Background to JFC [UK]
In 2002 a group of British trade union leaders visited Colombia. They were the first official delegation from the UK to visit Colombia and those on the trip included the now leader of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Brendan Barber, as well as the then leaders of several other trade unions. During the week that they were in Colombia six trade union activists were assassinated and the group returned home vowing to work to raise awareness of what was happening in Colombia and to look at ways to provide concrete solidarity to the Colombian people and trade unions.
In March 2003 Justice for Colombia was launched at a conference attended by 400 people at the TUC's headquarters. Fourteen trade unions as well as the TUC had pledged financial and political support for the new organisation and office space was made available by the unions and a full time member of staff employed to take on the work.
Since then the organisation has grown to the extent that every major trade union in the UK is now affiliated to JFC as well as several NGOs, law firms and other organisations such as the National Union of Students. As well as unions at a national level, nearly 500 local trade union branches are also affiliated to Justice for Colombia. Furthermore, our work has now expanded into Europe and JFC Ireland was launched in 2008.
JFC has three major areas of work: a) Awareness Raising, b) Campaigning, and c) Projects.
The first of these involves regularly bringing Colombian colleagues to the UK and Europe to talk to people about the situation in Colombia. We host at least ten Colombians each year, mainly trade unionists but also journalists, human rights lawyers, indigenous people, student leaders and politicians. In addition, we arrange delegations to Colombia to see the situation for themselves first hand. We have taken around 200 trade unionists, MPs, MEPs, lawyers and journalists to Colombia.
Our major campaign is around trade union rights - we pressure the Colombian Government to respect the rights, and lives, of trade unionists and push the international community to condition their support on an improvement in both trade union and human rights. Our campaign to block the proposed EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is part of this work and was started at the request of the Colombian trade unions. In addition we campaign to end UK military aid to Colombia, until the human rights record of the Colombian Army improves, and work to win freedom for many trade unionists currently imprisoned in Colombia - a very successful campaign which has helped to free 20 individuals from jail.
The new campaign surrounds efforts to encourage a peace process in Colombia.
To further our campaigns JFC is involved in lobbying work of Parliaments (and Governments) both in the UK and Brussels and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. This has led to the establishment of the 'Parliamentary Friends of Colombia Group' in the UK Parliament which is chaired by Tony Lloyd MP and has over 80 Members of Parliament as members. JFC administers the Group.
The last area of our work is supporting projects on the ground in Colombia, all of which are done in conjunction with Colombian and British partner organisations. JFC is managed from an office in Farringdon; in the ASLEF building which kindly host us. Our management committee is made up of 24 people, each representing either an affiliated trade union or, in a few cases, other organisations such as the parliamentary group, the NUS and the TUC.
The Chair of JFC is Billy Hayes and Brendan Barber is our president. We have four vice-presidents: Frances O'Grady, Lord John Monks, Tony Lloyd MP and Richard Howitt MEP.
For more information see the website: www.justiceforcolombia.org