UN Special Rapporteur warns of a humanitarian crisis for indigenous peoples

( Translated by Zachary Walden Chapell, a CSN volunteer translator)
(SIC-ONIC) Saturday, June 25, 2009
Colombia, the multicultural country that “shone” with fervor in the Constitution of ‘91, today is dying. Its peoples are being extinguished physically and culturally. There is much collective responsibility for this crisis: the government, political society, the armed actors and social institutions, none can be freed from the dock of the accused.
Colombia, the multiethnic and multicultural country that “shone” with fervor in the Constitution of ’91, today is dying. Factors like the war, discrimination, indifference, forcible displacement, loss of territory, lack of respect for cultural differences, wicked exploitation of natural, mineral and hydrocarbon resources by multinational firms, implementation of megaprojects, social indifference and—above all—the failure to carry out their social, political, constitutional and democratic responsibilities of successive governments, have led to innumerable peoples’ being at risk of being physically and culturally extinguished.
This was made evident during the Hearing held in response to the visit to Colombia of the United Nations Special Relateur for Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties of the Indigenous Peoples, Dr. James Anaya, whose object is to examine the human rights situations of the indigenous peoples, and do the follow through for the recommendations of the Rapporteur’s Mandate in 2004.
Those recommendations that, according to what was said by 30 indigenous people who came from different areas of the country, have not been carried out; rather, systematic violations of the rights of the communities have increased.
The Rapporteur at that time, Dr. Rudolf Stavenhagen, sent recommendations to the government, to the armed actors, and to other actors, which would tend to improve the conditions of the lives of the indigenous people.
In this sense, Anaya indicated that his visit is meant to provide the routes so that these recommendations could be carried out: “This is the great challenge: how to make sure the recommendations are carried out, by means of dialog and efforts at getting closer,” he asserted on his arrival at the headquarters—Maloka—of the Indigenous Organization of Colombia [Organización Indígena de Colombia—ONIC], where the hearing was held.
He emphasized that the situation of the indigenous is critical in every aspect. Anaya was received with a gastronomic display of the great biodiversity of indigenous cooking: a native music band welcomed him with the most Colombian rhythms. A harmonizing ritual opened the session: the ritual harmonized the gathering and invoked the blessing of Mother Nature, which of course was received.
From the Mystic to the Dramatic

The panorama that indigenous people in Colombia are living through is critical given the causes that produced it: among others, the development of the armed conflict and the implementation of public policies that do not respond to the needs of the 102 peoples, as well as the application of legislative norms that are adverse to the peoples.
The indigenous peoples of the country denounced the very serious and shystematic violations of fundamental human rights, and territorial and collective rights by the actors who promote the armed conflict, megaprojects, lack of attention by the state and abuses by the civilian or military “authorities” charged—precisely—with the protection of the civilian population.
ONIC has denounced the murder of m ore than 1240 indigenous persons en the last seven years by armed actors: guerrillas, paramilitaries and the army. In just the time that has run in this year 60 indigenous persons have been murdered in the cases that have been registered and opportunely denounced by authorities and indigenous organizations of the country.
The situation of displacement and malnutrition are evils that attack the very right of the communities to exist; hundreds of children have died of hunger and preventable diseases, but because of the absence of the state they have not been attended in time. Meanwhile, thousands of persons have had to leave their plots, farms, and the surroundings where they have been for all or most of their lives.
Recruitment under threat and the criminalization of indigenous authorities and leaders threaten the ongoing survival of the indigenous communities.
What most attracted the attention of the different indigenous peoples was the lack of political will in the government to carry out their obligations; the areas of agreement with the government do not function, the processes of previous consultation are phonies, there has been no progress in constituting the reservations.
The indigenous people showed irrefutable proof of these elements, and pointed out that 65 per cent of the indigenous territories have been given in concessions to multinational firms, in the majority of cases without previous consultation.
But the most desolating panorama, which is worrisome and left a sense of pain and impotence is seeing how more than 30 indigenous peoples are in risk of being extinguished by the factors that we have been mentioning.
National and international consciousness has still not awakened, and while it sleeps we are at the gates of a genocide that is magnified by social and political indifference and shows the drama of humanity that has not been capable of being moved by the fate of its peoples who originated life.
In this sense and facing the fear of losing their traditions, the indigenous people let loose a cry to the world to guarantee among everyone the cultural survival of the indigenous peoples. “The government and the armed actors who promote the war cannot be the executioners of their peoples who call for peace, for justice, dignity and liberty,” concluded one indigenous person from a remote area in phrases that hit the mark.
Before this series of denunciations and clamor, the Rapporteur Anaya said, “I have heard your deep sadness. There are great challenges and much suffering, violations of human rights of the indigenous peoples, deaths…”
There is much social and collective responsibility for the crisis of our indigenous brothers: political society, the armed actors and Columbian institutions will not be able to free themselves from the dock of the accused. Perhaps it is not too late to recognize those responsibilities and take effective measures that, even if they cannot undo the errors, at least might serve to prevent a cultural and spiritual extermination of our peoples. We indigenous people shelter the hope that from this visit the Rapporteur might be able to put out recommendations that tend to improve the conditions of life of our communities and that might compensate for the great human and financial effort that every one of the indigenous peoples and organizations have had to assume to make possible this Hearing and this encounter of cultures with the Rapporteur.

Colombia Support Network
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e-mail:  csn@igc.org

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