Dia Awa Rainforest and the Thirst for Resources

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Solving conflicts within the natural resource management (NRM) is complex. Yasmi and colleagues claim that two major aspects should be carefully examined: issues involved in conflict and conflict escalation. Against this background they identified eight escalation stages as the typical patterns of NRM conflicts (Yasmi et al., 2006). Based on this model our case study outlines the development of the conflict in the Awá rainforest. Starting with a brief analysis of the main actors, which are government military, illegal armed forces, the Awá tribe, and corporations. After the evolution of the conflict is going to be outlined by stating the general timeline, the escalation point and solution attempts. Afterwards we will propose a conflict resolution to conclude this paper.
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  • 1. Awa Rainforest – An Amazing Diversity Threatened by Thirst for Resources Dr. Kathrin Böhling Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy Conflict Resolution for Sustainable Resource Management 2014/07/28 Authors: Kaja Bauman StudentID: 013646592 kaja.maria.baumann@gmail.com Daniel Kohlsdorf StudentID: 03635835 danielko22@gmail.com Alejandro Pacheco Zapata StudentID: 03646575 apachec1@eafit.edu.co Soleil Tshilomba StudentID: 03647370 charmelle_soleil@hotmail.de
  • 2. Acknowledgements We would like to thank the staff of Observatorio por la Autonomía y los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas en Colombia (Observatorio ADAPI) for the support with information, photos and documents. We also thank to the representative of the Binational Awa-Family, Francisco Javier Cortes Guanga for making us aware of their problems and the enormous environmental threat in their territories. Finally, we thank to the Professor Dr. Kathrin Böhling and our classmates of the course in Conflict Resolution for Sustainable Resource Management for all the recommendations you gave us in order to find a solution for this particular case study. “… We are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and culture of peace”. Speth and Haas.
  • 3. Table of Content I.Introduction.......................................................................................................................4 II.Analysis of main actors....................................................................................................5 1.The Colombian Government........................................................................................5 2.The National Military of Colombia................................................................................6 3.The illegal armed forces (mainly FARC)......................................................................6 4.The Awa Tribe..............................................................................................................7 5.Corporations................................................................................................................7 III.Evolution of the conflict ..................................................................................................8 1.Timeline using Yasmi Concept....................................................................................8 2.Conflict escalation in 2009...........................................................................................9 3.Solution attempts ........................................................................................................9 IV.Conflict resolution proposal .........................................................................................10 V.Conclusion.....................................................................................................................12 VI.References ..................................................................................................................14
  • 4. I. Introduction At times of global warming, peak oil, peak water, and genetically modified organisms, the soil, minerals, and biodiversity are becoming of greater strategic interest for international businesses, both legal and illegal. Interestingly, the regions around the World where the mines and oil wells are located are the poorest as shown by Neugebauer (2000). Some of the last places where humans can find abundant resources are the rainforests inhabited by indigenous communities who are caught in the middle of many different conflicts and hence are at risk of extinction. A clear example of this problem is taking place in Colombia, South America, where more than 2,000 indigenous people were killed between 1974 and 2004 (Villa and Houghton, 2004), the Awá ethnic being the most affected. It is not only a problem of indigenous communities and their cultural heritage; the last reserves of biodiversity on Earth are also at stake if this dispute about resources is not stopped or resolved in the near future. The Awá Rainforest is located in the Andes Region in Colombia, between Southern Colombia and Northern Ecuador and is part of the Biogeographic Chocó, one of the last coastal tropical rainforests on Earth. It provides resources such as: gold, oil, fertile soils, timber, biodiversity, big sources of water, among others that offer substantial business opportunities; the official reports of these communities, the reports in media and the graphic evidence collected for this research, demonstrate the involvement of illegal groups such as guerrillas and paramilitary armies, but also of the official army and police, allegedly as security forces for the people and companies exploiting the natural resources. Additionally, the government, who has the responsibility to protect both the communities and the environment, are not doing it and the NGOs are not able to develop their activities in this region due to security problems and corruption. Unexpectedly, the improvement in national security made the world discover Colombia as an interesting, unexplored mining destination. The international prices were also very attractive to increase the investments in mining and coal sectors. From 2002 to 2010, the government granted nearly 9,000 titles without regard to moors (ecosystem that produces much of the Colombian water), national parks, Indian reservations nor Afro collective territories. (Ronderos 2011). Furthermore, inside the Awá territories or crossing some of them, some megaprojects are planned in the middle term. For example, the Multimodal Corridor Construction between Tumaco (Colombia) and Belém do Pará (Brazil), in the Amazon’s axis, which is a transnational highway that seeks to unite the 4
