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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reviews the report of Colombia

GENEVA (20 September 2017) - The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Colombia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Presenting the report, Beatriz Londoño Soto, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Colombia was paving the road toward peace in a decisive way.  The signing in November 2016 of the Final Agreement for the building of a lasting peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia represented a definitive step forward in putting an end to 50 years of violence which had more than eight million victims and had claimed 220,000 lives.  The signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Liberation Army was key to closing this painful chapter and giving Colombia an opportunity to honour its commitments to economic, social, and cultural rights.  The peace agreement was not an end in itself, but rather marked the beginning of a long and challenging journey.  The reintegration of veterans into civilian life was one such challenge, while another was the need to reduce the gaps between rural and urban areas, particularly by ensuring access to land, developing infrastructure, and expanding health and education.  In the context of the limited resources and the growing needs, transparency was at the heart of public expenditure policy and the fight against corruption was a priority.  Colombia was committed to a respectful and transparent dialogue among all the stakeholders in the society and building a better country.

In the ensuing dialogue Committee Experts commended Colombia’s commitment to peace and noted this opportunity for the country to live up fully to its obligations under the Covenant, which meant taking serious steps to recognize land rights in post-conflict areas, as well as the right to restitution for indigenous and rural populations.  The delegation was asked about the primary pillars in the Final Peace Agreement which supported the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, and how they were implemented – and monitored – particularly in the rural areas, and other areas greatly affected by the armed conflict.  The Agreement identified demobilized children as victims and designated them as beneficiaries of the social integration measures – how was this provision implemented in practice?  It was commendable that Colombia had criminalized violence against women in 2015, but women continued to be killed in large numbers and the culture of impunity for violence against women continued to prevail.  Experts asked about workers’ rights in dangerous extractive industries, steps to address the specific needs of women affected by the armed conflict, and measures in place to assist the returning populations.  The level of youth unemployment was still rather high and most workers were still engaged in the informal sector, particularly in the rural areas, which effectively excluded them from social protection.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Londoño Soto said that she was much encouraged by the participation of civil society organizations in the Committee’s proceedings and reminded the Committee that peace was an opportunity to ensure that the lives of all Colombians were transformed for the better.

Maria Virginia Bras Gomez, Committee Chairperson, concluded the meeting by wishing Colombia well in its post-conflict endeavours to improve the lives of its people.

The delegation from Colombia included representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Health, Department of National Planning, Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Culture, and the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. today 20 September, to start the consideration of the fourth periodic report of the Republic of Korea (E/C.12/KOR/4).

Report

The sixth periodic report of Colombia can be accessed here: E/C.12/COL/6.

Presentation of the Report

BEATRIZ LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Colombia was paving the road toward peace in a decisive way and that today, it was a very different country from the last time it had appeared before the Committee in 2010.  The signing of the Final Agreement for the building of a lasting peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in November 2016 represented a definitive step forward to put an end to 50 years of violence which had left more than eight million victims and claimed 220,000 lives, while the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Liberation Army was key to closing this painful chapter.  Colombia was conscious that the conflict did not exempt it from its international human rights responsibilities, but it had made it difficult to effectively implement those obligations.  The peace agreement was not an end in itself, but rather marked the beginning of a long and challenging journey, she said.  The reintegration of veterans into civilian life was one of the challenges, and the end of the conflict had demonstrated the need to reduce the gaps between rural and urban areas.  To this end, access to land and infrastructure development, particularly in the areas of health and education, were the priorities, she added.  Colombia was making all efforts to achieve harmony among citizens and promote reconciliation, as well as to prevent the unacceptable acts of violence against human rights defenders and bring those responsible to justice. 

President Juan Manuel Santos had been implementing a national development policy since 2014, based on the search for peace, equality and education, and the protection of basic human rights.  At the core of those efforts was the guarantee of the fundamental rights without which peace would not be sustainable, as well as the protection of human rights of the most vulnerable and the victims of the conflict, as demonstrated by the Law on Victims and Restitution of Lands.  Eliminating poverty was a priority, stressed the Ambassador, and for the first time, the middle class outnumbered those living below the poverty line.  This progress was due to a differentiated approach to poverty eradication which took into account the rights of indigenous populations.  Job creation was central: the unemployment rate had dropped sharply to 9.2 per cent and more than ten million people could now aspire to a pension since many of the new jobs were in the formal sector.  Early childhood policy had enabled more than one million children to access health and education; hundreds of thousands of families benefitted from the housing policy which accorded priority to the victims of the conflict; more and more people were gaining access to clean water; and nearly 95 per cent of the population had health coverage.  Since 2015, the percentage of public money allocated to education had exceeded the defence budget for the first time. 

