A peace deal between the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group FARC could have a detrimental effect on Colombia’s natural environment, the United Nations warned.
The alert was sent last week to the government and FARC negotiators gathered in Havana so that they bear the issue in mind while proceeding with talks, the UN chief representative in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, said on Wednesday.
“We have done an analysis of the municipalities of highest priority in post-conflict, with reference to the FARC’s presence, armed operations, development and poverty, humanitarian needs and infrastructure. We arrived at a total of 125 municipalities in 17 states,” explained the report Hochschild.
Majority of those regions, concentrated in the south, northeast and northwest of the country, have a very high environmental relevance, meaning peace agreements could cause irreversible changes in Colombia’s landscape. Moreover, 50% of all the land under investigation is comprised of forests and other ecosystems that have global relevance, claims the UN report.
Paradoxically, most of the areas covered with forest and mountains analyzed in the study have been safeguarded by the presence of various rebel groups for past decades. Their presence have traditionally made the territories “off limits” for the government, the industry or the population.
However, according to the UN, when the agreements are implemented, many of these lands would be affected by state’s interference through the new distribution system and the change in crops that have been cultivated there over the years, typically coca from which cocaine is made.
Although, the UN is by no means making claims against the advancements of the peace process, it emphasizes the importance of appropriate planning in order to prevent the destruction of the country’s natural heritage and a socio-economic disaster of some of the measures administered from Cuba.
“The alert is more to do with planning the implementation of the agreements,” Hochschild said.
Nevertheless, the report insists that “it has to be kept in mind that several environment protection measures exist, such as forest reserves and national natural parks, that protect and preserve a great part of these localities.”
It also offers four recommendations for the peace-negotiators to consider.
One of them deals with land cultivation habits, so that victims and former militants of the conflict, who are granted land through the distribution process, are aware of all the environmental aspects and adapt their farming methods in accordance.
Additionally, the report offers advice on formulating of both national and regional development models that are sustainable and durable.
Finally, the UN appeals for greater involvement of various environmental institutions in the process of implementation of the agreements.
According to Hochschild, the government has so far showed interest in listening and complying with the directives suggested by the organization.