On the first of the month, Sophie and Julia traveled from Bogotá to the municipality of Nilo in southern Cundinamarca, where they spent the day with community leaders discussing the numerous challenges they continue to confront on a daily basis as a result of the Tolemaida Military Base. The team also learned about the mechanisms the community members use for resolving violations of their rights.
A few days later the teams from Bogotá and San José, as well as two soon-to-be accompaniers slipped out of the city for our semi-annual retreat. The retreat was an opportunity to evaluate our work and think about the directions in which we want to go as an organization—as well as to create a work plan for achieving our goals. We also spent time analyzing the current peace negotiations and anticipating how forthcoming changes in the country might affect what accompaniment looks like. After the retreat we said goodbye to Michaela, our unstoppable coordinator for over a year, admist food and music shared with our partners and friends.
Mid-month, FORPP had the pleasure of accompanying our partners at Tierra Digna in the launch of two important investigative reports. One report deals with coal mining and its devastating social, economic, and environmental impacts in Colombia, while the other shines a critical spotlight on security agreements signed between transnational corporations and the Colombian National Army and the short comings of the voluntary UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights, taking into account the human rights violation transnational corporations commit. Since the reports’ publication, we have been supporting Tierra Digna to further the impact of their research.
We also accompanied Tierra Digna to the Atlantic coast, visiting with the communities of Boquerón and Don Jaca. In Boquerón, Sophie and Julia listened as members of the community’s negotiation committee discussed the progress and frustrations related to the topographical survey that must proceed their resettlement. In Don Jaca, the team heard about recent problems with the community’s access to water, which is an ongoing concern. We were also able to accompany a historical memory workshop lead by a popular education professional. During the exercise, community members reflected on the origins and traditions that make Don Jaca such a special place for them. Next FORPP continued to Barranquilla, where they arrived in time to meet with a US Presbyterian delegation to the community of Tamarindo.
Julia and Maren spent several days in Buenaventura with the Justice and Peace Commission. During the accompaniment our team observed a peaceful, symbolic demonstration held by five indigenous communities: the Wounaan Nonam, Eperara Siadara, Embera Chamí, and Ingas. The demonstration was a response to the noncompliance of authorities regarding commitments to communities and to practices that disregard indigenous authority in their territories. In the same trip, FORPP accompanied a verification visit from the Defensoría to La Esperanza, where Afro-descendent residents have been displaced and seen their land and authority coopted by outsiders.
In San José de Apartadó, Adilah and Laetitia were kept busy, as the Peace Community confronted increasing activity by paramilitaries in the zone. In response to this troubling situation, the team accompanied Peace Community members to the settlement of Arenas Bajas, where residents had recently reported paramilitary presence.
October was an eventful and productive month for us. In numbers, we spent 30 days accompanying in the field, in the departments of Antioquia, Atlántico, Cesar, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, and Valle del Cauca. We held eight official meetings, and published nine articles on our blog.
Thank you for your support and stay tuned for more news form the team here at FORPP!