The Caquetá government makes history for the rights of indigenous communities

Original article appears in La Nación. Written by La Nación.

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In April 2012, through the first assembly of the indigenous communities of Caquetá, the Caquetá government took a historic step toward the formalization and recognition of the rights and culture of the indigenous communities of the region, recognition that respects their knowledge and customs as fundamental to the department’s cultural development.  The assembly provided the space for commencement of the development of an indigenous public policy and formation of a coordinating council in the region, subjects included in the 2012-2015 development plan.

For 2013-2014, the departmental government—with the endorsement of the indigenous authorities and the support of the Departmental Indigenous Council of Caquetá (CODIC) and other organizations—developed a series of assemblies with the objective of moving forward in reaching consensus on and validating guidelines promoting the self-governance and autonomy of the indigenous territories, embodied in a public policy established by ordinance. 

With the development of all of these processes, the departmental government achieved for the first time in Caquetá the indigenous communities of the department were unified around the same objective, leading to the commencement in 2015 to the first of the largest indigenous gatherings in the department’s history, the prior consultation process.  Seven indigenous communities and over 500 persons convened to draft a document that contained the guidelines for a departmental indigenous public policy and a coordinating council that would enact their rights and grant the communities true significance in the cultural development of the department.  Through the investment of special government funds, the value of the department’s indigenous communities has been recognized. 

 “This is the moment of the indigenous communities.  Now they may guide their own destinies in the coming years through the departmental and municipal development plans.  This government expects that this proposal will be approved by ordinance and have mayors and governors to enforce it”.  This statement was issued by the secretary of the departmental government Hugo Alejandro Rincón Uribe during the development of the prior consultation process conducted at the Mama Bwé Reojaché rural school of Aguas Negras in the municipality of Milán. 

Next, Oliver Gasca of the indigenous reserve of El Diamante of the municipality of Solano expressed his happiness to be part of this consultation as a member of the Coreguaje community, noting that this was the first time that a departmental government recognized the original name of the indigenous governments of the communities of Caquetá: “It is a history that now belongs to future generations, through the development of a comprehensive public policy in territorial terms … we will clean up our lands, restore our ancestral traditions, and carry out other programs that will greatly benefit the indigenous communities.”

Seven communities are now united: the Uitoto, Coreguaje, Inga, Embera, Pijao, Nasa, and Misak.  The government is providing them with support and giving them the opportunity to unify themselves for a worthy purpose, an objective that will strengthen them, not only in their rights, but also by making them propagators of peace in a territory where positive things are happening through the recovery of ancestral culture. 

Finally, and after five days of prior consultation, a document was signed approving the agreements reached for the guidelines for what will be a public policy for the indigenous communities of the department.  The guidelines were reviewed and studied by the indigenous authorities together with various institutions at the departmental and national level, as well as international organizations.

The draft document will be endorsed at a meeting that will take place at the end of October 2015 in the city of Florencia, after which a final document will be presented to the departmental assembly to be formally established through ordinance, supporting the rights of the indigenous communities of Caquetá. 

Mr. Rincón Uribe continued that the convening of the meeting was achieved thanks to the coordination of many institutions including ACT, TNC, CODIC, the Defensoria del Pueblo, the Mama Bwé Reojaché rural school, and others that had confidence in the development of this process. 

 

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