Declaration of the International Conference for Land Rights

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 observe, interpret, discuss and conclude the following:

1. 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 below-ground 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 Asociación Campesina de Buenos Aires, ASOCAB, Las Pavas, from Bolívar province, is facing land dispossession by palm companies whose commercial transactions have been connected to narcotraffickers and paramilitaries, passing off displacement as a legal enterprise through fraudulent mechanisms.

In Cauca province, caught between armed operations, hostilities, and confrontations between state and FARC guerrilla forces, the indigenous Nasa communities are directly affected by land concentration for large landholders. Plans to use Nasa land for Duty-Free Zones and the denial or slow processing of communally held land titles are factors that along with the public policies of the current administration are facilitating the arrival of multinationals.

Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste Antioqueño, CAHUCOPANA, described a situation in Antioquia ignoring the right to legal status for their Zona de Reserva Campesina (Farmer Reserve Zone or ZRC). Similarly, extractive mining operations are being carried out in their territory, disregarding the rights of campesino communities.

For its part, the Asociación Campesina del Valle del Cimitarra, ACVC, related that the creation of a Zona de Reserva Campesina is a strategy to combat land concentration and to develop agro-ecological and sustentative proposals. As a result of this strategy, they have been threatened by paramilitaries, been victims of judicial set-ups involving unjust detentions, and sustained attacks on their proposals and work by powerful sectors.

In Bajo Atrato, in Pedeguita, Mancilla, and Biajo Onofre, we did not only hear but observed firsthand the illegal expansion of oil palm and palm fruit monocrops and cattle and buffalo ranching in areas where communities have collective titles. These communities have been victims of displacement by paramilitaries, benefiting various national companies like Cultivos Recife S.A.S.

In the same area, in Playa Roja, illegal sale and purchase schemes, price deregulation and coercion were observed as a result of paramilitary operations and the continued presence of these armed structures protecting private company use of the land.
In Llano Rico a military base installation was observed that had not been consulted despite being within the collective title of Curvaradó. The land for the base was usurped by the businessman Dario Montoya, in the wake of paramilitary operations.
In Brisas de Curvaradó, Camelias, Andalucía, and Caño Claro the presence of paramilitaries and the business operations of Banacol, Del Monte, Dole, were confirmed, as were the continued business operations of bad- faith occupants producing banana, cassava, palm, livestock, and coca.

In Apartadocito, extensive cattle ranching and banana business operations were verified to be ongoing. In this communal territory, the same land to which the Ruiz family recently returned after a year of forced displacement, the activity of armed groups and their threats against the family continue.

Within working groups, the other Colombian communities and organizations present became aware of the means used by each to fight displacement, the present determination of land and subsoil use for foreign actors, and the mechanisms by which their rights to life and territory can be affirmed.

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.

Camelias Humanitarian Zone, Curvaradó, June 21, 2013

Internacional Participants
Accion Permanente por la Paz- EU
Bartolina Sisa – Bolivia
Consejo cívico de organizaciones Populares e Indígena de Honduras – COPINH
Equipos Cristianos de Acción por la Paz- EU
Iniciativas Internacionales Ekta parishad – India
SICSAL , Luis Espinal – Bolivia
Colombia Participants
Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra – ACVC
Asociación de Campesinos de Buenos Aires, Las Pavas, ASOCAB –
Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste Antioqueño CAHUCOPANA.
Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular- CINEP
Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
Tejido de comunicación ACIN – Cauca,
Members of the network “Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los territorios, de la Red de Alternativas”:
Asociación Agroecológica Esther Cayapú, ASOAESCA, Trujillo – Valle
Asociación Agroecológica de Víctimas de Playa Rica, ASAVIP – Trujillo Valle
Asociación Agroecológica Koinonía, ASOKOINONIA Trujillo –Valle-
Comunidades de Autodeterminación, Vida y Dignidad del Cacarica CAVIDA
Comunidad de Vida y Trabajo La Balsita, Dabeiba, Antioquia,
Consejo Comunitario y Biodiverso El Porvenir – Bajo Calima, Valle
Consejo Comunitario del Bajo Naya – Buenaventura, Valle -,
Pueblo Nasa de Putumayo,
Resguardo Humanitario Ambiental Sobia Drua, Alto Guayabal, Jiguamiandó
Resguardo Humanitario y Biodiverso Santa Rosa de Guayacán, Bajo Calima – Valle del Cauca
Resguardo Humanitario y Biodiverso Santa Rosa de Guayacán – Bajo Calima, Valle –,
Zona de Biodiversidad Bijao Onofre
Zona de Biodiversidad El Amparo, Trujillo Valle
Zona de Biodiversidad La Primavera, Trujillo Valle
Zona de Biodiversidad Koinonia, Trujillo Valle
Zona de Biodiversidad Santa Rosa de El Limón, Vigía de Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria Argenito Díaz, Llano Rico, Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria y de Biodiversidad Las Camelias, Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria Caño Manso, Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria Caracolí, Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria Costa Azul, Apartadocito – Curvaradó
Zona Humanitaria El Paraíso, Dabeiba, Antioquia,
Zona Humanitaria Nueva Esperanza, Jiguamiandó,