Declaration by Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Councils in Cauca
(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN translator)
The Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities gathered together at the Municipal Center of the Municipality of Timbiquí, on 6 to 9 October 2006, representing the community councils and ethnic-territorial organizations of the Municipalities of Timbiquí, Guapi and López de Micay; the Consejo Comunitario Negros en Acción Cuenca del Río Bubuey (³Blacks in Action² Bubuey River Basin Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Renacer Negro parte alta del Río Timbiquí (³Black Rebirth² Upper Timbiquí River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Negros Unidos parte Baja del Río Timbiquí (³Blacks United² Lower Timbiquí River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario parte alta sur del Río Saija (Upper Saija River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Patia Norte (San Bernardo) (San Bernardo Northern Patia River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Bajo Saija (Lower Saija Community Council), the latter associated in the Palenque Mayor El Castigo, Consejo Comunitario Río Guajui (Río Guajui Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Río Napi (Napi River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Bajo Guapi (Lower Guapi Community Council), the Ethnic Organizations Proceso de Comunidades Negras En Colombia PCN (Process of Black Communities in Colombia), Asociación para la defensa del Territorio y la Cultura Negra Asómanos Negra (Asómanos Negra Association for the Defense of Black Territory and Culture), Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas Eperara Siapidara del Cauca (Eperara Siapidara del Cauca Association of Indigenous Councils), Organización Zona Baja de Cabildos y Autoridades Indígenas del Cauca (Lower Cauca Organization of Indigenous Councils and Authorities), Fundación Chiyangua (Chiyangua Foundation), Empresa Asociativa de Trabajo La Fortaleza (La Fortaleza Associative Labor Enterprise), Asociación De Madres Comunitarias (Association of Community Mothers), Ecoguias (Eco-guides), Coopedig, Mujeres en Progreso (Women in Progress).
WE THANK the Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Municipio de Timbiquí (Timbiqui Municipality Association of Community Councils), Palenque Mayor el Castigo and the Asociación por la Defensa del Territorio y la Cultura Negra ASOMANOS NEGRA (ASOMANOS NEGRA Association for the Defense of Black Territory and Culture) for taking the initiative of calling the Community Councils and Ethnic Organizations of the region, and the institutions present in the zone to a process of thinking and coordination on the route to defending the Rights to Territory, to Autonomy, Identity and Culture of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples of the Pacific Region Territory.
WE ARE ALSO GRATEFUL to the Corporación Ecofondo, Corporación Autónoma Regional del Cauca (CRC), Proceso de Comunidades Negras en Colombia (PCN) (Process of Black Communities in Colombia), for the support given to this initiative.
WE ARE ALSO GRATEFUL for the support of the Subdirección de asuntos étnicos del Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia (Sub-directorate for Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice) for attending this event.
WE CONGRATULATE AND OFFER OUR SOLIDARITY with the Brothers of the Buenaventura, Rió San Juan, Bajo Atrato and Tumaco Territories; and equally with the Afro-Ecuadorian Brothers, the Garifuna and Quilombo Peoples whose Ancestral Territories are going through hard times of pressure and subjugation.
WE STRESS the importance of this historic moment for the Communities and Collective Territories of Afro-descendents in Colombia in the current process of regulation of Chapters IV, V and VII of Law 70 of 1993, on Natural Resources, Mineral Resources and Development option.
We, the descendents of African and indigenous peoples who settled the territory of the Caucano Pacific region, have been following ancestral and traditional practices that have permitted environmental sustainability and we have built harmonious, mágico-spiritual relations in this territory. Although Law 70 of 1993 opened up avenues for fostering action to drive social, economic and cultural development in line with the settlers own aspirations, the Colombian State has never shown any commitment to making it applicable in real terms. Today the problematical situations in the region have intensified; the social, political, economic and armed conflicts the country is experiencing have turned towards this region, corresponding to new interest in exploiting the natural and mineral resources that Afro-Colombian and indígenous communities have always conserved. In ten years, the Pacific region territory has gone from being a territory of peace, culture and life to become a whirlwind in territorial dispute over control of biodiversity resources that are geo-strategic to industry today and in the future; at the same time, the introduction of monocultures used illicitly as a strategy for war, displacement and expropriation, is also driving the implementation of monocultures like oil palm, which affects the ecosystem and transforms the natural environment in the same proportions as the monoculture of coca. After the Abolition of Slavery, our territory and our communities were subjected to new processes of enslavement; in the early 20th century, the government gave title to the whole course of the Timbiquí River to the New Gold Mines Timbiquí company; in 1990 we experienced a similar process when the government facilitated mining permits to the Russian company Cosmina; the communities were impoverished and subjected to a dynamic of territorial and cultural pressures. Today we regard with great concern the presence of enormous dredgers that will transform the natural ecosystem, generate severe pollution processes, which will have serious repercussions on human health and the environment.
