In Colombia, killings of land defenders reached a historic high in 2016, according to Global Witness

The report Defenders of the Earth, published today, 13th July 2017, by Global Witness, reports that Colombia is one of the countries where the situation for people defending their land is getting worse.  According to the report, in 2016 Colombia had it´s worst recorded year with the killing of 37 people defending their land, despite the Peace Agreement between the government and the FARC.

Global Witness states that people defending their land are more at risk now due to the increased competition for access to the land rich in natural resources that the FARC have left now they have demobilised.  The report states that since the Peace Process, displaced people who return to their communities are being attacked for recuperating the land that was stolen from them during the conflict, whilst an increase in investors intensifies the fight for natural resources.

The report uses the example of the coal mine in La Guajira, Cerrejón, to illustrate the concerning tendencies that it speaks about.  The indigenous people who live close to the mine have reported health impacts, displacements and a breakdown of the social fabric of the community due to the mining activity.

Jakeline Romero
“We, the Wayúu people are paying with out lives.  We are paying with our culture.  We are paying with the threat of being eliminated…Simply because we defend this little peace of earth that used to feed us”. Jakeline Romero, Wayúu leader and women´s rights and indigenous peoples´ activist from La Guajira.

The report ends with a series of key and clear recommendations of how to address the situation:

  • Address the main causes of risk: guaranteeing that the communities can make free and informed choices about whether their land and resources are used or not and it what way.
  • Support and protect defenders: though specific laws, policies and practices.
  • Guarantee accountability for committed abuses: go further than just judicially prosecuting the people responsible for ordering or carrying out an attack, guaranteeing that the actors who don´t support or protect defenders receive consequences for their lack of action.

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