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Cablegate: Positive Human Rights Development in Colombia

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R 012319Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1299
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UNCLAS BOGOTA 003814

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL ENRG PGOV CO
SUBJECT: POSITIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENT IN COLOMBIA

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Vice President Santos extolled Colombia's entry
as an "Engaged Government" in the Voluntary Principles on Security
and Human Rights (VPs) program at a plenary meeting on November 18.
Santos remarked that Colombia is a great example of the VPs process
and offered to support other countries interested in the program.
Deputy Chief of Mission underscored Santos' management of the VPs
process and noted our continued willingness to support the program
in Colombia. Extractive industries' executives congratulated
Colombia and recommended including other business sectors into the
VPs program. END SUMMARY.

--------------------

Voluntary Principles

--------------------

2. (U) In 2000, the U.S. Department of State, the United Kingdom
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, oil, mining, and energy companies,
and human rights, labor, and corporate responsibility NGOs launched
the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs). The
VPs program addressed concerns of governments, extractive
companies, and civil society over difficult operating environments
that created challenges to both security and human rights.
Voluntary Principles are designed to provide practical guidance and
strengthen human rights safeguards in extractive industries.

3. (U) Currently, VPs participants include four governments
(Netherlands, Norway, U.K., and U.S.); 18 oil, gas, and mining
companies; and eight international NGOs. Canada is next in line to
become a "Participant Government" once it submits its action plan
to the VPs Steering Committee. VPs programs have been launched in
Nigeria, Indonesia, and Colombia. Talk of launching a VPs program
in Peru, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is
underway.

-----------------------------

Culmination of a Long Process

-----------------------------

4. (U) Initiated in October 2003, the Colombian National Committee
on the Voluntary Principles -- now known as the Mining and Energy
Committee on Human Rights (CME) -- has as members several
multinational petroleum and mining companies, Ecopetrol, Colombia's
oil industry association, and various members of the Colombian
government, including the Vice President's office and the military.
The committee recently started to include NGOs in its official
meetings.

5. (U) With support from the U.S. and UK governments, Colombia has
decided to become an "Engaged Government" under the VPs program,
which is the first step to becoming a VPs "Participant Government."
Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez submitted Colombia's request to
become an "Engaged Government" in early October to the VPs Steering
Committee and received a positive response later that month from
the Committee. Colombia will be publicly welcomed as an Engaged
Government at the upcoming VPs plenary in London in March 2010.

6. (U) Under the leadership of Vice President Santos, Colombia has
excelled in the Voluntary Principles program. The VPs Steering
Committee has highlighted Colombia's success in the program and

believes Colombia is in a position to become a regional leader to
promote the program to other countries.

--------------------------------------------- ----------

Santos Celebrates New Status and Offers Leadership Role

--------------------------------------------- ----------

7. (SBU) Santos hosted a Voluntary Principles plenary on November
18 with senior officials from VPs participant countries, executives
of the extractive industries in Colombia, GOC ministry officials
and senior military officers, and Colombia's Mining and Energy
(CME) Committee on Human Rights. Santos commended the CME
committee for its hard work in strengthening security and human
rights practices among the extractive industries; creating
workshops to review risk analyses, best practices, and lessons
learned between GOC and industry officials; and for including NGO
participation in the committee.

8. (SBU) Vice President Santos stressed, however, more work is
needed to become a Participant Government. Santos agreed with
industry executives that Colombia's VPs program should include more
business sectors within Colombia. He also added that Colombia
could assume a leadership role in promoting VPs in the region
(Note: CME committee members, on the margin, responded favorably to
supporting Peru in the VPs process. End Note).

9. (SBU) The Deputy Chief of Mission congratulated Colombia for
becoming an Engaged Government and praised Santos' leadership. The
DCM noted our willingness to continue supporting the VPs program in
Colombia and highlighted potential funding to support the CME
committee. The Dutch Ambassador echoed the DCM's remarks to
include a potential financial commitment and urged Santos and the
committee to continue its work with NGOs.

-----------------------------------

U.S. Supporting Colombia's Progress

-----------------------------------

10. (SBU) USAID and the Embassy of the Netherlands are in the
final stages of providing a US$250,000 grant to the Mining and
Energy Committee on Human Rights to provide operational support and
increase its overall effectiveness, over a three year period.
Specific activities will include the development of indicators to
measure progress toward implementation of VPs, the development of a
roadmap, and procedures to increase the effectiveness of the
Committee. Other activities to strengthen human rights in the
mining and energy sectors include the identification,
implementation, and dissemination of best practices.
BROWNFIELD

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