A New Report from Peace Brigades International:
Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet and is home to more than 10% of the world’s plant and animal species. But today, 40% of Colombia’s land has been licensed to, or is being solicited by, multinational companies in order to develop mineral and crude oil mining projects. This fact reflects the Colombian government’s intention to turn the country into a mining powerhouse, and entails significant consequences for the country’s ecosystem and rural communities.
With the objective of stimulating development in the mining sector, the government has promoted normative changes that have cleared the way for intensifying mining activities. The government has declared mining an “activity for public utility and social interest, for which the unilateral expropriation ” of private property is allowed. The government also declared protests against the mining industry illegal, and has conceded mining licenses in protected areas such as moorlands, indigenous reserves, and collective territories belonging to Afro-descendent communities.
Through its presence on the ground and its accompaniment of human rights defenders, human rights organisations, and displaced and returning communities, Peace Brigades International has been able to observe that communities of small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians most directly suffer the environmental, cultural and socio-economic damages caused by these megaprojects. In fact, 80% of the human rights violations that have occurred in Colombia in the last ten years were committed in mining and energy-producing regions, and 87% of Colombia’s displaced population originate from these places. Despite the fact that Colombia’s Constitution recognises more rights of ethnic minorities than most—more than 102 indigenous peoples and four million persons of African descent live in the country—and provides protections for their cultures and environment, mining companies and illegal armed actors have still violated their rights.
This can be seen in the cases featured in this bulletin about the indigenous communities of the U’wa, Barí and Wayúu, and numerous afro-descendent communities. Moreover, many rural communities sustain themselves economically through small-scale mining. Now they are caught in legal limbo, as their work is no longer considered legal. As a result of this situation, many communities have decided to organise themselves, resist, and struggle for their rights by using the legal and collaborative resources at their disposal. Some examples of these efforts are the Peasant Farmer Reserve Zone of the Cimitarra River Valley, and processes of prior, free, and informed consultation with local communities to decide the future use of certain lands.
At a moment when Colombia is attempting to implement the Victims Law and carry out land restitution, PBI would like to highlight one of the principal causes of land evictions: competition over the use of the soil and subsoil for implementing economic projects. Given this situation, there is much that the international community can do to support these community initiatives.
Download the Report from Peace Brigade International - Colombia