Organizations asked that the IACHR urge the Colombian State to comply with international obligations, to declare a moratorium on mining and energy projects, and establish a Working Group between authorities and the affected communities

Astrid Puentes Riaño, AIDA Co-Executive Director, speaking at the hearing. | Credit: Daniel Cima / IACHR.

November 3, 2014

They also asked that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urge the State to adequately attend to the victims of the forced displacement caused by the “development” projects, and to begin a dialogue between the victims and the authorities seeking effective solutions to the problem.

Washington, D.C., USA – In a hearing last Monday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in its 153rd Period of Sessions, organizations and social movements requested that the international body urge the Colombian State to recognize that forced displacement caused by the implementation of "development" projects is a human rights violation that must be prevented. They also asked that the Commission verify this grave situation with a visit to the affected areas.

The organizations expressed their deep concern for the dangerous situation in which people and communities are placed as they defend their land and their environment. The resistance to megaprojects has resulted in the murder of 13 people, the disappearance of one, and threats against 25 people who defend the country’s rivers. The violence has included the recent assassination of a Nasa indigenous community leader, opposed to the Colosa mine, and a serious threat against the indigenous governor of Córdoba. The participants presented concrete cases in which the megaprojects have destroyed territories, ecosystems and ancient cultures, causing irreparable damage and leading to the forced displacement of populations.

The participants presented before the IACHR three main factors that have been driving the forced displacement: 1.The close relationship between the armed conflict and the implementation of megaprojects; 2. The deregulation and violation of laws in the authorization and implementation of projects; and 3. The direct impacts from the implementation of the megaprojects.

They pointed out that sociopolitical violence has enabled the implementation of mining and hydroelectric projects, causing the exodus of people from their lands and the appropriation of those lands by corporations. "The paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso recognized that three-thousand people from the region of Córdoba were displaced to make way for the megaprojects, because the companies needed the land for the construction of dams," the participants stated. They also indicated that the implementation of megaprojects in Colombia precludes the processes of truth, justice, and reparation, let alone any guarantees to the victims of armed conflict and development that these wrongs will not be repeated. 

Additionally, the participants pointed out that the State is making arbitrary use of legal instruments, such as the declaration of public utility, to clear the way for these projects, without considering their impact on human rights and the environment. The State is championing the principle of public interest, which, in practice, has been converted into a mechanism for expropriation or legal dispossession, and, as a consequence, has been the cause of the displacement.

The megaprojects are having a grave impact on the ancient territories and cultures, causing irreparable damage, such as environmental contamination, that is resulting in the forced displacement of entire populations.

These causes, which have created at least 200,000 victims of forced displacement, are the basis of the organizations’ request that a moratorium on mining and hydroelectric projects be instituted in Colombia as the only guarantee for the protection of further human rights violations until the policy is structurally evaluated and fundamental rights are guaranteed to those affected populations.

Finally, the organizations asked for the intervention of the IACHR so that the Colombian State immediately establishes an Integrated Working Group, where the victims may participate in a discussion about mining and energy policy and have a voice in the development of a responsive business model that meets the needs of the affected communities. In this discussion, the State would also be urged to take note of the warnings issued by the Constitutional Court and the Comptroller General of the Republic regarding the need to identify alternative sources of energy, as stipulated by the World Commission on Dams.