In January, ICCO was assigned a new project in Colombia called ‘Rural Peace’ by the European Union. Last month, Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attended the launch of the program. In this series of articles we explain the different elements in the new program ‘Rural Paz’. In this last edition: the participation of local indigenous communities in the governmental Territorial Development Plans.
Towards an equal land distribution
First of all, why will there be Territorial Development Plans? Andres Bernal, ICCO’s Country Director for Colombia: “The division of the territory within Colombia all has to do with the conflict and a such, also with peace”.
In this perspective, it is good to know a little bit more about the history of the conflict. Originally, one of the reasons the conflict began was the uprise by the Farc over unequal land distribution. The division of land and farmland ownership in Colombia is extremely unequal. Andres: “This is why the peace accord pledges to address unequal land distribution; it was one of the most important requirements of the Farc”.
As such, under the accord, landless and displaced farmers will be entitled farmland. This will be done through a land bank that aims to redistribute millions of hectares of land to small scale farmers, mainly women. Furthermore, the Territorial Development Plans will structurally transform the countryside. An important aspect because there was no policy nor a proper land registry system in the past.
Local indigenous communities
Andres: “In the process of setting up the Territorial Development Plans, it’s very important that every group in society is heard”. A vulnerable group in this process are the local indigenous communities.
Powerful landowners and companies regard the land reform - the Territorial Development Plans - as a threat to their land ownership. Not surprisingly, many multinationals have often failed to consult properly indigenous and local communities.
Violence against human rights
Even worse, there is continuing violence against human rights activists, in particular against those fighting for land rights, environmental activists and indigenous leaders. According to the UN, at least 105 activists were murdered in Colombia in 2017, and most of these murders have gone unpunished. Former paramilitary private militias (many of whom are now members of ‘bacrims’, bandas criminales which means criminal groups) are responsible for many of these crimes.
Influencing the construction of the Territorial Development Plans
Andres: “As local indigenous groups are often underrepresented in the construction of governmental policy, it is important that their voices are heard within the construction of the Territorial Development Plans. As such, this is an important action line of Rural Peace”. Therefore ICCO, together with its local partners, will strengthen the capacities of local indigenous communities, so that they can influence the construction and implementation of the Territorial Development Plans.
The Plans should guarantee the well-being of the rural populations and preserve their political, economic, social and cultural rights. Andres: “To do so, the capacity for dialogue/influences from grassroots organizations must be strengthened so that planning includes them. Also, the Plans will be aligned with the plans already developed by the communities themselves, responding to their cosmovision, cultural views, and ancestral traditions”.
Rural Peace is a project funded by the European Union’s Trust Fund for Colombia. Other partners in this project are CETEC, ART, RENACER, PAX, JUSTAPAZ and National Platform for Rural Women.