FOR Peace Presence is excited to announce our Fall US Speaking Tour in collaboration with our partner organization Tierra Digna:
Human rights defender Johana Rocha and FOR accompanier Kaya Allan Sugerman will be traveling throughout the Northeast and Bay Area October 20th through November 16th to talk to audiences about environmental extractivism and human rights.
Colombia is at a crossroads—with ongoing peace talks between the FARC-EP and ELN guerrilla groups and the Colombian government and efforts by the government to begin restoring stolen land to displaced communities, there is definitely hope in the air. Nevertheless, violence continues — over 40% of Colombia’s national territory has either been granted or asked for in a mining concession, and 2013 had the highest murder rate of human rights defenders and local community leaders in the last decade, precisely because people are reclaiming that stolen land and speaking up more for justice. FOR Peace Presence and Tierra Digna respond to this urgent reality.
Tierra Digna is a Colombian collective of lawyers working with rural communities that face being forced off their land by armed groups, the Colombian state and multinational corporations. These companies, driven by profit, pillage the world’s finite resources contributing to global climate change. In the face of these threats, Tierra Digna and these communities are developing strategies to create alternatives. Through legal aid, research, capacity building and advocacy, Tierra Digna is pioneering a path to hold the Colombian state and multinational corporations accountable to protect these communities and our environment.
The FOR Peace Presence team accompanies Tierra Digna in Colombia’s coastal region (particularly in Cesar and Magdalena). This area is highly paramilitarized and in the last 20 years has been subject to the arrival of various large coal-mining companies (US-based Drummond Co. Inc, Anglo-Swiss mining and commodity company Glencore Xstrata, and even US investment banking company Goldman Sachs own and operate mines in these regions). These companies practice open-pit coal mining, almost entirely for export to coal-consuming countries such as the United States and in Europe. Open-pit coal mining is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining. Unfortunately, there are not many NGOs working in the coastal region, leaving it more vulnerable to human rights abuses and environmental destruction.
FOR Peace Presence is working closely with Tierra Digna to hold these corporations accountable for the devastation and abuse they’ve ravaged on Colombian communities and the environment. We recognize the present threat of mega-projects on rural and indigenous communities in one of the most bio-diverse and resource-rich regions in the world. Tierra Digna has a parallel commitment to that of FOR Peace Presence – they seek truth, justice, and holistic reparation. They do this not only through Colombian and international legal systems, but also by harnessing and supporting community processes and engaging in nation-wide debates and discussions, taking a stand against policies that have allowed and continue to allow for the displacement of communities. Some communities they work with are seeking fair and equitable re-settlement, complete with collective discussions, decision-making processes, and prior, informed consent. Others are hoping to acquire resources or reparations from a state that they feel has deserted them in the prospect of development profits. All of them are seeking social, cultural, political, and economic inclusion and rights.
Tierra Digna is made up of human rights and environmental attorneys who confront and challenge powerful multinational corporations seeking rights to land and resources. This puts them at risk, especially at times of travel and around the meetings that take place within the communities in danger of being displaced. What we provide is a physical, international presence as observers on these travels and during these processes. Both during accompaniments and after they take place, through written articles and meetings with authorities in the region, we represent international concern for irresponsible mining and other development practices in Colombia and stand in solidarity with citizens of those countries most distressed by environmental, economic, and cultural destruction. While maintaining a separate organizational and political identity, Tierra Digna and FOR Peace Presence collaborate to raise national and international awareness of damages inflicted on marginalized communities.