Indigenous and Afro-Descendant peoples pushing for peace in Colombia: "Between hope and despair"

Interethnic Project Colombia 2014-17
Colombia Interethnic Project Synthesis Report 2014-17

Indigenous and Afro-Descendant peoples pushing for peace in Colombia: "Between hope and despair"

Final Synthesis Report for a collaborative project financed by the Norwegian Embassy in Colombia and The Kingdom of the Netherlands (2014-2017).

This report synthesizes the outcomes of a two-year, innovative, peoples-driven project that brought together Indigenous and Afro-Descendent communities in Colombia whose gold-rich ancestral lands are coveted and threatened by outside actors.

Building on an alliance that goes back to 2009, the Black Communities of the Palenke Alto Cauca, a traditional regional governance body represented nationally by the Process of Black Communities (Proceso de Comunidades Negras), and 32 Embera Chamí communities of the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta, an Indigenous Reserve in the municipalities of Riosucio and Supía (Caldas), joined forces to strengthen their organisational capacities and awareness of rights with regards to the mining sector and territorial defense.

With technical support from the Forest Peoples Programme of the UK, the two-year work programme shattered the myth that Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples in Colombia are in conflict. Instead, it underscored how inter-cultural dialogue and sharing of territorial defense strategies can lead to productive, concrete actions that contribute towards uniting peoples, upholding rights, and forging peace in Colombia.

The primary objective of the project was to strengthen self-governance, territorial defense and autonomy by focusing on appropriating and implementing the right to free, prior and informed consultation and consent in all decision-making affecting ancestral territories in the Palenke and the Resguardo, specifically with regards to mining.

Project activities covered five central themes: strengthening territorial governance and self-government; research and knowledge generation; organisational strengthening; dissemination and sharing of experiences; and awareness-raising, policy influence and advocacy. As our project ‘motto’ emphasizes, the project was underpinned by a ‘joining of forces, a weaving of strategies’ - a concrete contribution towards an alternative, inter- ethnic, grassroots peace process.

The work programme coincided with some of the most pivotal moments in Colombia’s peace process, including the 2014 re-election of President Santos, whose ballot was supported by indigenous and Afro- Descendent peoples and organisations who believe firmly in negotiated peace; to the September 2016 signing of the FARC-EP - Santos Government Peace Accords, and the October national plebiscite that saw these shot down, only to be quickly re-negotiated and taken up.

Looking towards the future, this report identifies key priorities emerging from our work programme; as well as policy recommendations for the Embassy of Norway, Holland and other foreign States with interests in Colombia; the Colombian State; companies operating in Colombia; international donors, and national and international allies supporting Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples in Colombia; and Colombia’s Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples, especially those participating in this project.