Support for victims in peacebuilding

PAX supports victims of the Colombian armed conflict. We help people from the Cesar, Cauca, and Meta regions to stand up for their right to truth, justice, and reparations. We do this by offering legal and psychological support, providing training on their rights and safety and by investigating abuses. PAX also assists local communities with the reintegration process of former combatants and preventing forced recruitment by new armed groups. We also assist victims and government agencies in the search for forcibly disappeared persons.

Context & Urgency

Over the past five decades, the armed conflict has caused much suffering in Colombian society. The figures speak for themselves with more than 220,000 people killed and many millions driven from their homes and from their lands by the guerrilla, paramilitary groups, or the army. To build a sustainable and inclusive peace, even during ongoing violence, it is crucial to improve the situation of the victims, especially their access to truth, justice, and reparations.

Contact information

Joris van de Sandt, Policy lead Natural Resources & Latin America,

Activiteiten & resultaten

Promoting victims’ participation in transitional justice

PAX assists victims and their organisations in isolated rural areas that have been hard hit during the conflict. On paper, victims are central to the design and implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, for example in transitional justice. In practice, however, victim participation is proving stubborn. Victims from isolated rural areas find it difficult to access processes and institutions.

By bridging the gap between these institutions and local victims’ groups, PAX wants to contribute to their effective participation in inclusive processes of truth, justice, and recovery. We do this by offering rights awareness education and leadership training, as well as legal, psychological, and social support from local professionals. This enables victims to play an active role in the many processes and activities initiated by the Peace Tribunal and Truth Commission.

PAX has also presented several investigative reports on serious human rights violations to the Peace Tribunal, for example on the forced recruitment of minors by the guerrillas (Meta) and the report on the violent sieges of indigenous communities (Cauca). These investigative reports contribute to the trials of perpetrators and give victims a voice.

Strengthening victims’ organisations

During the height of the conflict, numerous communities in isolated rural regions of Colombia were severely affected by the violent actions of the guerrilla, paramilitary groups, and the army. Numerous people were killed, and thousands of farmers were violently evicted from their land.

In various regions, PAX supports victims’ groups that have organised themselves into their own initiatives, in which they stand up for their rights as victims and citizens. Examples include the regional organisation for displaced farmers in Cesar (Asamblea Campesina del Cesar) or women’s organisations in Meta. The leaders of these organisations receive practical training in organisational skills and their families and communities receive legal advice and psychological counselling in judicial and administrative procedures. They are also prepared to participate in dialogue and reconciliation efforts with former combatants or other actors who have played a role in the conflict.

In recent years, this has included rapprochement between the leaders of the Asamblea Campesina del Cesar and mining companies with the aim of establishing a peacebuilding dialogue.

Search for missing persons

Together with two Colombian partner organisations: CCJ (Colombian Commission of Jurist) and Equitas, PAX documents cases of forced disappearance by armed groups that took place in the context of the internal conflict. We work with organisations of relatives of missing persons in Cauca, Meta, and Cesar, often mostly women.

By strengthening these organisations and promoting cooperation with the National Missing Persons Investigation Unit, PAX supports the search for missing loved ones and recognition for the victims.

Currently, in Cauca, Meta, and Cesar, about 250 cases of missing persons are documented in a cooperation between the victims and the local teams of PAX. Excavation and identification of human remains will begin in the course of 2022.


Reintegration of former combatants

Since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016, hundreds of former guerrillas have been formally demobilised. Some of them have returned to the indigenous or Afro-Colombian communities in the southern Cauca region where PAX has been working for many years.

The reintegration of ex-combatants is not easy; old tensions often lead to new conflicts. PAX has a great deal of experience with the reintegration of demobilised fighters in the region. Indigenous authorities have asked us to provide political and social support in these challenges. PAX also lobbies for recognition of local peace initiatives and facilitates conflict mediation and reconciliation in the community.

In Cesar, PAX supports similar processes involving former paramilitaries.

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