Colombia was committed to the implementation of the peace accord, and to the aims of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and their concomitant effects on the improvement of human rights.  The headway made in improving the legislation had been significant, although Colombia was aware of the need for better and disaggregated data upon which to build better policies.  Conscious of the limited resources and the growing needs, Ms. Londoño Soto assured the Committee that transparency was at the heart of public expenditure policy, and the fight against corruption was a priority.  Colombia was committed to a respectful and transparent dialogue among the stakeholders in the society, in which the active civil society was an asset, said the Ambassador, and concluded by noting that the delegation that had travelled to this session was committed to such dialogue and building a better country.

Questions by the Committee Experts

RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, asked the delegation about the intentions concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

What were the primary pillars in the Final Agreement which supported the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in the rural areas affected by the conflict, and in urban areas in Colombia? 

With regards to the efforts to incorporate the Covenant into its domestic legal system, what efforts were being undertaken to ensure the compliance with the rulings of the Constitutional Court in the area of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in the context of the rights of indigenous peoples?

On the fight against corruption, what practical measures were being taken and could the delegation produce court decisions which demonstrated that the justice system was actively fighting corruption?

Mr. Zerbini Ribeiro Leão asked about the state of the implementation of a land restitution law and whether displaced persons would benefit from land re-allocation mechanisms in the context of the end of the conflict.

What data was available to enable an evaluation of points referring to economic, social and cultural rights included in the Final Agreement which had ushered in peace in Colombia?

Could the delegation provide the information on how the popular consultations and the mechanism of the free, prior and informed consent of the population worked in the context of the mining permits?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation underscored that Colombia was traditionally committed to human rights both internationally and regionally.  The foreign ministry had evaluated Colombia’s commitments under the Covenant and the feasibility of ratifying the Optional Protocol, during which the concerns had been raised on article 10 of the Optional Protocol regarding communications which could open the space for malicious accusations.  More work was needed to establish whether it was advisable to ratify this instrument and whether the budgetary and institutional capacity to implement it responsibly were there.

Turning to the points in the Final Agreement concerning the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in rural areas of Colombia, the delegation reaffirmed that the issue of rural development was central to the Final Agreement, considering that land concentration and rural poverty had been among the key causes of the conflict.  At the moment, the challenges were mainly budgetary and institutional.  Four bills were currently passing through Congress that would address some of the concerns raised with regard to land use and restitution, electrification, environmental protection, and housing, among others.  All institutions in Colombia fully backed the project to develop rural areas and the authorities recognized the need to ensure the gender focus.

In terms of the follow up to the Final Agreement, the delegation noted that the accord itself had defined the obligations to adopt measures to ensure transparency in the implementation of the commitments contained therein.  The Government was thus working to put in place a follow-up system to the public policy process, which was closely linked to the national development plans, and which would also sound early warning in case the implementation of the accord hit a bottleneck.   Additionally, there were independent experts who were working on supporting the transparency and holding the Government accountable for the implementation.

Land restitution was a central issue in the accord and the provision of dignified housing for displaced victims remained a priority for Colombia: out of the 100,000 free housing units, nearly 60,000 had been allocated to victims of the conflict.  The delegation underscored that victims who now resided outside of Colombia were qualified to register as a victim for the purposes of restitution and fully benefitted from the Victims Act.  A “returnee road map” was in place to help them, which did not replace the international protection afforded them as people with refugee status.

The historic debt Colombia owed to indigenous populations for the theft of their land was one that the State was working hard to repay.  With the terms of the Final Agreement, a land registry, access to productive inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, environmental stewardship schemes and a land renewal programme had been established.  All communities were included in the legal mechanisms associated with such measures.  The national development plan envisaged technical upgrading in the food and farming sectors with cooperation from international organizations.

