About the Author: Carmen Lomellin serves as Permanent U.S. Representative to the Organization of American States.
I was recently in Cali, Colombia, and took the opportunity to visit the Cali office of the Organization of American States Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (Mision de Apoyo al Proceso de Paz, OAS/ MAPP). OAS/ MAPP is part of a broad, multilateral commitment to the peace process in Colombia, strongly supported by the United States. As a key player in the affected regions, OAS/ MAPP has provided a key element of legitimacy and credibility to the Colombian demobilization process, and has helped stabilize the trust between negotiating parties at several critical moments.
When I arrived at their office in Cali, I was greeted by staffers from Colombia and around the world. Their team works primarily with indigenous and Afro-descendants in the Southwest region of Colombia. The beneficiaries of the program are in large part former illegal combatants now demobilized, as well as displaced victims of paramilitary violence. With a focus on bridging the gap between victims and state institutions, the MAPP is not only there to keep the peace, but to help the victims rebuild physically and psychologically.
Over 280,000 victims have registered to give testimony in the Justice and Peace Process, and the Government of Colombia is working to develop administrative and judicial processes to provide reparations to them. OAS/ MAPP plays a critical role in this process, as a liaison and advisor for the judicial process, helping the victims share their stories and express their grievances and needs.
In the coming years as the effects of their work take root in the communities, programs like OAS/ MAPP will need more support and possibly a new focus. As communities start to rebuild, it will be more important than ever to continue the deep and supportive relationships that the MAPP has been able to establish with the peoples of the communities. After seeing the successes of the MAPP in Cali, it is clear that this is only the beginning of the work to be done, and the successes to follow.
I encourage you all to visit the OAS/ MAPP website and read about the work that is taking place throughout Colombia.
For more information on the U.S. Mission, please visit the website.