Tierra Digna is a Colombian organization dedicated to the defense of communities affected by economic policies and projects that threaten their territories and lead to human rights violations and environmental devastation. The accompanied communities and Tierra Digna and its members are facing constant intimidation and attempts of disaccreditation as they challenge legally and politically global unjust structures and powerful actors involved, such as the State, military and transnational corporations.
Tierra Digna offers comprehensive support to communities, through legal assistance and research, guaranteeing access to justice for affected communities and their rights in order to counteract the impunity that characterizes these violations.
FOR Peace Presence accompanies Tierra Digna in its thematic area of coal mining and the related topic of human rights and business. Tierra Digna’s work highlights the impacts of large scale coal and gold mining on human rights, together with comprehensive support of communities located in the departments of Chocó (gold) and Cesar (coal) that have been affected by already existing mining or because of the danger that their territories are titled to mining exploitation in the future, especially with the signing of the peace accords.
Their work questions the mining policies pushed forward by the Colombian government and seeks to influence public mining policies, demanding that there be consultation with and consent of the affected communities and that their true impacts be evaluated. Tierra Digna carries out a process of research and follow-up on the impacts of coal mining, its business and use of infrastructure for the transport and activities that have been generated on the territory.
Their investigation on the impact of the coal industry highlights that there are no adequate remedy mechanisms of the irreversible caused damages and that in order to halt climate change further coal exploitation and exportation is completely unsustainable. Their investigation on the militarization of security policies criticizes the highly nontransparent security contracts between transnational corporations and the Colombian military, put in practice by the mining energy battalions. These policies do not take into account the security risk caused to the surrounding communities.
The FOR Peace Presence team is currently periodically accompanying Tierra Digna in its work on coal mining in Colombia’s costal region. As an umbrella accompaniment FOR accompanies Tierra Digna who accompanies the community Boquerón in Cesar, a community that the environmental authorities ordered to relocate due to the high level of pollution by the coal mines. This involuntary resettlement was ordered in 2010, still the communities are waiting for dignified living conditions.
Cesar is highly paramilitarized and in the last 20 years, has been subject to the arrival of various large coal companies (US company Drummond, Swiss company Prodeco-Glencore, and Colombian Natural Resources (owned by US corporation Murray Energy). These companies practice open pit coal mining, almost entirely for export to coal-consuming countries and regions like the United States and Europe. Open-pit coal mining is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining. In Magdalena, Tierra Digna accompanies a fishing community affected by the transportation of coal and the coal harbors just outside of Santa Marta.
In its political accompaniment FOR Peace Presence is working closely with Tierra Digna to hold these corporations accountable for the devastation and abuse they have ravaged against Colombian communities and the environment as well as to raise concerns with national institutions to include a human rights perspective in business policies and to fulfill international environmental and human rights standards.