Nearly a month after government and FARC negotiators announced they had come to an agreement on agrarian reform – the first of five objectives the warring parties will discuss before a final peace agreement is signed – negotiators in Havana, Cuba on Friday provided a glimpse into some of the agreed-upon proposals.
In a press release from the negotiating table in Havana dated June 21, the government negotiators and their rebel counterparts provided more detail about the agrarian reform agreement that was signed on May 26, 2013 – an agreement that negotiators are quick to stress will not take effect until the overall peace deal has been signed.
According to the press release, the agreement – which focuses on a regional rather than national approach to Colombia’s rural population, small landowners and peasant farmers – will set up a system of “Land Funds” in order to provide free land to landless peasants or those with insufficient land. The fund will be financed by lands that have been illegally or improperly attained and have been seized by the State. The government will also have a say in how the land is used, taking into account the vocational skills of the peasant owner, the general community consensus and other factors, according to the press release.
The negotiators said they realize that simply providing land to the rural poor is not sufficient and state that the agreed upon plan will also provide poor farmers with means to farm such as seeds, irrigation, technical assistance, housing, crop insurance and lines of credit. In addition, the press release mentions a system for marketing products from the peasant community, although it does not go into more detail about how this will be accomplished.
In addition to land redistribution, the agreement will implement a “massive” plan to formalize small and medium-sized properties in Colombia’s countryside, that after nearly 50 years of conflict can be regarded as a modern-day Wild West. This measure has the lofty goal of providing formal titles to all of the peasants that occupy land in Colombia, while following constitutional guidelines and involving local communities and organizations.
To provide security for peasant landowners who will benefit from the above-mentioned plans, the agreement also demands that the government provide a special “agrarian jurisdiction.” Although details about the agrarian jurisdiction were not provided in the press release, it did mention that its aim will be to provide quick access to the justice system, especially for “children and the defenseless.” The current state of land ownership in rural Colombia is one that has been (and still is) heavily influenced by forced displacement, particularly by right-wing paramilitaries, leftist rebels and other illegal armed groups.
To complement the agrarian jurisdiction in preventing conflicts over land use, the agreement also establishes instruments of dialogue between local communities, the government and private companies.
Rural development and labor rights were also issues that were agreed upon by both sides but were only briefly mentioned in the press release. According to the release, the government will invest in rural development in areas such as infrastructure, energy, communications and Internet access, and irrigation projects. All projects will reportedly see participation from the individual communities the projects affect.
To ensure workers rights in remote, rural areas of Colombia, the agreement provides that the government strengthens monitoring and control to ensure compliance with labor laws as well as provide education to workers and businesses about labor rights under the country’s constitution.
Environmental protection, nutrition, health care, property tax, education and sanitation were also mentioned in the press release as issues that the government and FARC have come to some sort of agreement on, however there was no specific information provided about any of these issues.
Almost a month after coming to an agreement on agrarian reform, Colombia’s largest rebel group and the government are currently in the second round of negotiations that deal with the FARC’s political participation.