Structural and institutional racism lies at the root of all the problems we face today as an Afro-descendant community. The descendants of Africans have been a historic presence in these territories for over 500 years and slavery was abolished officially 154 years ago. Nonetheless, Afro-Colombians on the Pacific coast continue to display the worst indices of poverty, marginality and exclusion in the country.
1. The community councils and Afro-Colombian and indigenous ethnic-territorial organizations agree that institutional, political, technical and economic oversight is needed in order to continue implementing alternative processes of development that permit well-being and a decent life for the communities, with a focus on environmental sustainability.
2. Most of the challenges identified are symptomatic of the weakness of the Colombian State in implementing real, effective processes to apply the economic, social and cultural rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities and to guarantee their fundamental rights. Added to this is the evident impact of weak democracy in effectively developing policies of State to permit Afro-Colombians participate with dignity in the decisions that affect them.
3. Among the difficulties, the community councils and ethnic-territorial organizations point to the lack of political will on the part of the local, departmental and national governments to support the region¹s institutions.
4. The community councils and Afro-Colombian and indigenous ethnic-territorial organizations agree on how gravely crops for illicit use affect the eco-system, life and culture. Accordingly, we declare the need to coordinate actions to prevent the frontiers of such crops from continue to expand. At the same time, we do not agree with the fumigations with glyphosphate, because they are harmful to the environment, food security and sovereignty and human health.
5. The organizations concluded that they disagree with the presence of crops for illicit use that enter their collective territories, generate environmental pollution, break down the social fabric and intensify conflict in these territories.
6. They conclude that they do not agree with the presence of machinery that enter the territories without prior permission from the competent regional authorities and without complying with the prior consultation process.
7. The organizations consider unacceptable the grave crisis in human rights violations and attempts to draw the civil population into the armed conflict.
8. The organizational processes agreed on the need to bring forward a real process of regulating Chapters IV, V and VII of Law 70 of 1993, with the participation of the community councils and ethnic-territorial organizations.
In view of the foregoing, WE DEMAND of the local, regional, departmental and national authorities and bodies:
1. Regulation of Chapters IV, V and VII of Law 70 of 1993, which is important, urgent and structural to Afro-Colombian communities, so that progress can be made in order to advance in developing and protecting the Territories and the environment and in guaranteeing self-determination for our people.
2. That they drive efforts to set up public defenders¹ offices for Afro-Colombian peoples and, at the regional level, marshal endeavors to set up a people¹s public defender¹s office to address especially the situation of Afro-Colombian people of the Pacific coast.
3. That they bring together and coordinate organizations and institutions in actions to protect and conserve the natural ecosystem and natural resources.
4. Of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, that it report the present status of the project for a small hydroelectric facility on the Brazo Seco River in the Municipality of Guapi.
5. Of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, that it rescind concession contract No. GJB 141 of 30 March 2006, on the grounds that the Prior Consultation process did not take place, as required by Decree 1320 of 1998.
6. That it give its determined support for proposals that the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been pursuing to defend their territory, identity and autonomy, and incorporate funding for their formulation and implementation into related budgets.
7. That the Defensoría del Pueblo (Public Defenders Office) and Procuraduría General de la Nación (National Attorney-General¹s Office) oversee the activities of the Ministry of Mines and Energy in granting concessions to third parties in collective territories.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights organizations, the Public Defenders Office and the Vice-Presidency of the Republic are requested to apply vigorous efforts to setting up na observatory on the human rights situation of the leaders of community councils, ethnic organizations and the communities in general.
WITH OUR TRADITIONAL ASSERTION OF LIFE, HAPPINESS, HOPE AND FREEDOM, FROM THE BLACK PEOPLE IN COLOMBIA.
ASOCIACION DE CONSEJOS COMUNITARIOS DE TIMBIQUI (Timbiqui Municipality Association of Community Councils), Consejo Comunitario Río Guajui (Río Guajui Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Río Napi (Napi River Community Council), Consejo Comunitario Bajo Guapi (Lower Guapi Community Council), Proceso de Comunidades Negras en Colombia PCN (Process of Black Communities in Colombia), Asociación para la Defensa del Territorio y la Cultura Negra (Association for the Defense of Black Territory and Culture). Fundación Chiyangua (Chiyangua Foundation), Empresa Asociativa De Trabajo La Fortaleza (La Fortaleza Associative Labor Enterprise), Asociación De Madres Comunitarias de Guapi (Association of Community Mothers), Ecoguias (Eco-guides), Coopedig, Mujeres en Progreso (Women in Progress), Corporación Ancestro Proceso de Comunidades Negras en Colombia (Ancestro Corporation Process of Black Communities in Colombia).
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas Eperara Siapidara del Cauca (Eperara Siapidara del Cauca Association of Indigenous Councils), Organización Zona Baja de Cabildos y Autoridades Indígenas del Cauca (Lower Cauca Organization of Indigenous Councils and Authorities)
Given at the Municipal Center of Timbiquí, 8 October 2006.
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