The delegation underscored its historic commitment to the consultation with indigenous populations, noting that Colombia was one of the countries with the largest number of public consultations.  The lack of a statute requiring consultation had not stopped more than 5,000 consultations taking place in 2016 and 2017 - more than 3,000 with indigenous populations - on a transparent and respectful basis.  An organic law on the issue of popular consultations before any extractive activity begun would soon be published, said a delegate, stressing that the resources in the subsoil belonged to the State.

Taxes in Colombia were progressive and redistributive measures were in place, which had allowed large percentages of State monies to be spent on public education and health. 

With respect to the opportunities to promote gender equality under the Final Agreement, the delegation said that training and partnerships with private enterprises were among the initiatives that had been undertaken.  Others included the participation of women in land management programmes and a gender-based approach had been formalized in the State’s approach to land reform.  Gender-specific measures for women victims of the conflict have been foreseen in the accord, particularly with regard to access to housing and integration into the labor market.

Colombia was committed to tackling corruption at all levels and in all areas of the country; this had been made clear in a reformed law recently submitted to the legislature and the setting up of the anti-corruption bodies.  An anti-bribery law had been upgraded to international standards in 2016 and the State was working in a much more coordinated fashion in the war on corruption.  A national strategy had been developed to combat corruption, which included improving access to public information; thus, transparency bodies had been set up, particularly with regard to access to public procurement.  The law allowed witnesses in corruption cases to testify anonymously.  More than 4,000 corruption cases had been handled by the courts, however, only a handful of people were currently serving a sentence for corruption.

The fight against the cultivation of coca was continuing, said the delegation, noting that the land freed up as a result of the peace agreement had fallen into being used for the cultivation of illicit crops.  This matter was a shared international responsibility since the consumption of goods made from illicit crops took place outside of Colombia, stressed the delegation.  Crop substitution was seen as an effective strategy to combat the scourge of illicit crops, and Colombia was at the helm of such international efforts. 

The delegation said Colombia was active in affording protection to human rights defenders and prosecuting those that had attacked them.

Follow-Up Questions and Answers

Committee Experts asked if it was true that the school meals programme had been affected by corruption, and whether the current action plan on the human rights obligations of industrial companies was too loose.

Was the commitment to popular consultation backed up in the law and was there not a need for prior consultation and referenda on land use?  Was the Final Agreement specific enough in its provisions toward the rights of people affected by the conflict?

Experts also asked in what ways women suffered specifically during the conflict and were there special remedies in place to help them?  How would the returning members of the diaspora be able to obtain credit to help them settle?

Responding, the delegation said that the school meals programme was decentralized and that its oversight had identified irregularities; more than 90 criminal cases had been brought against civil servants caught defrauding this programme.

The delegation recognized that the action plan for human rights and companies was being gradually applied and that training needed to be undertaken.  There was not a regulatory framework but international standards were being incorporated into the plan, for example, due diligence and other rights-focused obligations.

Since the State owned underground renewable resources, there was no recognition in law of referenda on their use vis-à-vis land rights.  Still, administrative measures to consult with populations were the democratic mechanisms fully employed by Colombia.  Economic, social and cultural rights were written into the Final Agreement and this was available for all to see.

Regarding women victims and the special nature of their suffering during the conflict, the delegation said that Colombia was applying lessons learnt and was in the process of distinguishing between different categories of victims, including women, and identifying different crimes they had been subjected to. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts addressed issues of work and employment and, noting the still high level of youth unemployment, asked how the youth, who only lived in the armed conflict, could find work?  They raised concern about the prevalence of the informal sector economy, particularly in rural areas and the exclusion of informal workers, already from fragile areas, from the social protection.  What plans were there to formalize their employment and improve working conditions?  How strong were other work-based rights?

The inclusion of women in the economy and their pay level were alarming, said an Expert, adding that the working conditions in the country were not helped by the insufficient number of labour inspectors.   Moreover, several trade unionists had been murdered between 2010 and 2017 and the presence of trade unions in the private sector was weak.  

Experts asked about the poverty rate of the elderly, as very few benefited from a pension, and noted with concern that nearly 90 per cent of the identified persons had not yet accessed protection and benefits granted under the Final Agreement.

