I knew the topic of land in Colombia was complex, but Wednesday’s conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace left me with a sense of just how complex it is–and raised more questions than answers. It was an amazing afternoon that reiterated my sense that the peace process can contribute to moving Colombia toward more equitable solutions with regard to land, but that these solutions will require widespread stakeholder engagement and popular support to sustain them.
Here is the link to the webcast for those who would like to watch the event. Once the speakers have polished their remarks, I will post them here (as well as on the websites of USIP and the U.S. Office on Colombia).
In the webcast link, you will first see David Smock,Vice President for the Centers of Innovation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, open the event. (Stick with it, it takes a minute for the sound to be adjusted.) Dana Brown, Executive Director of the U.S. Office on Colombia, which co-sponsored the event with USIP, follows with welcoming remarks. I then introduce the program. Kathy Ogle and Iciar Gomez provide the English translation.
In the first panel on land, conflict and the peace negotiations, chaired by Cynthia Arnson of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Absalón Machado (rural development advisor for the United Nations Development Program/UNDP) and Carlos Salgado (Director of Planeta Paz) lay out succinctly the agendas and priorities of the parties at the negotiating table in Havana, as well as why rural land development is so integral to sustainable peace.
A second panel on Land and Displacement, moderated by Dr. Mary J. Roldan (Hunter College and the Graduate Center at City University of New York), follows. In this panel, Ricardo Sabogal, Director of the Unit for the Restitution of Lands/Unidad de Restitución de Tierras, discusses the successes and challenges of land restitution. Zoraida Castillo, Director of Lutheran World Relief in Colombia, discusses the challenges to implementation of the restitution process in the departments on the Caribbean coast. Ángela Suárez Alvarez, Program Manager for the Victims Institutional Strengthening Program (VISP), at USAID/Colombia, rounds out the panel with a presentation on USAID support for the Victims and Land Restitution Law.
Dr. Maureen Lempke (Duke University) moderates a third panel that examines the ways that different groups have been affected by displacement and land restitution, and how they view the peace process in Havana. Dr. Donny Meertens from the Javeriana University speaks about transforming gender relations in land restitution. Jaime Enrique Arias, governor of the Kankuamo reservation (resguardo) and representative of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), spoke about indigenous perspectives on peace, land, and restitution. Everyldis Córdoba Borja, Coordinator of the Community Council of Afro-Colombian Communities of the River Tolo (Cocomasur), spoke about her community’s experience in mediating land conflicts. Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Magistrate and Vice President of Colombia’s Constitutional Court next addresses the Colombian Government’s obligations to minority communities in the context of land restitution and the peace process. I make some final summarizing comments and closing remarks.
The audience at the event, not shown on the webcast, included just under 200 people, from primarily three sectors–U.S. government officials (from USAID, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the Departments of State, Defense, Labor, and Justice); academics (some 30 faculty and students from twelve universities, including area universities as well as Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Hunter College); and a few dozen development practitioners and private sector contractors.