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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Violence against Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders in the context of the 2016 Peace Accords in Colombia Peñuela Gallo, Natalia


This thesis focuses on the violence against social leaders and human rights defenders (SLs & HRDs) in the context of the post-agreement starting with the first release of the Peace Accords (August 2016) until its first phase of implementation (June 2017) in Colombia. The research questions examine the relationship between the Peace Accords and the wave of assassinations of SLs & HRDs, and the extent to which intersectional elements of social class, gender, sexuality, race, and perceived political ideology play a role. A qualitative, field-based inquiry was conducted in Colombia for a period of three months through twenty-one semi-structured interviews, and document analysis of statistical and empirical data. Using four recurring themes of power of language, production of knowledge, labels and representation- drawing from Foucault’s understanding of power and knowledge creation, in addition to intersectionality, this thesis emphasizes that the populations who continue to be the recipients of multiple interconnected and intersecting social violence(s), are in fact, the ones who are crucial for the construction of peace and post-agreement period. This thesis argues that SLs & HRDs who are most likely to get targeted or killed are those who oppose the forces of licit and illicit capital, and those who are perceived to be subversive to the neoliberal system. They are Indigenous, Afro-descendant, Campesinxs individuals with diverse gender identities, sexual orientations, and allies, who have created ways to survive extraordinary worlds of violence, while demanding collective reparation and protections for their lives and territories. These individuals represent constellations of peace(s) with unimaginable strength, and full of wisdom about resilience. Colombia’s Peace Accords reflect the experiences and failures of past peace agreements, peace negotiations, demobilization processes and post-agreement scenarios, and include attention to plurality, difference, security, and human rights protection. Although the signing of the Peace Accords is a prominent step forward, Colombia continues to experience the contradictory contexts of ongoing conflict and historical transformation as the dynamics of war change. This analysis shows the complexity and urgency of the situation in Colombia, to also call attention towards this violence in other spaces worldwide.

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