On a visit to Los Tanques, in the Municipality of Mesetas in Meta Department, Colombia, the world’s senior diplomat has met with former militants who have been recruited and trained as HALO deminers.
Meta Department was the main concentration of FARC militant activity during Colombia’s long civil war. Today, The HALO Trust is the largest humanitarian mine action operator in Meta and has recruited several of its demining staff who are former combatants. Hiring former combatants, both men and women, is part of a process of demobilisation and reintegration that supports the Colombian peace process.
Mr. Guterres said: "I am deeply moved to see the enthusiasm, the commitment of the authorities, the communities, the ex-combatants with the construction of peace in Colombia.
“I would like to express my extreme admiration for all the staff at HALO for their magnificent work which is bringing benefit to the Colombian people. HALO is improving not only the conditions for peace but also Colombia's development and the well-being of its people.”
"This is a visit of solidarity and commitment. Solidarity with the Colombian people and commitment to building peace. We all know that a peacebuilding process is not easy, we all know that there are difficulties and obstacles, but for me the total commitment of the Government and the FARC to building peace is clear."
It has been estimated that there are in excess of 80,000 landmines, many of them improvised, in Colombia.
Chris Ince, HALO Colombia programme manager said: "Humanitarian demining is at the forefront of peace implementation - facilitating land restitution, the return of displaced people and development projects in distant parts of the country where there has been little state presence. This has only been possible with support from the international donor community."
In addition to reintegrating former combatants, mine clearance is integral to Colombia’s peace process because it allows displaced communities to return to their land and homes after decades of displacement. At least 12 per cent of the country’s population has been displaced during the years of conflict, with an estimated six million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in 2014.
By the end of September 2017, HALO Colombia had cleared a total of 109 minefields (457,599 square metres), safely destroying more than 350 mines in the process. Additionally, HALO’s survey teams have cancelled 304 suspected hazardous areas from the national database, which can now be declared safe for land restitution, IDP return and resettlement, and development. Together these activities have benefitted tens of thousands of rural people.