  • 5. Atlantic and Pacific; the Pasto-Tumaco highway, which is part of this mega project; and the communication line which accompanies the project by the construction of a secondary road network that directly affect pathways guards of the Awa members (Observatorio ADPI). Solving conflicts within the natural resource management (NRM) is complex. Yasmi and colleagues claim that two major aspects should be carefully examined: issues involved in conflict and conflict escalation. Against this background they identified eight escalation stages as the typical patterns of NRM conflicts (Yasmi et al., 2006). Based on this model our case study outlines the development of the conflict in the Awá rainforest. Starting with a brief analysis of the main actors, which are government military, illegal armed forces, the Awá tribe, and corporations. After the evolution of the conflict is going to be outlined by stating the general timeline, the escalation point and solution attempts. Afterwards we will propose a conflict resolution to conclude this paper. II. Analysis of main actors Table 1 shows a summary of the motivation of the main actors and their thirst for resources. The following section is going to reveal the actors’ characteristics and their interactions with each other. Table 1: Main actors and their motivation for getting the resources Actors Motivation Government Protection of cultural heritage, income source Military Protection of cultural heritage Illegal armed forces Income source, headquarter to their drug production, input supply Awa Tribe Protection of cultural heritage, self - supply Corporations Input supply 1. The Colombian Government The Republic of Colombia is a unitary republic with a government that consists of an executive, a judicial and a legislative branch. The president of the republic is elected by democratic vote of the country’s nationals, and so are the governors, mayors, members of congress, municipal counsellors and deputies. Similarly to the United States, the president of the nation doubles as commander in chief of the country’s military. The government plays a multifaceted role in the Awa rainforest conflict. On the one hand it sees the need to protect the people and natural resources of the area, going as far as officially regarding 5
  • 6. the region human patrimony and sending the military to protect the region from illegal exploitation, although the latter measure has backfired considerably. On the other hand, the government is also concerned with the national economy and taking advantage of natural wealth. Hence, the Colombian authorities have been found to grant permissions to international corporations to mine and extract valuable resources from the area. This has not always occurred in a clean and regulated manner, but rather through the accepting of bribes and other kinds of corruption. As a result, issues have arisen, such as corporations paying guerrilla forces to act as guards during operations. This way they not only pollute and deplete the natural resources, but also add strength to organizations widely regarded as terrorists. Clearly, the government plays an integral part in this conflict, both in the solution and in the problem, and it does so via three main channels: military deployment, legislation and corruption. 2. The National Military of Colombia Colombia’s legitimate armed forces are 590,000 men strong and their mission according to the Colombian constitution is to defend the sovereignty, the independence, the integrity of the national territory, as well as the constitutional order. The military was deployed on a larger scale to the Awa rainforest in the early 2000s, in order to protect the land and its people from insurgent forces and illegal resource extraction. However, this initially only heated the conflict: Uneducated soldiers abused indigenous forces, as well as pressured them for information. This in turn caused the Awás to be repeatedly targeted by guerrilla forces as informants, causing pain and violence for the people on the two fronts. 3. The illegal armed forces (mainly FARC) The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) is a self-proclaimed Marxist- Leninist guerrilla group that operates in Colombia and the border Zone with Venezuela. They are a key driver of the Colombian armed conflict since their official inception in 1964, when they were originally put in place as the Colombian Communist Party’s military. The formation of the military group was a defence measure of the communist party against continuous attacks in rural areas from the Colombian military in the aftermath of a long Civil War called La Violencia. Today the guerrilla group has more than 10,000 members and is considered a terrorist organization by many nations, including the United States and the European Union, as well as Colombia and various neighbouring countries. However, countries like Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador 6
  • 7. and Venezuela, amongst others, refuse to give FARC the terrorist label so far. The militant group’s activities include large scale drug trafficking, kidnapping for political and monetary ransom purposes, warfare against the military and opposing guerrilla groups, dispersion of landmines in rural areas, terrorist attacks using bombs and other weaponry, among many other criminal acts. The FARC play a major role in the Awa rainforest conflict, as they see the forest as a refugee and a fertile area fit for illicit plantations. Herewith they threaten both the environment, as well as the Indigenous population. The Awás are either forced to cooperate in illicit activities, are abused and discriminated against or are punished and killed due to suspicions of cooperation with the army. 4. The Awa Tribe The Awás are a native tribe that resides in the Colombian rainforest and is named after them, located at the border with Ecuador. The remaining Awá population counts approximately 21,000 people, 89% of which are on the Colombian side of the border. They were originally hunters and gatherers who also cultivated maize in the 100,000 ha area of the south western of Colombia before the colonization and creation of the republics of Colombia and Ecuador. Nowadays they are also keeping farm animals such as chicken and pigs. They not only have a sacred view of the land and nature. The tribe has conserved most of its traditions and beliefs over the centuries, which largely revolve around peacefully coexisting with nature and each other. (Davis & Walis, 1994). Since local farmers complained that the Awás practically had no land rights, the government intervened by promising them with land titles. The only problem is that this land is rich in natural resources and fertile soil which is increasing the ambiguity of the government which was handing the Awa tribe the right of living and cultivating the land but also handing companies the right to exploit the region. As result is the Awa tribe in a dangerous position since they have to deal with both the governments military and the FARC (BBC News, 2009). According to the ONIC, more than 13% of the indigenous population in Colombia still lacks of legal recognition of their land or their ethnicity or recognition as indigenous people being a big problem when they face conflicts with companies as Ecopetrol and other multinational firms. 5. Corporations Large, often multinational, corporations see the Awá forest as a collection of valuable resources. Companies like the Colombian oil magnate Ecopetrol, the palm oil producer Astorga and the gold 7
