Over six days 150 delegates from India, Bolivia, Honduras and Colombia met with international observers from the United States and Canada in a conference for territory and land rights. In a beautiful experience of solidarity with the families of the Curvaradó Community Council, who are developing unsung processes grounded in strong ethical convictions in the middle of political violence, exercising their rights to protect diverse sources of life and a to a legal restitution of their territories to ensure a dignified existence.
We, participants of the International Conference on Land held in Curvaradó in June 2014, observe, interpret, discuss and conclude the following:
In our respective countries exist similar situations regarding the limitation of land rights through legal means, violence, absence of inclusive policies or recognition of ethnic and gender rights, of rights to underground resources and air, on the part of the state and private national and multinational actors. Business interests in the territories, particularly those related to the accumulation of belowground territory, are protected by the majority of States, which allows them to be defined principally as resources serving the consumption demands of the few throughout our countries and the world. This has increased the concentration of land, ecological footprints and social inequality and exclusion.
Policies designed by the World Bank and other multilateral financial and trade organizations have defined land legalization and restitution processes in order to facilitate, via national policies of flexibility and favorability, investment in the purchase of land for agro industrial food production, biofuels, infrastructural works and mining extraction, among others. Some governments, which have redefined a sense of democracy, in advancing national sovereignty and people’s rights, have constructed alternatives to exclusion and the intense destruction of ecosystems.
In India, out of a population of 1.2 billion 480 million people are landless and are fighting for land. Close to 2.5 million rural inhabitants face crushing debt. Since India won independence from Britain in 1947, more than 60 million people have been displaced by dam development and other infrastructural works. Over the past 25 years, Ekta Parishad, inspired by the philosophy of Ghandi, has mobilized over 100,000 people in 6,000 villages. One of the biggest demands that Ekta Parishad supported was the movement for justice, part of the Jan Satyagraha movement, which negotiated a 10-point agreement on agrarian reform with the Indian government last October.
In Honduras, repression has manifested itself in diverse ways since the coup, including assassinations, forced disappearances, detentions, torture, false accusations, denial of the right to protest, and, in relation to land rights, a refusal of community land rights in favor of mining operations and water excavation. Private security forces and state agents act at the service of private actors, including companies like DESA, SINOHYDRO, and the FICOHSA group, which is trying to construct the Zarca Hydroelectric Dam. One leading opposition group is the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH (Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras). Its leader, Bertha Cáceres, has been illegally detained and prosecuted for leading proposals for water rights. José Martínez, also with COPINH, was a target of abuse by authorities in his country during his departure for Colombia, and had his bags confiscated for carrying messages of solidarity with communities in Colombia.
In Bolivia, the Aymara and Quichua people continue in the construction of Suma Qamaña via the Plurinational Constitution of the Bolivian State. Faced with the capture and concentration of land, social movements have begun, with the current government, a process of land reallocation via nationalization and a new focus on agrarian policy, confronting transnational extractive interests and agricultural products like soy.
In Colombia, diverse social and community processes agree that the concentration of land in a few hands and rural inequality is on the rise. Land restitution and titling laws have been ineffective at reaching justice and equity. The current government’s so-called development projects prioritize agribusiness, extractive operations that generate new forms of displacement and exclusion, lacking recognition of the right to prior consultation, and causing the destruction of water sources and social and environmental breakdown. Under such strategic objectives, private actors including wealthy individuals, Colombian and multinational companies enjoy benefits like easy access to land, financing and tax breaks.
Exercising the right to land, its use and protection in Colombia occurs within a context of multiple and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the part of the state armed forces and their paramilitary auxiliaries, often through hostilities and armed operations against guerilla groups like the FARC and the ELN, whose violent activities have also affected the rights of rural populations.
The participants in the Conference call on our sister communities and allies to advocate:
- To the parties involved in the armed confrontation in Colombia:
A bilateral ceasefire, that would guarantee true conditions for free mobility and the protection of life. Particularly, while the peace dialogues in La Habana, Cuba advance and a process of dialogue with the ELN and EPL are initiated, processes that ought to assure social participation and confront the structural roots of injustice.
- To the Colombian government:
Recognition of humanitarian initiatives for environmental and territorial protection being constructed by the organizations that are part of the network, Red de Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios; the recognition of Zonas de Reserva Campesina and the collective rights of campesinos; the awarding of titles and amplification of titles demanded by indigenous communities; the acceleration of land restitution as solicited by ASOCAB in order to reestablish their campesino lifestyle and their socioeconomic identity.
- To the Honduran government:
Guarantees for the legal and legitimate rights to life, social protest, solidarity, and due process within the judicial persecution of the leaders of COPHIN and other social organizations in the country.
- To the Indian government:
Compliance with the 10 points agreed on following the mass, non-violent mobilizations of the country’s landless people. To the Bolivian government: an advance in the nationalization of rural properties currently in the power of transnationals, thereby furthering land distribution for the rural inhabitants of the country.
- To the Vía Campesina, Environmental and Women’s movements:
Recognition of the initiatives created by the communities and organizations participating in this Conference, and the establishment of relationships of solidarity.
- For the proposals constructed within Latin America such as the Boliviarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC):
The establishment of direct mechanisms for the strengthening of socio-economic and political accords as well as ties in alliance with the participants of this conference for the development of land rights initiatives.
Done in Camelias Humanitarian Zone, Curvaradó, June 21, 2013.