EL ESPECTADOR, August 19, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The high court’s decision about holding and acquisition of uncultivated property in this country is a push toward implementation of the Peace Agreement, whose first point speaks of comprehensive rural reform, and how the National Land Agency should grow, not just in its budget, but also in political and economic support.
Although the Peace Agreement between the government and the now-defunct FARC was clear in the implementation of a point that would strengthen comprehensive rural reform, this Thursday the Constitutional Court made a call for carrying out a design. It was a particularly historic decision made by the full Court about the holding and acquisition of uncultivated property in this country.
The implementation of the Peace Agreement had, among other things, the objective of increasing the possibilities for the rural population, from solving the problems concentrated in the campesino economy, implementing programs intended for rural development, to dealing with the problem of land ownership. On that point, the Court gave a push for this area.
The high Court created a series of directives to help the campesinos of Colombia to have access to uncultivated properties without any obstacles. To do that, it stipulated that the National Land Agency be strengthened, it created a special agrarian jurisdiction, it consolidated the multi-purpose land registry, it updated the registry system, directed that the objectives proposed in the National Land Fund be met, and that a plan for the massive formalization and execution be prepared for rural property.
In order to obtain a good result with these directives, the high Court exhorted the administration and the Congress to allocate the necessary funds to bring these aims to life, with the purpose of providing an effective answer to the different situations that affect the legal security of land holdings and real property, such as the rights of the campesinos, especially of rural women and poor families and people who have been displaced.
In the same manner, it exhorted high officials in the administration to adopt measures to strengthen, both technically and financially, the National Land Agency, the Office of the Superintendent of Notaries and Registries, the Rural and Agricultural Planning Unit, and the Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute, to ensure attention to the PDET areas, places that are highly marginalized because of the violence. In those places, according to the Court, the Multipurpose Registry must be implemented, and in the areas focused by the Ministry of Agriculture, must push forward what is called a “comprehensive land cleanup”.
On the other hand, the opinion, which was put together by the nine Justices of the high Court, also ordered the Superior Council of the Administration and Ordering of Rural Land, created by Decree Law 2367 of 2015, to organize the implementation of public policies in the area of ordering rural land. That entity, among other things, will have to coordinate the inter-institutional activities needed to comply with the decision, and also the allocation of funds for agencies that will be carrying out the new directives that had been issued.
The Superior Council for the Ordering of Land must consider the opinions of women, campesino organizations, ethnic communities, and victims of the armed conflict, among others that will be called together by the administration. For its part, the National Land Agency, in one year, has to have a comprehensive plan that adopts four specific points.
It will have to construct a data base that includes the quantity of rural properties that have no registered history in which there had been a decision of legal ownership, at least since the effective date of the Constitution of 1991. That list will determine whether or not any recorded ownership exists, will identify its location, the date of the decision, the judicial authority offered, and the name of the owner.
“In the case of the decisions of record, those with which the appropriate real estate record has been opened will receive priority. And beginning with that data base, will elaborate an updated Plan for the Recovery of Uncultivated Property (PARB in Spanish), based on existing legislation. The plan must prioritize government action on the enormous tracts of land in absolute terms, or tracts that greatly exceed the Family Agricultural Unit,” states the message from the Court.
The work of the National Land Agency
The Agency, according to the Court, must be able to carry out the task beginning with “empirical information. That permits it to identify the departments or regions where there have been the most cases of adverse possession of properties alleged to be uncultivated property, or places that show the highest indexes of land accumulation.
It must formulate and carry out the Plans for the Social Ordering of Rural Property in the terms that it had established in Decree Law 902 in 2017, as amended with respect to the goals for titling uncultivated land, the assignment of rights to its use, and the formalization of rural property over private tracts, thus prioritizing female heads of household, victims of the armed conflict, and persons lacking material goods.
There must also be a plan that places in evidence the highest levels of land concentration, the goals of the Land Fund in the area of free handover after the signing of the Peace Agreement, the goals for massive formalization, as well as also the goals for cleanup, classification, and digitalization of the historic files of what used to be INCODER (Colombian Institute for Rural Development).
Likewise, the Integrated Information system must be activated to the point that it can be implemented as a mechanism that the public can consult through a microsite in the agency’s web portal. This will serve as a channel for communication with administrative and legal authorities, which must contain information for the identification, recovery, and titling of uncultivated property.
“This public access microsite will have at least a map of Colombia, divided by department, and that allows different parameters of consultation, such as: places with the highest concentration of land in terms of ownership, extension in area and number of UAF (Family Agricultural Units); number of hectares in the process of clarification; places with the highest number of ownership cases pushed ahead on tracts that are alleged to be uncultivated property; and hectares recognized by the Land Fund”, said the Court in its decision.
The work of other entities
The Superintendency of Notaries and Registration, for its part, must adopt an action plan with goals for management and short, medium, and long term results, so that the information that now rests in the Registry of Public Instruments Office in the former system, or former registry books, must migrate in their totality to the current registry system. To do that, the entities will have a three-month deadline.
The Superior Council of the Judiciary has 90 days to make administrative decision that guarantee that the ordinary civil jurisdiction will be able to handle the judicial state established in Decree Law 902 in 2017, which is nothing more than the implementation of the policy of social ordering of rural property. This requires the administration and the Congress to create agricultural jurisdiction.
“These activities will include, at a minimum, the following measures: channels of communication and notification between the Judges and the National Land Agency; education and training in agriculture law, and special legislation on uncultivated property, the adoption of administrative measures related to plant personnel and the creation of courts if it turns out to be necessary for the accomplishment of the jurisdiction just mentioned and the functioning and updating and accessibility of the registry of ownership cases,” explained the Court.
Finally, with regard to the directive that was imposed on the National Planning Department, the Court said that it must design a plan to organize a special system of evaluation of the management and the results of the administration in relation to the public policy contained in point number 1. of the Final Agreement, which talks about Comprehensive Agrarian Reform.