Humberto de la Calle L., Chief Peace Negotiator for the Colombian Government
Sergio Jaramillo, High Commissioner for Peace
Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, FARC Commander, Peace Negotiations Delegate
GAIDEPAC –Group of Academics and Intellectuals in Defense of the Colombian Pacific – is a network of people in Colombia, North America and Europe with particular interest in the realities and challenges that the Black and Indigenous communities face in the region of the Colombian Pacific. We have been following the advances in the dialogues between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP in Havana, with great interest and anticipation. We are concerned however, that a space in the dialogues has not been opened to Black and Indigenous peoples. It is precisely these groups who have been most affected by the internal armed conflict. We are aware that neither of the two parties in the negotiations has replied publicly to the letters and other communications that have been sent directly by national representative organizations. Since 2014, the National Afrocolombian Authority – ANAFRO- and the Afrocolombian National Council for Peace –CONPA-, to name only two of these organizations, have sent various forms of communication, including letters, communiques and messages to the two parties in Havana, in order to ensure that the Afrocolombian and Indigenous people are heard in relation to their rights, perspectives and territories, as well as regarding the pending implications of the peace agreements for these communities in the post-accord period.
According to Colombian legal regulation, we consider it essential and logical that ethnic groups have a formal space for participation, one that is comprehensive and differential, in the Havana negotiations, as well as in dialogues that may come to pass between the Government and the ELN – National Liberation Army, particularly as the signing of the accords according to official sources, will take place in approximately 6 weeks. These accords stand to have a significant impact on the lives and territories of these historic communities, who are also subjects of collective rights to autonomy and participation, as well as to the fundamental right to special protection by the Colombian State.
Rights for Indigenous and Afrodesdendent people established in the Constitution of 1991 include the right to active participation, the right to be consulted on the policies and projects that stand to affect their communities, identity and territories. It is without doubt that the peace accords contain significant content related to the territories and rights of the Afrodescendent and Indigenous people including: zones proposed for campesino reserves and concentration, new commissions and programs related to the substitution of illicit crops in ancestral and ethnic territories, together with the implications for the formalization of property in regions in or near ethnic territories, among many other elements that will have effects on the Afrocolombian community councils and their communities, as well as for Indigenous cabildos and the populations they represent. Despite this, there is sparse mention of community councils and cabildos in the accords, which leaves us to question whether the forms of self-government in ethnic communities stand to be marginalized via the accords and their implementation.
If there is a sincere desire to include ethnic communities in the construction of peace in the country, and to ensure a long-lasting peace that reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of Colombian society as is formulated in the Constitution of the country, there should be no hesitation in extending the invitation, immediately and urgently, to the representative organizations of Afrodescendent and Indigenous peoples.
We reiterate our support for the advances in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP, and we sincerely hope that cogent and sustainable agreements are reached, and that these can be implemented in a way that recognizes ethnic authorities and communities as principle actors in the construction of peace in ancestral territories and urban regions of the country. Without the participation of Afrocolombian and Indigneous people, a durable and sustainable peace is not possible. The conditions of marginalization, violence, displacement and poverty, historical discrimination – recognized and persistent -, the concentration of land and lack of meaningful space for political participation, have been the basis of the conflict, and these issues cannot be resolved, denying again the direct and autonomous participation of these groups, denying the rights established in the Colombian Constitution regarding consultation on that which affects ethnic communities, their identities and territories.
In order that the agreements have significance for the communities most affected by the conflict, recognition and strengthening of ethnic authorities is necessary, towards the construction of a real and possible peace. With the direct and comprehensive participation of ethnic communities, peace will imply the creation of strategies to counteract the recognized and increasing environmental degradation, resulting from a combination of factors among which, in particular, are the consequences of the armed conflict for the sustaining of an economic model based on extractive development. Peace with ethnic communities will strengthen local economies and the multiple viable alternatives to the problems generated by conflict in these regions. Ethnic participation in the peace negotiations will greatly contribute to the non-repetition of crimes, multiple forms of violence, and exclusion based on racial discrimination, which has so marked the history of Colombia. At the same time, in material terms, armed confrontations, assassinations, and threats to ethnic leaders, have not ceased during the negotiations in Havana.
We emphasize and deeply urge both parties to recognize the need to officially invite representatives of the Black and Indigenous peoples, to the negotiating table in Havana, as soon as possible, given the date for signing the agreements is approaching so fast that there is a risk of missing this historic opportunity to ensure the non-repetition of the exclusion based on discrimination against ethnic groups in Colombia.