Was the victims register still open and how easy was it to claim the social benefits it promised?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation recognized that unemployment remained a problem and said that the institutions were being strengthened including with training schemes.  Programmes had been put in place for indigenous populations under a “Greater Colombia” banner. Protection of retirees was improving.  In 2017, 225,000 people had found jobs and more than 770,000 had joined a saving scheme akin to a formal pension that would help them in old age.

Colombia encouraged the increased employment of young people and women in rural areas, where the unemployment rates remained high.  The formal sector was on the rise in urban areas, and was now contributing more than 40 percent of the economy there.  Young people formally employed in military roles were being supported by the State.  In 2010, when Colombia had last come before this Committee, it had not even have a Ministry of Labour, and this in itself showed the institutional progress made to date.  Protection was now afforded to trade unionists, whereas in the past they had been the victims of violence, and the right to strike was protected, except in vital public services.  Fines for inappropriate outsourcing and other unscrupulous methods of exploiting workers were being applied successfully and the labour inspectorate was being beefed up.  Risks in the workplace were being addressed through regulation, and the minimum wage had been set.

The victims’ registry was still accepting names and was working actively to identify those eligible for support.  Social protection system in Colombia operated on the principle that those who could paid into it and received benefits on the basis of their contributions, while others, who could not afford to pay, received subsidy for healthcare in the event of a work accident or other need.  The Special and Periodic Benefits System was a scheme to help older people at the end of their working lives.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, an Expert took note of the national strategy to end child labour 2008-2015 and raised concern about the continued work of children in mining companies.  What was being done to tackle child labour? 

The Final Agreement identified demobilized children as victims of the conflict and designated them as beneficiaries of the social integration measures - what was being done to implement those provisions and provide services to this group of children?

Were all children in Colombia registered at birth, particularly indigenous babies whose families might be put off by the administrative cost of this procedure?  What could be done to educate women victims of violence more about their rights?

How would the country balance many of the social provisions in the Final Agreement with economic ones and what steps were being taken to connect the victims’ register to land registries to enable restitution?

With regards to violence against women, a member of the Committee welcomed the criminalization of femicide by the 2015 law but was concerned that the number of women killed remained very high in Colombia, where the culture of impunity for violence against women continued to prevail.

Turning to food policy, the Experts asked whether the Government intended to fight obesity as well as malnutrition, and for example consider introducing a soda tax, like Mexico did?  The Final Agreement recognized the right to food, so how will that be realized in concrete steps?  What was Colombia doing to help its population in the face of climate change?

On the right to health, the Experts noted the disparities in the healthcare system and asked why the poorest quintile of the population did not have access to preventative medicine?  What was being done about the low numbers of medical practitioners in rural areas?

Replies by the Delegation

Answering the questions on measures to eradicate child labour including in the mining industry, a delegate said that efforts to tackle this scourge had seen a decrease in the rate of child labour from nine per cent in 2015 to 7.8 per cent today.  A national policy for the eradication of child labor was being put in place, while specific and targeted measures were being applied in in the regions most affected by the mining activities, in cooperation with the United States and local non-governmental organizations.  Parent awareness campaigns and child labor trainings were being provided throughout the country while coercive actions against illegal mining operations by the Government lead to thousands of arrests and shutdowns.

Demobilized children were indeed considered victims of the armed conflict and special psychosocial and humanitarian assistance was granted to them, in line with the provisions in the Final Agreement which guaranteed the protection of their rights.  The minors were returned to their families, enjoyed full reparations, and had a guaranteed access to health, education and psychological care.

In order to tackle violence against women, Colombia had adopted a comprehensive plan to ensure the right of women to a life free from violence and several laws had been promulgated to ensure that perpetrators of violence were sanctioned.  A permanent helpline has been set up for women victims of domestic violence.  Colombia had also established “care roadmaps” for victims from specific categories including women.  Sexual violence as a result of the armed conflict was being treated seriously and thousands of cases had gone to court.  Public information schemes were in place to advise women of their rights and the services available to them.

