Colombian Constitutional Court Strikes Down Forestry Law for Lack of Prior Consultation with Indigenous People

The National Indigenous Government Authority of Colombia, (ONIC) celebrates the monumental decision adopted the 23rd of January this year, by the honorable Constitutional Court to declare unconstitutional Law 1021 of 2006. Through this decision they dispatched the General Forestry Act, for not having provided for the process of Prior Consultation with the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia, as provided for in Article 6 of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169.

Colombia’s national government had been omitting its constitutional and legal duty of consulting Indigenous authorities, communities, and organizations regarding legislative measures that directly affect our rights. This ruling, even discounting the legal reasoning taken by the Constitutional Court in the protection of the fundamental right of consultation, constitutes a fundamental step through which the Colombian Government will re-configure their arbitrary and excluding proceedings. Above all so that they comply in good faith with international and national norms that guarantee the participation of Indigenous peoples in the processes of consultation and coordination in the legislative initiatives that affect us.

The discussion and approval of the extinct “General Forestry Law” disregarded the minimal requirements that consultations should fulfill, based on sustained relationships with respect and good faith on both parts. The process should guarantee that the communities have real and effective participation in the consultation through their representatives and that the decisions of governmental authorities not be authoritarian or arbitrary.

According to the extension of obligations with the incorporation of article 6 of ILO 169 to constitutional norms, prior consultation to the Indigenous peoples is obligatory each time that legislative or administrative measures are taken that affect us directly.

This decision of the high tribunal constitutes a fundamental tool, so that the Colombian government will repeal the 1320 decree of 1998, as requested by the ILO on reiterated occasions. The government should provides a process of consultation and cooperation directed towards this imperative right based on the harmonization of these rights with those established in ILO 169.

We’d like to thank the social organizations, environmentalists, human rights advocates, the academic world, and the institutions that have supported us. Also, we thank the individual men and women, for more than two years of work and constant struggle. We have made it possible that the mother earth, our pachamama, continues creating life in the mountains and forests of Colombia.

Likewise, we call on this group to continue working in defense of the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Colombia, fundamentally those that currently face serious threats from the bureaucratic apparatus and the macro-economist interests of multi-nationals and imperialist governments. There is much work still to do, that indicate to us that the political pulse is of lasting breath. We should not forget that the statute of rural development and other similar laws of the government are nearing completion and disregard the rights of the Indigenous peoples as well as the national constitution. Thus we call on everyone to be alert to strongly refute the national

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