Comprehensive Regional Rural Development Forum
Bogotá, December 19, 2012
(Translated by Beatriz Vejarano , a CSN Volunteer Translator)
by Francisco de Roux
This reflection is for us, gathered together for three days, searching for the ways toward peace from the depths of the campesino and agrarian realities of Colombia. These are not additional recommendations for Cuba. The message for Havana is ready. We have produced it in three days of dialogue and it is very good. Thanks to the United Nations and the National University. To Bruno Moro and Alejo Vargas.
This has been a forum on COMPREHENSIVE RURAL DEVELOPMENT WITH A REGIONAL FOCUS. The title suggests once and for all that what is at the bottom of the participative dialogue is the discussion about the DEVELOPMENT MODEL. Because the model we’ve had until now has produced inequity, is at the heart of the conflict, has much to do with uncontrolled migration and forced displacement, and has not achieved the economic growth that the rural areas expected. In fact, what Colombia is doing is to discuss the model, though some might say that the model cannot be discussed and that it is not negotiable. What this forum has made clear is that WE DON´T HAVE TO KILL EACH OTHER to discuss the model.
And this is the only message that I want these words of mine to convey to Havana. It’s the cry of all the victims. STOP THIS WAR. Stop it from all sides. Stop it in all of Colombia, also in the South; see to it that the Putumayo region does not remain engulfed in war. Don’t get up from the table until the armed conflict is stopped. And when you do get up, take the risk of coming over here and let’s have a dialogue about all the changes we all, men and women, must bring about so that peace with justice and sustainability becomes possible.
What is at the heart of this discussion is the model; it is the conviction that DEVELOPMENT IS THE PEOPLE. To put it in the negative, DEVELOPMENT IS NOT the millions of tons of palm oil that are extracted, or the tons of sugar cane, or those of bananas for export, or the millions of tons of coal ripped out of the territory. That can be a means for development or a means to destroy human beings.
We people are human beings in an ethnic community, in a campesino community, in a society, in A CULTURE. That is why development is a regional issue. What it’s about is the possibility that all of us, men and women, can live without exclusion, in the greatest possible fullness, in harmony with nature in a region, the life that the people wish to live.
Development isn’t about going and extracting value from a region; rather, it’s about increasing that value and sharing it among all. So you will understand me, the businessmen present here, those who have had the civil courage of listening to the yearnings of the campesinos, of talking and being respected in this collective search: the deal is not about the profits of your companies; the foremost value added that must be sought is not your profits: the deal is the value of the region. This is what Porter and Kramer write in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review about a new form of shared productivity: creating value in a society. And, paradoxically, that is what brings security and sustainability and profit to your companies in the long run.
Let’s take a look at the ethical challenge that is at the bottom of these talks. I’m not going to talk about religious ethics. I’m going to talk about the ethics that we have left here in Colombia when neither political theories, or ideologies, or philosophical explanations, or public morals are of any use at all anymore – the only thing we have left is human dignity.
Dignity is the profound experience that we all share: that we matter as persons, as families, as peoples. The dignity we have seen in women and men in the countryside who refuse to be displaced, to lose their cabildos, to be kidnapped – those who stood unarmed facing those who had the power and the guns. To defend something that they could not give up or they would become worthless as human beings.
You feel it, you know it. We don’t owe our human dignity to anyone. We don’t owe it to the State or to the Army. We don’t owe it to the FARC or to the ELN. We don’t owe it to any politician or to any employer who gives us work. Dignity is the same in all of us, is absolute in all of us: we have it simply because we are human beings. And we have it no matter if we are indigenous or black or mestizo or white. And he who has more hectares, or more cows, or arms, even the arms of the State, has no greater dignity than others. All human beings have the same dignity.
What we do with regional development is to establish and enhance the conditions needed so that the ethnic groups, the campesino communities, and the rural peoples, and also caring businessmen, can express their dignity, celebrate their dignity, share their dignity, protect their dignity, live their dignity the way a people wants to live it in a region.
That is how many of the proposals that have been heard in this hall these past three days should be understood. I’ll refer to my feelings about some of them now:
The “campesino reserve zones” (zonas de reserva campesina), because there the communities are shielded from the voracity of the market that monopolizes the land in the large holdings (latifundio) and expels the farmers from their fields; there, food is grown efficiently with lesser human and ecological costs and with quality; there is the organization so the campesinos can assert their rights; there, a sense of responsibility toward the environment is ingrained; there, the will for justice prevails. Some fear that the campesino reserve zones will become an instrument for the arrival of the guerrilla when the conflict ends. And I ask myself: What could be better, once the conflict is over, than having territories for food production and for protecting the forests and the rivers, where the former combatants can turn into realities what they dreamt about, such as social justice and participation?
Autonomy for the indigenous ethnic groups and the black and native islanders (Raizales). Turned into regional development, with the life plans and ethno-descendent plans as starting point. With the forms of security that are theirs, which demand previous consultation, voluntary and well-informed, and dialogue, so that any investment in mining or agribusiness is subordinated to the value of life in their regions.
