dividends. It is up to the State and all sectors of civil society to ensure that peace agreements prevail and continue to be fulfilled during this year of political transition, so that dividends continue to grow and benefit all Colombians.
The peace accord signed between the state and the former FARC-EP in September 2016 is an example of how human rights, democratic values, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation can prevail over war, hatred and revenge.
Despite the progress made, there are still urgent challenges: the prevalence of poverty, inequalities, social exclusion and the emergence or intensification of other types of violence cause extreme suffering and may even threaten the sustainability of peace agreements in the long run. The poorest regions of Colombia, where most of the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities live, suffer from violence perpetrated by other non-State armed groups, which is derived from illegal economic activities, including the exploitation and sexual trafficking of children and adolescents.
The peace accord represents an enormous opportunity for the State to be present throughout the entire national territory, not only by means of playing a stronger role in infrastructure and security matters, but also ensuring greater social presence that enables the population, especially children and adolescents, to access health services, nutrition, education, culture, recreation, protection and justice, ensuring that they can all develop their potential and can become productive members of a peaceful society. Today's children will sustain human rights and peace in Colombia in the coming years and it is up to us to guarantee that they have the best skills to carry out this task.
Today's children will sustain human rights and peace in Colombia in the coming years and it is up to us to guarantee that they have the best skills to carry out this task.
During 2017, UNICEF continued to work strategically to move forth in this direction and promote the rights of children in Colombia, thus contributing to the construction of peace and reconciliation and sustainable development. UNICEF worked at the national and subnational levels, through different coordinated strategies, in close cooperation with the national Government and in partnership with a wide range of partners and allies from the public and private sectors, international cooperation, academia, civil society organizations and donors, among others.
Our allies and donors’ experience, knowledge, commitment, support and unconditional generosity enabled UNICEF to successfully address various challenges during the year. Moreover, allies and donors were fundamental in allowing UNICEF’s rapid response to emergencies and humanitarian crises in Colombia during 2017, as was the case in Mocoa, Putumayo on April 1, when a landslide killed more than 300 people and directly affected approximately 15,000 children and adolescents. UNICEF responded quickly through interventions in water, sanitation and hygiene, education and protection and designed a long-term development project to address the underlying problems of social disparity and marginalization in the urban and peri-urban areas of Mocoa.
The report below summarizes some of the main results of our work in Colombia during 2017, demonstrating how teamwork led to sustainable results for the benefit of children and adolescents. Once again, we want to thank our strategic partners, allies and donors who, through their work and their contributions, have supported us along every step on the path towards peace. We hope that you will remain by our side in our tireless mission to provide a better country for children and adolescents.
Roberto De Bernardi
UNICEF Colombia Representative