As for rural women and their special problems as a result of the armed conflict, a delegate explained that a number of social and empowerment programmes had been set up, including micro-credit schemes for their economic empowerment.  Legal procedures for the restitution of land and property were ongoing and to date, land had been successfully returned to 40 per cent of women.  The delegation asserted that a gender perspective had been incorporated in its rural policies.

With regard to civil registration, the delegation informed the Committee that a mobile unit and other means had been deployed in Afro-Colombian, indigenous and displaced communities.  The results of those efforts were positive.  The Ministry of Health was working with registry authorities to increase birth registrations.

The delegation answered a question about small entities and corporations by reminding the Committee that an equitable and progressive structural economic relationship between them had been envisaged in the Final Agreement. 

As a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, Colombia was adjusting its agro-industrial policies and was including climate change mitigation and adaptation in its development plans.  This also encompassed a reformed water policy.  Colombia was one of the few countries in the world to levy a carbon tax; the funds this tax would raise would be directed at environmental protection measures.  Colombia was committed to exploring renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency, said a delegate, stressing that the climate change mitigation plans required international cooperation.

The delegation addressed the question of land restitution by informing the Committee of provisions in a 2011 law that had enabled Afro-Colombian, Roma and indigenous claims to be settled.  Such claims were ongoing and the Government was bolstering funding to enable more land courts and special judges to be financed.

Turning to food policy, the delegation told the Committee that the “double burden” of malnutrition and obesity was being met by a double strategy to tackle food insecurity in rural and ethnic regions on the one hand, and, on the other there were comprehensive studies being undertaken.  A tax on sugary drinks had been proposed but rejected by Congress.

Follow-Up Questions and Answers

Following up to the replies by the delegation, Committee Experts asked if renewable solar and wind energy resources were being considered and what more was being done about the use of insecticides and pesticides .

The delegation was asked to provide more information on prison conditions, explain how private companies were being encouraged to recognize union membership and activities, and inform on what was being done to offer worker protection in rural areas and in the informal economy as well as to workers involved in the manual destruction of illicit crops.  What was being done to support access to healthcare in rural areas in the face of a commercialising health sector which priced out the poor?

RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, asked how the minimum wage was enforced while ensuring that discrimination against ethnic and sexual minorities did not take place.

In response, the delegation said that Colombia’s aspiration to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meant that it was applying rigorous standards in many areas, including in the use of pesticides and insecticides.  Regrettably many thousands of hectares had been deforested in recent times but replanting programmes and clean energy projects were being actively pursued.

With regard to prison conditions, Colombia aimed to tackle overcrowding by reducing the numbers of people held in pre-trial detention.  This measure was already showing results: the proportion of persons in pre-trial detention among the prison population had fallen from 50 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent today.  Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour was working with the Ministry of Justice to train inmates in teleworking.

The Government applied a gradual approach to addressing the high proportion of people working in the informal economy and implementing the related provisions in the Final Agreement.  A number of specific training programmes, such as “Hands on Deck for Peace” were in place, and an employment service was available to victims of the conflict.

Improvements in worker protection were measured by the increase in collective bargaining agreements, and the delegation said that Colombia was an example of best practice in worker-employee dispute resolution in its region.  Trade union participation was low in Colombia, but an individual worker could belong to multiple unions. which complicated the picture.

Turning to healthcare matters, the delegation said that healthcare coverage stood at 95 percent and recognized that problems remained, particularly in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.  The Government aimed to provide healthcare that entailed no out-of-pocket expenses for all users.  Human resources, particularly in child healthcare, needed to be strengthened and the uneven distribution of medical professionals needed to be resolved.  Nevertheless some successes in reaching the remote populations, sometimes by rivers, had been achieved.

The people who worked to manually destroy illicit crops were well-trained and had been provided with modern demining equipment, the delegation said.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the final series of questions, Committee Experts probed the delegation on educational and cultural matters, asking how Colombia hoped to tackle the effect of the armed conflict on schools and tackle the mentality of former adversaries.  The presence of mines on the way to school in certain conflict-affected areas was a very serious problem as it reduced access to school for already disadvantaged children.

Noting the inequalities in access to education between regions and social groups, Experts asked about measures taken to provide free education at all levels and to ensure that teachers were well-paid and well-trained. 

