I’ve been getting to know the network of disability rights organizations that Survivor Corps is working with to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is a diverse group, including medical service providers, educational institutions, anti-landmine organizations, government agencies, and international NGOs.
There is no simple relationship between the work that these groups do for disability rights in Colombia and struggles for peace and economic equality. All of Survivor Corps’ partners work in a politicized context, responding to injustices in Colombia’s systems of education, employment, and health care, as well as the physical and social consequences of warfare. At the same time, many maintain distance from the country’s self-identified human rights organizations and the country’s struggling democratic left. A sampling of these groups suggests the range of their commitments and the complexity of the network’s place in national politics:
The Centro de Rehabilitación para Adultos Ciegos supports people with visual disabilities. It provides medical services, educational support, job training, and leadership development programs. CRAC would exist whether or not there were a war in Colombia.
Fundación Querido Soldado provides economic support to disabled veterans of the Colombian military, essentially taking on a public responsibility that the Colombian government has refused. Fundación Querido Soldado maintains close relations with the military and vocally opposes the FARC.
Pastoral Social is an arm of the Episcopal Church in Colombia with an explicit focus on human rights. It conducts human rights trainings in rural areas and supports the expansion of private services as well as public benefits for victims of Colombia’s armed conflict.
Centro Integral de Rehabilitación de Colombia (CIREC) provides medical services to people with disabilities, particularly victims of landmines. CIREC has created rural and mobile health clinics to reach landmine victims far from urban health care facilities, and provides “integrated rehabilitation,” including physical, psychological, and social services, as well as leadership training.
Fundación País Libre conducts campaigns to stop kidnappings, disappearances, and blackmail by guerillas and paramilitaries. It also offers assistance to victims and their families.
The network includes university programs on disability rights, mental health organizations, international institutions like UNICEF and the Red Cross, the Colombian Ministry of Social Protection, and the human rights and landmine programs within the offices of the President and Vicepresident.
There are areas of common ground for these groups: their commitment to guaranteeing the physical integrity and social inclusion of people with disabilities, their status as professionalized organizations with at least regional recognition, and—surely, sincerely, and without specificity—a desire for some kind of peace in Colombia. For Survivor Corps, the process of bringing together groups with different political orientations is itself a strategy for peace. At the same time, Colombians are far from resolving their profound conflicts over what peace would be and what kinds of social change are necessary to achieve it.
Posted By Amy Offner
Posted Jun 23rd, 2008