The Challenges of Peace for Indigenous Communities

A world Conservation Summit began on September 1 in Honolulu, and at the center of every discussion was the recent peace agreement signed in Colombia.
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A world Conservation Summit began on September 1 in Honolulu, and at the center of every discussion was the recent peace agreement signed in Colombia between the National Government and FARC, the armed insurgent group. The agreement will have a lot of environmental implications.

Paulina Arroyo, program officer for the Andes-Amazon Initiative at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, says the peace agreement can be an opportunity for the Colombian Amazon – with some implications.

Right now there are more than 63,000 acres of Colombian Amazon that are indigenous territories – or roughly half the Colombian Amazon.

According to Arroyo, peace can lead to reconciliation, indigenous rights being fully recognized and indigenous participation in the government’s efforts to get zero deforestation by 2020. But there are also increasing threats like mining and oil companies entering indigenous territories, even though those activities are forbidden there. “There are also logging and illegal crops in 20 percent of indigenous zones,” Arroyo says.

Maria Clara Valencia

Paulina Arroyo, program officer for the Andes-Amazon Initiative at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Also, the Amazon has been one of the hotspots of the armed conflict with FARC, so in times of post conflict there are opportunities and challenges. “There is a need to value the ecosystem services in a regional level,” Arroyo said.

On the other hand, attention is needed on migration and enforced displacement, and on the settlements of the former guerrilleros. “Where are they going to be located? To manage that is a challenge,” she says.

“There will be ex guerrilleras in indigenous territories, so we need to be aware of indigenous needs,” adds Arroyo. “There must be a strong monitoring of what happens there.”

Santiago Aparicio, from The Amazon Conservation Team, an international NGO that works with local communities, tells ICTMN there is a need to strengthen governance. “We create alliances with the State to strengthen the indigenous governance. [It] Is not just about giving them land but recognizing the sacred places,” he says.

“The Farc used to be the regulator of natural resources in the places where they used to stay for years. Who is going to do it now? f they won’t be there there will be spaces open for new people and interests, to illegality and to big corporations.”

In that sense, according to Aparicio, from the perspective of conservation the peace agreement is big risk and indigenous peoples will have to be well-organized to maintain their traditions and ways of living.