Are Indigenous Peoples and Governments on the Same Page?<br> 'Colombia is at the Vanguard With Respect to Diversity’
Statement presented by the government of Colombia at the 22nd Working Group on Indigenous Populations
We wish to underscore the importance that the state and the government of Colombia places on the theme of the protection and defense of the rights of indigenous communities, which make up, in our case, 785,356 inhabitants out of a total population of 42 million inhabitants of our country, and live in 82 community groups.
On the one hand, one of the most important challenges at the social development level that we confront is the need to overcome the structural situation of poverty and marginalization that affects many of our indigenous communities. There have been important constitutional advances in the past decade, which have placed the country at the vanguard with respect to the recognition of ethnic and cultural diversity. With respect to the specific themes of the Working Group … we will limit ourselves to informing you that there exists in our country 746 legally constituted resguardos (contiguous areas of unused, unclaimed, and unoccupied lands given to a community), totaling 31.3 million hectares that have been titled to them. This is the equivalent of 27 percent of the national territory, and only 13 percent of indigenous people live on land without resguardo title.
On the other hand, I must note … that the most troubling situation that some of our indigenous communities face with respect to human rights and international humanitarian law comes about as the result of their territories being the object of conflict between illegal armed groups that have established illicit crops and laboratories to process narcotics. They use them as corridors for movement, forcibly recruit their members, and frighten their traditional authorities, and although in no case is there known motivation to eliminate the community, with their action they end up creating situations that result in the forced displacement of indigenous community members as well as the constant violation of their individual and collective rights.
The government has developed various beneficial actions and numerous means of protection have been adopted, in concert with the beneficiaries, bearing in mind the particularities and specifics of their cultures, which we would be happy to document for those who so desire.