Disappearance of paramilitarism and Bacrims (criminal gangs) from the countryside. Food autonomy to guarantee life in the territories. Protection of vacant lands that are the property of the State. If these should be handed over, it should be to the campesino, indigenous, raizal and ethnic communities. And return to the State the vacant lands that were turned into big holdings and agribusinesses.
Small land holdings for food security, with permanent tropical crops and agroecological farming. They have proved that the small producers, with organization, technology, and credits, with access to markets, can be as productive or more than plantations of products such as rubber or fruit trees, buffalos, cacao or palm oil.
Land ownership for women in the communities. To them, those women who resisted the terror and the silence and who kept the future alive. The return of the young to the countryside, because these days the young are leaving. That they return to the countryside and perform a social service instead of military service, and that they get access to computers and e-mail in the countryside, and that they stay and use the territory productively, with the good education that the regions require. Small mining with the support of the State, combined with the protection of nature and with rights, in legally confirmed licenses.
Do away with cocaine but not with the ancestral coca leaf, in this country that turned into the world’s monopoly of the narcotic. Because here, the insurgents, who fought against the multinational companies to defend sovereignty, contributed, together with the coca-producing paramilitaries, to our joining the mafia multinational. The mafia, the multinational most destructive of sovereignty, the promoter of the most perverse capitalist market, where the bullet defines the transactions and sets the prices. That is the reason to eradicate the mafia.
The need to stop fumigations and, instead, a decisive boost to an inclusive regional development, with State subsidies to the excluded small farmer who had to survive by planting coca. The productive redistribution of land so that a major part of the millions of hectares now used for extensive cattle ranching will return to food production. And to redistribute the lands now taken up by unproductive large landholdings.
The transformation of INCODER in the hope that the new administration will recover the institution, that was left in the hands of the front men of the criminals and the corrupt, and use it for regional agrarian development.
The coherent presence of entrepreneurs who bring to the countryside capital, technology, innovation, economies of scale, basic infrastructure, and jobs. And they put this entrepreneurial presence, through industry, at the service of regional value, defined as the life wished for and the dignity of the inhabitants of the territory. Safeguarding rights, security, and sustainable and human development in all the regions facing the mining “locomotive”.
A shift in the universities, so they go to the rural regions.
Infrastructure for the countryside, secondary and tertiary roads, roads in the veredas, and multi-mode transportation systems.
I COULD CONTINUE TO DWELL on issues that have been presented here. But you know them, and they are concerted for Havana. In all of these concepts, at the core there is always the challenge of regional development with human dignity as starting point. An organic, comprehensive, all-encompassing development that is not the development of sectors but of regions, of people, of nature, having decided to live without excluding anyone.
This same comprehensive development presents us with the responsibility of sitting down, all of us who are involved in a territory. Together, campesinos and ethnic groups, women, fishermen, entrepreneurs and communal authorities, universities, and organizations – to decide, in a participatory way, about the map of the region: which forests are we going to protect, which forests are going to be productive, what rivers and what wetlands are going to be looked after, which lands will be devoted to production for food sovereignty, where are there going to be campesino reserve areas, which areas are going to be devoted to small-scale production of permanent tropical crops, which will be assigned to agro-industry and under what conditions, and where, and with what restrictions, will big mining be acceptable – but always from the perspective of regional development, of the life that the people wish for, in harmony with the environment. In this regional dialogue we will determine whether or not we will be able to live in peace.
This comprehensive regional approach in which the people come first presents us with a new international context, an open market, because if the future of our regions is secure we can exchange surpluses with the whole world, in a globalization different from the globalization of the multinational corporations, in a world united through the differences among regions, with quality of life – a globalization with dignity and in harmony with nature.
The cry of the victims, whose memory is an integral part of the regional cultures, demands that the legitimate struggle for political power for the good of the people be kept apart from the war. No more Bojayás, no more kidnappings or landmines, no more the 170,000 assassinations, most of them of campesinos, that the paramilitaries confessed to as part of Justice and Peace, in alliance with people with political power in the regions. For that reason, for our dignity, we must separate violence and death from the exercise of politics from all sides – separate politics from war, now and forever.
WE HAVE TO BUILD THIS COUNTRY TOGETHER, ALL OF US. We are all important, men and women. The challenge is that we have to build this country in a participative way, in an equitable way, all of us, men and women, together. We want regions where nobody feels they have to leave, where no one will be intimidated, or blackmailed, or persecuted for his or her ideas, or kidnapped, or blown up in pieces by a landmine on his or her plot of land; where the victims are honored and vindicated through the truth and the return to their lands. If we don’t, if we can’t build this country together, there will be no peaceful future for anyone.
This will only be possible if all of us, men and women, are ready to change. All of us, men and women, must take risks. All of us, men and women, must be able to believe in one another. Once the truth is known, and trust is achieved, we will all have to forgive.
It’s Christmas time, the time the campesinos and all our families celebrate. “The divine grandeur of the human being,” as President Mandela says, appears in a poor child placed on straw in a manger, without capital and without power. That child announces to us the message that we will hopefully take with us to our regions, our cabildos, and our organizations: “Do not be afraid. The future is open. Hope is reborn. We will fight for it. Peace to all men and women united by human dignity, this is our earth.”
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)