Colombia: San Juan community assert their rights
In 2010, the Supreme Community Council of Alto San Juan ASOCASAN in Chocó, Colombia drew up their own community protocol, to assert their rights to govern their territories and natural resources according to their customary, national, and international rights and responsibilities.
The community protocol provides an overview of the Alto San Juan’s history, and highlights their long standing relationship with their land and the inherent cultural principles that flow from this. The protocol explains community governance systems, and how they relate to and use natural and mineral resources. It also outlines the threats that the community have experienced to their territories and resources and the grave impact poorly planned development projects have on their community and livelihoods.
The San Juan community are under threat from illicit gold mining and logging, illegitimate use of traditional medical knowledge and failure of external developers to consult with or involve the community. These activities have displaced inhabitants, corroded the natural resources that the community relies on as well as their autonomy and traditional way of life. Even though national regulations require organizations to obtain permits before starting a development project, this is not always observed. Development projects are not monitored, impact assessments are not thoroughly carried out and illegal activities go unpunished.
This community protocol, presented as a management tool, also outlines guidelines and processes that need to be followed by any organization that wants to conduct development projects within their territories. Specifically the protocol asks that activities taking place on their territory respect their collective property rights; the right to control the territory’s existing natural resources; and the community’s right to free, prior and informed consent.
The community protocol concludes by stating that the community itself recognizes that they also have responsibilities, as well as rights; for example, to support sustainable development and to build constructive relationships with external developers.
For more information, look out for MRG's State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 report (published 28 June).