Breaking News: Final steps for the Issuance of a Decree for the Prevention of Threats to and the Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Isolation in Colombia

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Indigenous peoples, through their national organizations, reached an agreement with the government of Colombia on the development of a public policy and a regulatory framework for the prevention of threats to and the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in isolation of Colombia, which was included in the 2010-2014 and 2014-2018 national development plans.

The process was led by the indigenous association OPIAC and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, through the creation of an ad hoc committee, which had the mission of formulating guidelines for their protection and a draft methodological plan for the prior consultation of the instrument for the protection of the indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation. Between 2013 and 2014, workshops were held with neighboring communities in the vicinity of which indications of the presence of isolated peoples were reported, with the objective of establishing protection guidelines, collecting inputs and fine-tuning the methodology to make progress in the prior consultation process.

In 2014, the first revision of the draft of the methodological plan and guidelines was completed. Subsequently, in the framework of the Permanent National Consensus-Building Council (MPC) and the Amazon Regional Council (MRA), headed by OPIAC, in 2015-2016, an agreement was reached with the national government to hold 10 prior consultation meetings with neighboring communities throughout the Amazon.
For its part, OPIAC formed a technical team to advance this process with the broad participation of grassroots communities.

The consultations prioritized dialogues in the communities’ own spaces, where, together with the political and traditional authorities, the necessary inputs, the ancestral vision and the various political guidelines were gathered for the protection of peoples in isolation or in a natural state.

The process was resumed in 2017 and 2018 with the new OPIAC executive committee and its Coordinating Council for Human Rights and Peace, which led the process of dialogue with the national government headed by the Ministry of the Interior’s Directorate of Indigenous and Minority Affairs.

In these meetings, the MPC technical committee was reactivated for this process. It consisted of one representative from each one of the following organizations: OPIAC, ONIC, the Autoridades Indígenas de Colombia and the Gobierno Mayor. In these spaces, the Ministry presented a proposal for the drafting of the regulatory framework to the technical committee of the organizations of the MPC, who ensured that the spirit of the consultation with respect to the information provided at the grassroots level did not change.

Two technical meetings were held with the government to agree on the critical points of the prior consultation, as always without compromising what was said by the grassroots authorities. The final revisions, together with articles that entailed substantial changes, were brought to a meeting of the expanded Amazon Regional Council, held in Bogotá from May 7 to May 10, 2018. Participating in this meeting were representatives from the full MRA, the national government institutions, and two indigenous representatives from each meeting where the prior consultation was conducted.

This provided the technical, political and legal review by representatives of the MRA, as well as the technical commission of the MPC and the indigenous grassroots representatives, in compliance with the prior consultation plan, thus leaving only the final measure in the MPC. Currently, the legal instrument is under review by the signatory entities in order to finally bring it before the MPC toward its subsequent issuance.

The spirit of the decree seeks to ensure the prevention of threats to and the protection of rights and the permanence of the condition of isolation of these peoples through territorial intangibility, which manifests through the no-contact principle.

For its part, OPIAC urges the President of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos, to expedite the issuance of a decree for the prevention of threats to and the protection of the rights for indigenous peoples in isolation, and thereby ensure the survival of the two confirmed peoples in isolation, and potentially of another 14 possibly existing in different ancestral territories of the Colombian Amazon.

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