Fórsa Senior General Secretary Kevin Callinan has told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs that Columbia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. Giving evidence alongside fellow Justice for Columbia board member Mariela Kohon last week, he said a 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas was “facing huge challenges, and more so since the election of President Iván Duque.”
“It is a source of serious worry that elements of the Colombian peace agreement have been ignored, changed or progressed too slowly,” he said.
Earlier this month Fórsa General Secretary Eoin Ronayne, who recently visited the conflict-torn country, told the ICTU biennial delegate conference that twice as many trade unionists there had been murdered last year than in 2017.
The Columbian peace agreement was meant to bring decades of conflict between Government forces and FARC to an end. It has six pillars including rural reform, enhanced political participation, disarmament, an end to the illicit drug problem, the establishment of a truth commission, and a commission to ensure the agreement is fully implemented.
But Kevin told the Oireachtas committee that the new Duque administration has been frustrating the agreement. Duque, who is openly hostile to the deal, has under-resourced its measures for dealing with the consequences of the conflict. And the chapters that address the root causes of the conflict – rural reform and political participation – have not been implemented.
Kevin said our experiences on this island gave Ireland “special responsibility” to act.
Ms Kohon, who is also the international officer of Britain’s ICTU-equivalent – the Trade Union Congress – told committee members that FARC has complied with their obligations and the UN has verified their disarmament. But she said the Government had abrogated its responsibilities.
It’s estimated that over 590 social leaders, including human rights defenders and trade unionists, have been assassinated since the agreement was signed in November 2016. Callinan and Kohon called on the international community, including Ireland, to act to support the Columbian peace process.
You can watch Kevin Callinan and Mariela Kohon’s evidence HERE.
You can read Kevin’s submission HERE.