President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree on Tuesday which gave Colombia’s 95 indigenous communities greater autonomy in managing resources for health, education, and potable water.
Around 100 representatives of Colombia’s 95 indigenous communities attended the ceremony with President Santos and Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo. The autonomy decree was 10 months in the making and formalizes a right enshrined in Colombia’s 1991 constitution to indigenous communities .
Key points of the decree
- Recognition of the functioning of indigenous territories with an administrative political organization of special character that allows them to exercise greater autonomy through the Indigenous Self-education System, Indigenous Health System, and the Participation System.
- Articles referencing the indigenous health and education systems will be regulated by the relative government ministries conforming to the customs and use in each community.
- Application of the bill is voluntary meaning that indigenous groups that do not want to constitute an indigenous territory do not have too.
- Promotion of autonomy, self-determination, cultural identity, ethnic diversity, territory, unity, integrity, and universality.
According to an indigenous leader who attended, this was an important step towards “reconfiguring a new political and administrative state for indigenous peoples.”
President Santos stated that the bill would “generate more equality” and that the national government “will make available all of the tools needed for efficient management of resources.”
During the ceremony, there was a moment of silence for the 11 indigenous leaders of the Wiwa tribe in the Sierra Nevada mountains that were killed by a lightning strike on Monday.