Posted by Adriaan Alsema on Sep 25, 2011 Leave a comment

UN proposes rural reform in Colombia to fight poverty and violence

Colombia needs a drastic rural reform if the country wants to further develop, decrease its high inequality rate and diminish the country’s violence, the United Nations says.

According to the latest report by the United Nations Development Programme, 1.15% of Colombia’s population owns 52% of the country’s land, which according to the UNDP is one of the main reasons Colombia is the second most unequal country in Latin America after Brazil.

This unequal distribution of land and the activity of illegal armed groups are impeding further development in Colombia and are cause for “social conflicts, forced displacement and land dispossession,” Absalon Machado, the academic director of the “National Report on Human Development 2011” told Spanish news agency EFE.

“Those who own large tracts of land use these as a source of political power, and this to use violence against the population with the intent of acquiring more land or protect that what they already have, which is why they link themselves to actors in the armed conflict,” Machado said.

The UNDP proposes a “democratization of land ownership” through a “transforming rural reform.”

This reform “would generate less social conflict, more jobs, more income, human development and gives more space for institutionalization to be strengthened,” Machado explained.

The proposed land reform should not repossess land owned by the big landowners. Instead, the UNDP proposes to reverse the high concentration of landownership through the taxing and fining of landowners who have unproductive patches of land.

The UNDP report proposes the involvement of the national tax office DIAN instead of local authorities who “are manipulated by local elites,” reported newspaper El Tiempo.

According to the report, in 21.7% of Colombia’s municipalities, the government has been ruled by the same political party or local elite for more than four consecutive electoral terms. In 43.5% of the country’s municipalities there has only been one change in government in the past 16 years.

The concentration of political power in these municipalities result in higher levels of extreme poverty and limited access to public services, according to the report.

To counter this, the UNDP calls for more state interference in the market “and less market in the State” because according to the report the market has not contributed to the promotion of rural development.

President Juan Manuel Santos will officially receive the report on Wednesday.