The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia

Trade, Business and Human Rights

What we do

Trade, Business and Human Rights

Trade, Business and Human Rights

One of the pillars of the relationship between the European Union, its member- and other European states and Colombia is their commercial relations, which Oidhaco monitors from a human rights perspective. Oidhaco believes that the commercial relations and actions of European companies and of transnationals operating in Colombia should be conducted with full respect for human rights, the collective rights of ethnic communities and the organisational and territorial processes of peasant and other rural communities. 

Colombia is the European Union´s fourth largest commercial partner in Latin America and the European Union is Colombia´s second most important market. Coal is one of the principal products exported to European markets. Historically, the extractive industries, oil, the energy sector and agroindustry have been associated with grave human rights violations and with the pursuit of strategies such as forced displacement, massacres, murders, harassment, the criminalisation of male and female community leaders and environmentalists, and land seizures. Particularly significant are the environmental impacts and human rights violations in different sectors where there is European investment or that export to the European Union, such as coal, palm oil, the energy sector and the port of Buenaventura. Colombia is a country with one of the highest indices of environmental conflicts. A large percentage of the attacks and murders suffered by human rights defenders are against environmentalists and defenders of land and territory.


Colombia and the European Union are part of a trade agreement that also includes Peru and Ecuador, which has been in force provisionally since 2013. Oidhaco monitors the human rights component of the agreement, namely a democracy clause and a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development covering respect for the environment, labour rights and human rights in general. Other European countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland have also signed trade or free trade agreements with Colombia, none of which to this point have included sustainability or human rights clauses. Oidhaco calls on the European Union to require the Colombian state to fulfil the human rights provisions in the Free Trade Agreement and to develop binding dispute resolution mechanisms.

Another focus of our work is business and human rights. This involves drawing attention to cases in Colombia that violate human rights. Oidhaco requests European Union institutions to require European states to demand that their companies respect comprehensive human rights and the environment in Colombia. Oidhaco also supports the creation of binding mechanisms, with civil society involvement, that include sanctions for human rights violations committed in the course of their commercial activities, such as the United Nations Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

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