Human Rights
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Subject: Human Rights.

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Bank of Best Practices

Human Rights

Last updated Nov 23, 2014

Subject: Human Rights
Abstract: Project La Cira Infantas consolidates as a training model for the different interest groups concerning Human Rights topics.

A Focus on Human Rights

In the Jurisdiction of El Centro, in Barrancabermeja Municipality, children from the 23 schools of the municipal head town, the employees of the companies working for Ecopetrol and the members of the Military Forces have visited one class in common. 

Even though they have gone to different classrooms and on different dates since mid-2009, all of these groups have participated in one training workshop about Human Rights led by the association composed of Occidental and Ecopetrol in the field La Cira Infantas, one of the most emblematic of the country.

Actually, community life in this jurisdiction started again to revolve around oil since 2005 when Ecopetrol undertook a process to reactive the production until reaching historic levels in 2012. Therefore, the different social players have harmonic relations like the production machine and drilling rigs with the houses of the inhabitants of the 31 municipal head towns. 

It is thanks to that daily relation of multiple social players with the oil industry that in La Cira Infantas a model project was implemented to train the population in general and the interest groups of Ecopetrol particularly in an issue as sensitive as Human Rights.

There has been such a success that today more than 6,400 inhabitants, which is almost half of the population of El Centro, have participated at least once in the workshops called, organized and executed by the Social Management team of project La Cira Infantas based on the guidelines and policies about the issue of Ecopetrol and Occidental de Colombia.  

´We offer three modules: one special and recreational for children; another one intended for the community and employees of the contracting companies of the oil project; and a third one targeted towards the members of Military Forces," Henry Ariza, coordinator of La Cira Infantas Social Management team, expert and university lecturer specialized in Human Rights.  

From 2009 Ariza has been at the head of most of 150 training workshops that have been given to the different groups. He prefers to call them "talks" because they are not master conferences but participating meetings in which participants interact and share their expectations or give examples of their own life experience. 

In that regard, Madeleine Castro of contracting company SGI, recalls that at the beginning of this year she was called for the workshop and she was shocked from the start with the words of the video that explained human rights. 

We all have been born free and equal, do not discriminate? These are your human rights, they are 30, they belong to you, and you don´t have to buy them, request them or ask for permission to enjoy them. They are simply yours no matter who you are, where you come from, what your age is or anything else? Just like that. Some people may try to ignore your rights or violate them, or pretend that they don?t exist, but they cannot change the fact that they are yours. This is the preamble of the 10 minute emotional video that is played at the beginning of each training workshop.   

Castro recognizes that she did not know much about rights and almost none of the nine duties that belong to workers and human beings in general. 

"The hour-and-a-half training workshop helped me get out of my ignorance on an issue so important for the daily work and for life. Now I can defend myself with arguments when I see that one of my fundamental rights or anyone´s fundamental rights are being violated or unobserved," the psychologist in charge of leading safe behavior in the field La Cira Infantas states. 

In general, workshops have been very well received and people come out happy because they think workshops are improving coexistence within the community. 

As part of the methodology, workshops are based on introductory modules about Human Rights and then participants are informed about the institutions that support people as the Local Ombudsman´s Office (Personería), the Ombudsman´s Office and the General Attorney´s Office. 

"I would say that training gives them the tools to start fighting legally for their rights. They are motivated to read the Political Constitution and start to research about the issue because the contents are appealing for them. They are taught to prepare rights of petition and make simulations enabling them to understand the importance of reaching agreements during a discussion," Ariza said. 
In his opinion, during the talks they address issues such as recognition of work rights, treatment of minors and tripartite responsibility of the State, the community and the projects. This allows becoming aware of the other players. 

As for the workshops with children, the dynamics are different, since a great deal of videos, games and examples are used. For this group, talks about Human Rights are intended to be one class more in their academic curriculum. 

In order to make the exercise more enjoyable, the classroom is the Cira Móvil, a bus adapted with all the amenities and facilities of a classroom to entertain them while they learn. There, children interact with videogames, socialize with their classmates and, through the figure of the institutional Pet, they learn the importance of ethical values. 

"They believed that there were only rights, but we tell them that first there are duties because if I don?t fulfill my duties I am more vulnerable to Human Rights violations," Oliver James, a member of La Cira Social Management group and who lately has been becoming a tutor in the workshops, stated.

Jair Flórez has been working as maintenance assistant in contracting company Mecánicos Asociados (Masa), one of the companies that have more contracts in the field La Cira and is known as a model in training its staff. 

"Every 15 days we were receiving training and one of the most shocking workshops was the one about Human Rights because it helped us recognize inadequate behaviors that are seen on a daily basis. This workshop taught me to have respect towards the other people and that the fact that a worker is junior does not mean that he or she can allow people to trample on them regardless of the situations that arise in the workplace," she explains. 

For the employees of contractors and Law Enforcement officers, during training workshops of 2010, a special module was added to explain the reference framework of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

More recently, during 2011, the workshops for members of Military Forces, surveillance companies and managers of the contracting companies include the subject of Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

Even though these workshops continue, in 2012 no training workshops took place directly for the Military Forces given that OXY and Ecopetrol support and join the efforts directly undertaken by the Ministry of Defense to train its staff. 

In conformity with the commitments that the contracting companies assume in the contracts with Occidental and Ecopetrol at least once a year they must take the course. "Some people may repeat the workshop, but the contents change. Moreover, the volume of workforce in the jurisdiction is so high and there is such a great rhythm of rotation that it is better to ensure constant training," Henry Ariza affirms. 

In this way, training given by the Labor Orientation Office through recreational workshops reinforces the unwavering commitment of workers and contractors of the Field with the struggle against children exploitation and with enforcement of the code of ethics.