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Colombia Crisis a test for the UK’s Foreign and Development Policy

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Categories: Foreign Affairs, UK Government (Westminster)

SNP urge UK Government to Implement Constructive Solutions 

The deteriorating situation in Colombia is a test for the UK’s Foreign and Development policy says SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alyn Smith MP. The country has been faced with a series of protests sparked by controversial tax proposals in April this year. The protests have since escalated into a wider demonstration against growing poverty, murder of social activists and the failure of the peace agreement between FARC rebels and the Colombian government. All of which is taking place during a prolonged third wave of Coronavirus, which has exacerbated the fragile situation within the country. 

In 2020 alone, 220 community and social leaders have been killed as well as twenty-two trade unionists. According to the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, at least 133 human rights defenders have also been killed. Thousands more are currently in jail or suffering harassment. 

There has been widespread international criticism of the Colombian Government’s heavy-handed response. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said that the security forces used “excessive and disproportionate” use of force, which in many situations was “lethal”, a criticism echoed by the EU and the UN. 

During Thursday’s debate on Peace and Human Rights in Colombia a number of constructive solutions were put forward by the SNP. These included providing aid and advice to stabilise the economic and Covid situation and use of Magnitsky sanctions against individuals who have acted poorly. The SNP also urged the UK Government to provide greater support for human rights defenders and to facilitate dialogue between different parties to implement the 2016 peace agreement. 

Speaking in the debate, Alyn Smith MP said: 

‘The SNP stands four-square with the people of Colombia. We are not pro-Government or pro-protester; we want a durable peace for everybody. 

‘We acknowledge the problems facing the Colombian Government, but we firmly state that the response of the Colombian Government to the protests must be condemned and the right to protest must be defended.

‘There are no easy answers to or quick fixes for Colombia’s problems, but as my honourable friend the Member for Glasgow North said, this is a test for the UK’s new and, we are told, improved—merged—foreign and development policy at a crucial time for Colombia and for a number of other partners in the region as well. 

‘The UK is in a position to do more on this… The UK is the penholder in the UN on the Colombian peace process, and there are more things that we can do… The progress made in 2016 could be lost, and that would be a disaster not just for the people of Colombia but elsewhere.’