H. E. Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President

24 September 2008

Statement Summary

ÁLVARO URIBE VÉLEZ, President of Colombia, said his country continued to fight so that each citizen could live confidently and safely.  Crimes against Colombian citizens continued to decrease.  Only 36 of the total homicides so far this year had been workers and teachers associated with trade unions, and not a single journalist had been murdered.

Still, Colombia was not satisfied and its determination to combat impunity was ongoing, he said.  Due to security policies and a tripartite agreement between workers, business leaders and Government -- and in stark contrast to the two charged with murder between 1991 and 2002 -- 199 persons had, in the last few years, received sentences for the murder of workers.  While terrorist organizations had often penetrated the ranks of workers in the past, the ongoing dismantling of the paramilitaries had significantly reduced their number.  While the setting off of a car bomb by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Cali recently had rattled the country, efforts were still being made to demobilize ever greater numbers of that group’s members.

In a country like Colombia, he continued, democracy relied on transparency, which in turn relied on the respect of human rights.  The Government constantly sought to balance vigilance with such respect, and a formative programme that promoted respect for human rights among Colombia’s armed services was ongoing.  On 10 December, Colombia planned to voluntarily submit to the universal periodic review under the procedures of the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission.

Pointing out that Colombia was already experiencing tangible results of democratic security, he said that, as citizens increasingly sought their protection in the State, any temptation to resort to justice by their own means receded.  Victims had left behind their fear and were coming forward to claim their rights.  Last year, he had stood at the Assembly acknowledging that his country had not been able to liberate Ingrid Betancourt.  Today, that was no longer the case.

Because social cohesion validated security, meeting the Millennium Development Goals was an essential part of Colombia’s efforts to reach social cohesion, he said.  To this end, Colombia was raising its rate of basic education coverage to 100 per cent.  Fewer children were repeating grades, and child mortality rates were falling.  Nevertheless, more needed to be done to resolve the great economic disparities between the country’s regions.  The Government was also focused on raising levels of child nutrition and vocational training, while streamlining the management of social resources and eliminating inefficiencies.

Taking up the issue of climate change, he emphasized that the financial turmoil paled in comparison to environmental change.  For its part, Colombia was constructing mass transportation systems in several of its urban areas.  It had undertaken conservation efforts to protect its rainforest and other ecologically fragile areas.  “We will not allow the rainforest to be touched,” he said, adding that protecting the forests would be Colombia’s most critical contribution to combating global warming.

Noting that illicit drugs were a great enemy of the environment and also fuelled terrorism, he stressed Colombia’s commitment to the concept of shared responsibility.  While Colombia fought to destroy harvests of illegal substances, other countries must address the role demand played in the illicit drug trade.  Indeed, whoever bought illicit drugs encouraged a child to become a part of the distribution system, helped to set off a car bomb in Colombia and encouraged the destruction of another tree in the rainforest.  By making strides to combat this problem, Colombia had raised the world’s confidence in it.  But more resolute support from the international community was still needed in this fight.

[Source: GA/10751]