Nearly 40 per cent of those internally displaced by the armed conflict were under the age of 23, Experts remarked, asking about special measures in place to ensure education of the millions of internally displaced children. 

What was being done to enable children with disabilities to gain access to education?

Concern was raised about the access to education for the indigenous children, and the Experts inquired about the access of indigenous populations to culturally appropriate forms of education; measures to reduce the high dropout rate of indigenous children; and about the protection of Colombia’s dozens of indigenous languages in general and in the education system. 

Was there a policy to educate all Colombians on the cultural diversity of the nation and its history in light of the armed conflict and differing attitudes to land?

The delegation was asked about steps taken to honour rulings of the Constitutional Court which guaranteed the right to non-discrimination to dozens of discrete Afro-Colombian cultural groups, and to explain why was there so little involvement of women in science in Colombia.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that about 20 percent of those registered as victims of the armed conflict were enrolled in education and they had special curricula designed for them.  The Ministry of Education was actively looking at ways to decrease dropout rates and increase flexibility in the services offered.

With regard to indigenous communities, the Ministry of Education sometimes contracted out educational services to indigenous service providers to preserve the appropriateness of the education on offer.

The delegation said that there was a deficit in school infrastructure but that a development plan was in place to cover the shortfall in schools and classrooms, and improvements were planned for schools in post-conflict areas.  There was a programme to improve low-performing schools in rural areas.

There was no single curriculum in Colombia to endow schools with a degree of independence although there was a general syllabus mandated by the Government, and some national textbooks were available.  Teacher improvement had been made possible through evaluation and performance monitoring.

Scholarships and grants were available in order to improve access to tertiary education by students from low-income backgrounds.  There were more than 45 funding schemes to allow low-income students to get a university education.  A national literacy programme was aimed at those young people and adults who may be illiterate as a result of educational interruption due to conflict and displacement.

The delegation said that misdiagnoses of impairment meant that it was difficult to design services for children with disabilities but Colombia aimed to resolve this.

Follow-Up Questions and Answers

Committee Experts asked the delegation to explain the reasons for the wide gaps in enrolment rates between displaced and non-displaced children, and also to explain the high dropout rate of indigenous children.  What was being done to make all education free?  What measures were being put in place to protect from discrimination people of African descent and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons?

The delegation responded by saying that participants in the literacy scheme were given economic incentives and this was expressly designed to help vulnerable populations.  In addition, the Ministry of Education was committed to non-discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, despite the rejection by Congress of a pedagogical document developed with this aim.

The delegation said that there were 120 discrete indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups which made the development of a unified Colombian national identity a complex task.  However, the preservation of cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity was a priority for the Ministry of Culture.  Despite budgetary constraints, libraries had been built recently in Bogota and elsewhere that enabled cultural groups to learn about their identities.  Mobile libraries were also being deployed to rural and post-conflict zones. 

Colombia recognized the economic value of cultural products and supported the integration of cultural goods into the national economy.  Support was being given to indexing flora and fauna in post-conflict areas so that bio-diversity could be preserved.  The vast task of protecting minority languages remained a priority and the translation of the Final Agreement into more than 60 languages served as an example of that.

The delegation underlined the efforts to stamp out discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons including the recognition of same-sex marriage, the right of same-sex couples to adopt, and the recognition of intersex and transgender identities.  Colombia aimed to strengthen the institutional response to upholding sexual orientation and gender identity rights, including for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons impacted by the armed conflict in specific ways.

The delegation said that the Ministry of Labour was developing a strategy based on human rights training to tackle discrimination against Afro-Colombian people and had set up a mechanism for the Afro-Colombian representation to mainstream this community’s needs into labour policy.  The Ministry of the Interior had set up an observatory to monitor discrimination and racism and advise victims of this treatment on their rights of redress.  Public information campaigns aimed at stamping out discrimination and racism had been undertaken.

Concluding Remarks

BEATRIZ LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee for the high quality of the questions put to her delegation.  She sincerely thanked the civil society organisations for their valuable contribution, and noted the presence of the Ombudsman.  The human rights provisions of the Final Agreement represented an opportunity for the transformation of the lives of all Colombians.

MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMEZ, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished Colombia well in its pursuit of peace.

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