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Third Committee

(New York, October 19, 2009)

Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, Item 66: Indigenous Issues

 

Mr. Chairman,

Colombia is recognized for its ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. According to the latest population census, the country has 87 indigenous groups and 65 indigenous languages with official status in their territories. 3.4% of the national population recognize themselves as indigenous.

The promotion and protection of human rights and culture of Colombian indigenous peoples have been progressively enhanced, by strengthening the legal and constitutional framework, the jurisprudence related to their rights, and general policies and affirmative actions implemented by the State. The various mechanisms for the participation of these communities have also been essential in the process of consolidation of their rights.

In this context, Colombia continues to advance on several areas, including:

1) The recognition of titles of collective property in indigenous reservations (resguardos). The lands titled as resguardos cover already an area of about 29% of the national territory. Regarding this issue, measures are being undertaken to meet outstanding commitments for increasing areas, and to allocate budget transfers corresponding to those resguardos.

2) The constitutional recognition of traditional authorities and indigenous judicial jurisdictions. With regards to this topic, and as a recent development, I would note that the Superior Judicial Council has worked to harmonize the indigenous judicial jurisdiction, with the ordinary courts, in 18 indigenous communities.

3) The prior consultation process on projects and issues that may affect indigenous communities, in accordance with ILO Convention 169. In 2008, 53 consultations were carried out regarding activities to be developed in indigenous territories. And in the 2nd half of 2009, broad consultations are expected on a new draft Law that seeks to define clear rules on the consultation process to be undertaken by public and private entities engaged in development projects.

I would also like to note that this year, under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior and Justice, the Permanent Bureau for Agreement, and the National Bureau on Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples have reinitiate their work, as essential spaces for dialogue and progress on indigenous affairs.

4) The Social Policy of the Government, with broader coverage for indigenous people. In health, 1.17 million indigenous people are insured under the state-subsidized system. In education, indigenous children have priority access to the free educational programs implemented by the Ministry of Education.

Coverage for indigenous communities has been expanded in programs such as the Food Security Network; the Forest Rangers Families initiative that provides financial support for keeping the forest; and the cash transfers program, Families in Action. Several productive initiatives formulated by indigenous councils have been included in programs for micro and small business support.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite these achievements, in February 2009 we received the terrible news of a massacre committed by the FARC terrorist group against various members of the Awa indigenous people. This crime received the strongest national and international condemnation.

Last August, the murder of a group from the Awa people, mourned once more the national community. In order to address this crime, President Uribe called several state authorities to take immediate action, with UN advice, which would lead to clarifying the facts. As a result of this action, four alleged murderers, belonging to a gang involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, were arrested and brought to justice.

The whole country awaits justice against these crimes. The national government, on the other hand, will not rest in its effort to consolidate and strengthen the protection of all Colombians, including indigenous communities.

In this regard, I must emphasize the importance of policies being implemented in Colombia, such as the Democratic Security Policy, and the demobilization of illegal armed groups, which have allowed for strengthening the protection of the citizens and reducing the levels of violence lived several years ago.

One of the specific recent actions, in compliance with a decision of the Constitutional Court, refers to the broad consultative process initiated between the National Government and indigenous communities in order to develop a national program of guarantees of rights of indigenous people affected by displacement. In parallel, a consultation process on plans for safeguarding 34 indigenous peoples has begun, in order to strengthen their protection against violence and displacement.

Mr. Chairman,

Last April, the National Government, in accordance with the terms conveyed in a note sent to the United Nations Secretary-General, expressed its decision to unilaterally support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its spirit and the principles that inspired its formulation. Colombia reiterates its support for the concepts of equality, respect for diversity and non-discrimination that underlie the text, as well as its recognition of the historical importance of this Declaration.

Lastly, I wish to highlight the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, to Colombia last July, under the invitation of the Government. This visit allowed verifying national progress for indigenous peoples, including affirmative actions in health, education, culture and land. The challenges and recommendations to be raised by the Rapporteur will receive due consideration by the relevant institutions. We look forward to your continued cooperation in the common purpose of consolidating the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples of Colombia, in an environment that provides appropriate safety and welfare.

Thank you.

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Period 64