Colombian civil society intervenes in the process of peace, demands an integral agrarian reform
The Political Forum of Integral Rural Development, that was held in Bogotá from the December 17 and 19 2012. (PHOTO BY ORSETTA BELLANI)
Especial for El Reportero
On Friday, December 21st, the first round of talks between the Colombian government and the guerrillas of the FARC-EP ended. The parties are seeking, since November 19th in Havana, Cuba, to reach an agreement that would end the war that for half a century has torn Colombia apart.
The talks will resume on January 8th with the discussion of proposals that will outline agreements on agricultural issues, which has been chosen as the first item on the agenda, since it is the main cause of the conflict. In fact, the inequity in land distribution created the conditions for the birth of the Marxist guerrillas and paramilitary groups acting in defense of the interests of landowners.
The proposals that the parties will need to consider in January are not only the ones that have been raised by both the government and the FARC, but also those that have been submitted by Colombian civil society through a dedicated website, or that have been deposited in mailboxes at town halls.
“This is a process that uses several modern tools for a broad and pluralistic participation that will enrich the discussion. This is the true pluralism that allows everyone, from every corner, to let us know their views. We will continue to consider proposals, some of them quite interesting,” said Humberto de la Calle, Head of the Delegation of the Government in the negotiations.
In addition, the talks in Havana will have to examine the proposals that have come out of the Forum for Integrated Rural Development Policy, held in Bogota on December, 17th-19th, 2012. The Forum was summoned by the same negotiating table and organized by the Center for Thought and Monitoring of the Peace Process of the National University of Colombia and the United Nations Office in Colombia. Around 1200 representatives of movements and peasant, indigenous, student and human rights organizations were invited, as well as political parties and agribusiness unions, with the task of systematizing concrete proposals on rural development policies that would be implemented in the country, so as to be presented on January 8th at the negotiating table in Havana.
“The rural issue is the main cause of conflict and civil society participation is key,” noted Bruno Moro, UN Resident Coordinator, during the opening ceremony.
Data presented at the Forum for Integrated Rural Development Policy showed that currently in the Colombian countryside, where there has never been a successful land reform, inequality persists.
According to the 2011 Human Development Report of the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), 80 per cent of the Colombian hungry population live in the countryside. During half a century of conflict, the peasantry has been stripped of more than 7 million hectares of land, in a country where 52.2 per cent of the land belongs to the 1.1 per cent of the population.
Participants of the 20 tables that formed the Forum for Integrated Rural Development Policy rejected plans for militarization of rural areas and highlighted the need of sovereignty and food security, a new rural infrastructure, with a focus on gender policy that also guarantee the rights of indigenous communities and people of African descent.
They also highlighted the need to promote Rural Reserve Areas (areas where a limit is set to the extension of each plot) and amend the Law of Victims and Land Restitution of Juan Manuel Santos’ government.
Overall, the participants to the Forum proved the failure of the current model of economic development characterized by mining and agribusiness, and raised the need for a comprehensive, democratic and participatory land reform, which sets a limit to land ownership and the presence of foreign capital in the country.
The need for a comprehensive land reform is also raised by the FARC: following the end of the first round of negotiations, the head of the delegation of the guerrilla, Luciano Marin Arango, alias Ivan Marquez, said that they will not stop discussing the country’s social and economic development model.
“The public can be assured that their proposals will be valued appropriately,” said De la Calle, who however highlighted the government’s willingness to advance a negotiated settlement of the conflict, saying that under no circumstances the change of the Colombian economic development model is at stake, adding that for that to be discussed, the guerrillas must leave the weapons, do politics and win the elections.
“You cannot think that the end to the estates will be signed in Havana or that the country will be structurally transformed,” says Sergio Coronado, from CINEP (Center for Research and Popular Education).
“But the agreement itself can create a foundation on which to build a model of rural development much closer to the need of peasant sectors, something that would be easier in the absence of an armed conflict.
However, the resolution of land conflicts in the country does not depend on the signing of peace accords, the absence of armed conflict does not mean the absence of social conflict.”