Hong Kong Customs displays 82.5kg of rhino horns from South Africa and destined for Malaysia. Photo: ISD

EIA Partner Receives Human Rights Award at WOLA Gala, DC

The Mayflower Hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C. was filled to the brim with dignitaries, human rights advocates, and allies to celebrate the Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) 10th Annual Human Rights Awards gala. The award honors organizations or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts to promote human rights, democracy, and justice in Latin America. This year, one of EIA’s partners, Justicia y Paz, received the honor.

Based in Colombia, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Justicia y Paz) is a human rights organization made up of a network of 50 member organizations, and has played a key role in working for peace and supporting victims of violence and displacement throughout the country. It supports specific activities in search of truth, justice, and reparation, and works to negotiate political solutions to internal armed conflict. Justicia y Paz focuses on the comprehensive protection of territory—the restitution of property belonging to persons of African descent, indigenous peoples, and mestizos, as well as the protection of the traditional use of that territory and its biodiversity.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California presented Justicia y Paz with the WOLA award, in front of a crowd of over 400 guests. Danilo Rueda, a project coordinator for Justicia y Paz, accepted the award on the organization’s behalf, and thanked everyone in attendance for being part of the noble cause of fighting against oblivion and impunity, “for being on the side of the stories that are denied by power.”

“Tonight is a celebration of compassion and solidarity,” Rueda explained. “In Colombia, many have been killed by bullets, by torture, by targeted assassinations, and over 45,000 forcibly disappeared—more than those seen under the dictatorships of the Southern Cone…[But] we are an organization of beautiful madness.”

Rueda’s spoke solemnly but with pride, as he described Justicia y Paz’s enduring commitment to justice in the face of intimidation and violence.

EIA established its partnership with Justicia y Paz in 2014 to address the continued expansion of oil palm in Colombia. Since first being introduced in Colombia, the industry has displaced communities and destroyed river basins and delicate forest ecosystems. Justicia y Paz, known for its high quality investigations, has consistently initiated and executed legal cases regarding palm oil expansion in Colombia since 2002. The country is the fourth largest producer of palm oil in the world and the largest in Latin America, and both EIA and Justicia y Paz are committed to protecting Colombian forests and the communities they sustain from further oil palm expansion.

Justicia y Paz’ extraordinary work is exemplary of WOLA’s mission to advance human rights and social justice in the Americas. The organization plays a vital role in protecting and strengthening communities against paramilitary violence and oil palm investments that prioritize profit over human rights and the environment.

An inspiring evening, the gala welcomed representatives from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. Congress, and the Church World Service. EIA was honored to attend, and to celebrate Justicia y Paz, and the advancement of human rights in Latin America.