Even though Colombia has fairly well-developed legal and institutional provisions to accommodate its indigenous citizens, there has to be a real and effective commitment from the government in order to fulfil the historically forgotten necessities of the indigenous communities.
Following the Constitution of the Republic of Colombia, in its first article, it is a pluricultural country, recognizing the autonomy of the authorities of the indigenous communities in article 246, as autonomous jurisdictions, yet with representation in the central government. In terms of national representation, they have 2 seats in the senator chamber and 1 in the house of representatives, in the congress, for the indigenous communities to be just the 4,4% of the population this proportion of seats is quite a positive result of the government’s efforts to include them in the projects and policies for the country.
Yet, according to the National Administrative Statistic Department (DANE), there are 111 different indigenous communities in 24 departments in the territory and only a few representatives in the congress are not enough to properly cover all the issues they face. Therefore, the communities formed different groups such as the Movement of Indigenous Authorities of Colombia (AICO), the Social and Indigenous Alternative Movement (MAIS) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), to mention a few. The latter, since 1999 was involved in protests as a result of the struggles they were facing with human rights and necessities that weren’t met. This has been a historical fight. They have a long history of being unknown, violated, and discriminated against. The practices and continuous periods of violence in various colonization processes in their territories have resulted in physical and cultural death, genocides, and ethnocide.
After protests in 1999, the National Government created the Commission for the Comprehensive Development of an Indigenous Policy, the objective is to adopt measures to obtain the necessary resources and serves to dictate other dispositions on diverse topics, as an effort to revindicate the rights of the communities. The Commission has representatives from multiple ministries, as well as heads of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) who will design and implement strategies that can overcome situations across indigenous communities in terms of territory, environment, human rights, economy and food security established by the decree 982 of 1999.
After years of non-compliance with decree 982 of 1999, there were huge protests called “Minga”, so the government appointed the 1811 decree in 2017 as a way of strengthening the mechanisms that guarantee the participation of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) to comply with the obligations established in the previous decree. The main commission’s role is to formulate and adopt four-year plans where the strategic axes are identified and development goals that allow the communities to overcome issues regarding the environment, peace, human rights, sustainable economy, culture and others.
Everything pointed to the fact that decree 1811 would change the situation of oblivion in which the indigenous communities found themselves, however, this was not the case. One year after the decree was sanctioned, the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) presented a public statement to the president of the republic and the guarantor agencies of compliance with decree 1811 of 2017, they pointed out that the four-year action plans have had low levels of success due to lack of participation and/or compliance from many of its main actors, such as the Ministers or Directors of Agencies and Administrative Departments of the National Government, even though several meetings of the Mixed Commission have been convened. They finished the public statement by saying: “The authorities and the indigenous community, in general, agree to withdraw to our territories because once again the National Government has failed to comply with its constitutional and legal duties with the indigenous peoples of Cauca”.
For the next year, the panorama did not change, the four-year plans did not even materialize, as a consequence of the lack of funds according to the government, but the fundamental problem is not the non-compliance with the recent plans, its the fact that previous issues addressed were already commitments already agreed on by past governments which means they are of mandatory compliance, but they were never executed. In the current year, the situation has not gotten better, in the first month of 2022 the heads of the Cauca community did an evaluation of the progress of what was agreed within the framework of the Mixed Commission, and they found breaches of the national government and further actions were discussed.
The last record was in April, in which concerns about the return to the dynamics of systematic forgetting of the problems that afflict indigenous communities increased. This demonstrates there has to be a real and effective commitment from the government in order to fulfil the historically forgotten necessities of the indigenous communities and any decree or document signed between the two actors does not just stay on paper.
Comisión de la verdad. (2020). El aporte de los pueblos indígenas en la construcción de país | The contribution of indigenous peoples in the construction of the country. Comisión de la verdad | Truth Commission. https://comisiondelaverdad.co/actualidad/noticias/aporte-pueblos-indigenas-en-la-construccion-de-pais
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC. (2018). Comunicado público al presidente de la república y los organismos garantes del cumplimiento del decreto 1811 de 2017 | Public statement to the president of the republic and the guarantor agencies of compliance with decree 1811 of 2017. CRIC. https://www.cric-colombia.org/portal/comunicado-publico-al-presidente-la-republica-los-organismos-garantes-del-cumplimiento-del-decreto-numero-1811-2017/
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC. (2019). GOBIERNO NACIONAL VULNERA DERECHOS E INCUMPLE ACUERDOS CON LOS PUEBLOS INDÍGENAS DEL CAUCA | NATIONAL GOVERNMENT VIOLATES RIGHTS AND BREACHES AGREEMENTS WITH THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF CAUCA. CRIC. https://nasaacin.org/gobierno-nacional-vulnera-derechos-e-incumple-acuerdos-con-los-pueblos-indigenas-del-cauca/
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC. (2022). Primera Comisión Política ampliada del año 2022 | First extended Political Commission of the year 2022. CRIC. https://www.cric-colombia.org/portal/primera-comision-politica-ampliada-del-ano-2022/
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC. (2022). Al Gobierno no le alcanzó para cumplir con el 1811 | The Government was not enough to comply with 1811. CRIC. https://www.cric-colombia.org/portal/al-gobierno-no-le-alcanzo-para-cumplir-con-el-1811/
Constitutional Court of Colombia. (2015). Costitución Política de Colombia | Constitution of Colombia 1991. Corte Constitucional | Constitutional Court. https://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/inicio/Constitucion%20politica%20de%20Colombia%20-%202015.pdf
Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística – DANE. (2020). 19° Reunión del Comité Ejecutivo de la CEA Innovaciones del levantamiento del CNPV 2018 Perspectiva DANE – Colombia | 19th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the CEA Innovations of the survey of the CNPV 2018 Perspective DANE – Colombia. DANE. https://www.cepal.org/sites/default/files/presentations/cea-ce.19-dane-colombia-innovacion-levantamiento-censos.pdf
Laurent, Virginie. (2021). Dinámicas políticas indígenas en contexto de transición en Colombia. Apuestas y resistencias alrededor de las elecciones de 2018–2019 | Indigenous political dynamics in the context of transition in Colombia. Bets and resistance around the 2018–2019 elections. Universidad de Antioquia | Antioquia University. https://revistas.udea.edu.co/index.php/estudiospoliticos/article/view/345403/20807562
Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Colombia. (1999). Decreto 982 de 1999 | Decree 982 of 1999. ACNUR | UNHCR. https://www.acnur.org/fileadmin/Documentos/BDL/2008/6528.pdf?file=fileadmin/Documentos/BDL/2008/6528#:~:text=MINISTERIO%20DEL%20INTERIOR-,Por%20el%20cual%20el%20Gobierno%20Nacional%20crea%20una%20Comisi%C3%B3n%20para,y%20se%20dictan%20otras%20disposiciones.
Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Colombia. (2017). Decreto 1811 de 2017 | Decree 1811 of 2017. Presidencia | Presidency. http://es.presidencia.gov.co/normativa/normativa/DECRETO%201811%20DEL%207%20DE%20NOVIEMBRE%20DE%202017.pdf
Sauca, Jhoe. (2019). La minga del Cauca lucha contra 20 años de incumplimientos | The minga of Cauca fights against 20 years of non-compliance. Universidad de los Andes | Andes University. https://cerosetenta.uniandes.edu.co/la-minga-del-cauca-2019/
*Photo by Flavia Carpio (Unsplash), Creative Commons Zero license.