  • 8. miner AngloGold Ashanti are active in the area collecting their resources, often without regard to the conservation of the local environment. One way in which they accomplish this is through the use of “pirate” sub-companies that mine in the area illegally, pay off the guerrillas and paramilitary groups to allow and protect them during their resource extraction and ultimately pass the gained resources on to the larger corporations that to some extent keep their hands clean this way. Another way to access to the resources is through special permissions granted by the Colombian government, often suspected to be obtained via high-level bribery. These large and wealthy companies have never been found to be involved in any of the massacres that have plagued the region’s inhabitants; however their presence brings in large amounts of funds that act as a catalyst for the conflict when they inevitably end up in the wrong hands. Furthermore, the companies have failed to observe the “act of prior consultation” law that states that indigenous cultures should be consulted with before engaging in activities within their territory and with a multitude of environmental regulations. III. Evolution of the conflict The natural resource conflict is enabled by the government’s ambiguous position. This section is going to show the conflict development and its peak in 2009. At the end the government’s inability to take a clear position will also be reflected in the inconsistent solution attempts. 1. Timeline using Yasmi Concept One characteristic of this conflict is its brutality, which can be observed by its continuous presence of “feeling anxiety” and “intimidation and physical exchange” (See table 2). At the beginning of the conflict in the early 1970s the FARC occupied the land and killed any Awá tribe members who did not support the cultivation and trafficking of drugs. Because of the involvement of NGOs and the media the government took first actions in late 1990s by sending the military. This exacerbated the conflict for the Awá tribe since the military accused them to cooperate with the FARC and hence fought against the unarmed Awá and at the end lead to a conflict escalation in 2009. In the last section, in 2012, company’s exploitation increased leading to massive land deterioration. (America 21, 2009/ Earthlink, 2012/ Latinapress, 2013/WWF, 2014) Table 2: Yasmi Escalation process 8
  • 9. 1970 1990 2000 2009 2012 1. Feeling Anxiety 2. Debate and Critique 3. Lobby and Persuasion 4. Protest and Campaigning 5. Access Restrictions 6. Court 7. Intimidation and Physical exchange 8. Nationalization and Internationalization 2. Conflict escalation in 2009 Due to predetermined factors stated above 2009 turned out to be the year of escalation. An open war between the FARC and the government evolved. The government tried to hinder their opponents by blocking transport routes of drug traffickers, while also attacking their bases. Parallel NGOs were trying to increase pressure by creating internet campaigns which should raise the awareness of the conflict. With increasing governmental involvement the tensions between those two groups and the Awá tribe rose steadily. Both groups were suspecting the Awá tribe to support their counterparty and hence killed them (Amnesty International, 2009). In February 2009 the military entered into the Awá region and accommodated in the houses of Awá families. They mistreated them in order to get information about the FARC. As they did not get the results they wanted they arrested 120 members and murdered some of them. During the same month FARC members kidnapped the children whose parents were arrested. The combat between the FARC and the military increased which lead to the military to bomb the Awa land and the guerrilla groups to place landmines, which hindered the Awá tribe members to displace into safer regions. Furthermore, the guerrilla groups, suspecting Awás to be informants of the military, conducted the most gruesome killings among the tribe members. To stop the drug transportation of the guerrillas the government blocked their transport routes. (BBC, 2009) In April 2009 the military killed a leader of the Awá tribe, who tried to improve the situation of the Awás by raising national awareness. The wife of the victim who also was a witness reported it to the government. (Ask, 2009) In August the military killed all witnesses of this murder which lead to a death of 12 adults and children including the wife of the victim. In total 50 adults and children were killed in this year (Amerika 21, 2009). 3. Solution attempts From an historical point of view, it is worth mentioning some important attempts to solve the problem. First, in 1959 the Forest-Reserves Law was formulated in Colombia and in 1982 the 9
  • 10. Indigenous National Organization of Colombia (ONIC) was created, giving legal and political representation to the indigenous communities, while around 1987 the Ecuadorian government established the Awá-Ethnic Forest Reserve. After this, in 1991 the Colombian Constitution was modified and the indigenous territories were legally recognized and established, however the titles of those territories have not been handed over. Then, in 1993 the Colombian Ministry for Environment was set up along with additional support authorities. Despite such efforts, in the year 2000 several reports begin to appear about problems of aerial spraying against illicit crops but began taking place over virgin territories (Oldham and Massey 2002; and Departamento Administrativo de Salud 2001). For this reason in 2001 the European Parliament issued a resolution on Plan Colombia and expressed support for the peace process in Colombia, which is against herbicide spraying and militarization. After several accusations of crimes against the Awá communities, in 2004 the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice issued a sentence that demanded the protection of territories and communities. Unfortunately, six years later the incoming government defined as core sectors for the economic growth the mining, gas and oil sectors. Because the low production in these sectors new areas were needed to raise production. Finally, in 2014 the human rights violations have been denounced directly in Europe and a suit was presented to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) on February 2014 but the environmental impacts were not exposed (personal interview with
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