281 communities in 26 of Colombia's departments are considered to be in a situation of vulnerability of violence at the hands of armed non-state actors, according to a report by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation released Tuesday.
The foundation called on the government to pay special attention to communities most at-risk in the period following the signing of a peace deal.
One of the major sticking points between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Colombian government in the ongoing peace talks is the threat of paramilitary violence after the signing of a final peace deal and the laying down of arms by the rebels.
The leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, are concerned not only about the welfare of their former combatants but of the communities where the rebels are influential.
A much anticipated announcement, expected on March 23, was delayed precisely over disagreements between the FARC and the government over the influence the rebels will be able to yield over the communities where they operate.
In many communities throughout Colombia, the FARC act as a bulwark against paramilitary groups and other guerrilla organizations such as the National Liberation Army. The concern is that with the laying down of arms, the vacuum left behind will be filled by other armed actors.
Leon Valencia, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, said his organization analyzed several factors in determining the level of risk communities would face in a “post-conflict” Colombia.
Among the factors taken into consideration are: what illegal activities take place in a given community, their experience with the armed conflict, the social conditions of the area, and what kind of presence the state has in the community.
“The idea is that government actions should address, at least during the first 18 months, those municipalities with extreme risk,” said Valencia.
The report by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation expressed concern that non-state actors will be drawn to communities that have been affected by illegal activities, such as illegal mining and the cultivation of illicit crops.
“If there are no good alternatives to these illegal economies, post-conflict (Colombia) is practically unfeasible," warned Valencia.
The concerns raised by the foundation were shared by leading figures in these at-risk communities.
“The post-conflict needs more discussion, more preparation. It is not only about signing an agreement with the FARC, but also looking closely at those communities affected by conflict and with a high risk of further suffering," said Francia Marquez, member of the Process of Black Communities, an Afro-Colombian rights group.