Colombian human rights defender, Pedro, will cycle 105 kilometres with Ride for Rights on 18 May

On 18 May 2019, Justice and Peace Netherlands organises, together with partner organisations, it’s annual cycle fundraiser for the Shelter City initiative, Ride for Rights. This year, current Shelter City Haarlem guest and Colombian human rights defender, Pedro, will be joining the ride by cycling 105 kilometres in one day.

This year, Ride for Rights will be joined by Pedro, a Colombian human right defender who is in the Netherlands as part of the Shelter City initiative for the protection and support of human rights defenders at risk. “I used cycle a lot when I was younger. The longest ride I did was 300 kilometers in one day.” On 18 May, he will cycle 105 kilometers from Utrecht, to Haarlem and finishing in The Hague with 30 other cyclists.

Pedro is the current guest of Shelter City Haarlem. The Shelter City initiative offers human right defenders at risk a three-month temporary stay in which they can continue their work safely and effectively while also regaining strength and participating in trainings that will improve their own security and their work. During his stay with the Shelter City initiative, Pedro will influence relevant organisations and policymakers and inform them on crops substitution and the drugs policy in Colombia. To support this, he is also eager to learn about trade (cooperation) and the agricultural system in the Netherlands. Besides that, he hopes to improve his English and take some necessary and well-deserved rest, also in the form of cycling.

Situation in Colombia

Pedro works in Colombia on issues of drug crop production, poverty and development. At this moment, he is the director of an NGO that researches and leads proposals on sustainable rural development. Pedro has accompanied populations of different occupations in regions where prohibited plants are illegally cultivated. On top of that, he has denounced diverse and continuous human rights violations generated by action of the State, paramilitary groups and other illegal armed organisations. Pedro has received many threats due to his work, leading to the point where he had to abandon his home on two separate occasions. His name was placed on the blacklist by paramilitary groups in the Guaviare region and he has suffered attacks by guerrilla groups in 2009.

In 2016, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government reached a historic peace accord meant to cease five decades of fighting that resulted in at least 220.000 deaths and nearly 6 million people abandoned from their homes. However, many FARC fighters have resisted the deal and Human Rights Watch has found the deal to be weak in the judicial sense. Also, according to the UN and United States government, the amount of coca cultivated in Colombia has increased in 2017 while the law requires the government to prevent cultivation not used for medical or scientific use. This has proved to be difficult due to the fact that developing this crop is the only means of income for some rural populations.

To improve the situation in Colombia, Pedro has already researched and reported on human right violations concerning drug crop production and poverty.

Taking action via Ride for Rights

As a cyclist, Pedro decided to join the ride this year. Ride for Rights is a cycle event that brings people together in the Netherlands to raise awareness about human rights and the brave people on the front line defending human rights. By cycling or sponsoring a cyclist, people here in the Netherlands can directly contribute to the protection of human rights defenders in the Shelter City initiative. The raised money will go directly to providing necessary safety and security training to human rights defenders so that they can continue their work safely and effectively over the longer term.

This year, over 10 teams and 30 people will be cycling up to a maximum of 400 kilometers across the Netherlands in one day to raise awareness for human rights and those that defend them. You can still register for Ride for Rights until 11 May! More information here: www.rideforrights.sheltercity.nl

The city of Haarlem joined the Shelter City initiative in 2017, and later that year welcomed its first human right defender. The programme has been set up in cooperation with the municipality of Haarlem and is carried out by the Pletterij and Vluchtelingenwerk.

Join Pedro and cycling 18 May for human rights & those that defend them!

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