A voice for union and indigenous leaders in Colombia - N o t i W a y u u

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Agencia Autónoma de Comunicaciones

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A voice for union and indigenous leaders in Colombia

9 July 2007

International Alert and its partner Indepaz convened a meeting of union, indigenous and environmental leaders to discuss the issue of natural resource extraction and its effects on Colombia’s development.

The meeting, held together with experts and academics on 14th June in Colombia, was prompted by the Colombia 2019 National Development Plan and the fact that natural resource extraction is a key component of the current Colombian government’s strategy for economic development.

Alert contributed by sharing its experiences in working with multinational companies in Colombia and elsewhere in relation to human rights, transparency, conflict and impact assessment. Alert’s partner, Indepaz, presented its analysis of the current national development plan and its potential interaction with the Colombian armed conflict.

Representatives from the Wayuu and Uwa indigenous communities talked of the very distinct difficulties they have faced in their interactions with multinational and state-owned mining and oil companies. The Wayuu live in the lowlands near the border with Venezuela and have long lived an ambulatory lifestyle that has been limited by mining operations while the Uwa live in the mountains in self-isolation and fear that oil drilling will destroy their entire culture.

Also speaking at the meeting, the state oil workers union, USO, expressed their concerns about the over-generous concessions made by the government to multinational oil companies with questionable labour, human rights and environmental records.

Alert has long worked with members of the Colombian peace and human rights communities and has more recently engaged the extractive sector on its Conflict Sensitive Business Practice project with partners such as Indepaz and Fundacion Ideas para la Paz to build bridges between the private sector and other sectors of Colombian society. This is extremely difficult work given the ongoing armed conflict and political polarisation.

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