Colombia must sustain recent steps on human rights, development – Ban Ki-moon

30 November 2007 – Colombia has taken encouraging steps towards establishing peace and security across the country but these measures must be sustained and reinforced over the next few years if they are to have any lasting effect in the Latin American country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

In his message to the Third International Conference on Colombia, held in Bogotá, Mr. Ban said recent progress in both the human rights and development fields “signal Colombia’s resurgence from years of conflict” and pledged to strengthen United Nations support of these efforts.

The demobilization of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group, had helped to dampen violence, while confessions by paramilitary leaders of crimes committed “have brought a degree of closure for victims,” he noted.

“And the Government’s ratification of the Ottawa Convention on landmines signalled a renewed push against such deadly and indiscriminate weapons.”

The Secretary-General also welcomed the passage of legislation on the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are legion after decades of conflict between Government forces, paramilitary groups and rebels.

But he said that victims of paramilitary violence need greater security and protection so that they feel able to participate in the Justice and Peace Law process, which aims to bring a measure of reconciliation.

The country’s ratification of the Ottawa Convention banning landmines “must be supported by real steps on the ground,” he said, calling for a halt to their use by illegal armed groups.

Mr. Ban also called for Colombia’s most vulnerable citizens, including its indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, to receive more focus and resources so they can fully engage in society.

The message was delivered on Mr. Ban’s behalf by Angela Kane, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Today’s conference brings together members of the international community as well as Colombian society to map out to help the country.

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