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Territorial Consolidation in Colombia: the Right to have Territory and a Territory with Rights

Territorial Consolidation in Colombia: the Right to have Territory and a Territory

			with Rights

By Dialogo
January 06, 2014

The idea of creating a Territorial Consolidation Program in Colombia started

in 2004, as a strategy to bring state presence to rural and conflicted areas, where

until now the state had been absent; where insecurity and underdevelopment were

wreaking havoc. But it was not until November 2011 that the Colombian government

organized this plan and created the Special Administrative Unit for Territorial

Consolidation (UAECT) as the entity for meeting that goal and liberating these areas

from illegal armed groups; to disrupt their support and supply networks, and conduct

eradication of illegal coca crops.
Once the presence of guerrillas disappear, state representatives would take action through civil agencies, in order to conduct projects that will generate an enduring impact, not only in infrastructure, but also in production and technical and financial assistance to help the population take leadership of development. Moreover, the population would have a safe enough environment to promote their role as active participants in the economic and political fields in the country. Two years after its reorganization as an entity subscribed to the Social Action Department, Diálogo visited the offices in Bogotá to interview the current director of the Special Administrative Unit for Territorial Consolidation, Dr. Germán Chamorro de la Rosa.

DIÁLOGO: Dr. Chamorro, would you explain what Territorial Consolidation


Dr. Chamorro: Territorial Consolidation is a government policy that

allows the creation of the necessary conditions for peace in strategic territories,

favoring the economic and social development of the country, which has been affected

by armed violence for decades; it is structured on the concept of security and the

exercise of fundamental rights of people (Section 2 of the Constitution). It is the

only government policy existing in 58 municipalities in 13 departments, with

territorial security as basis. With security provided by the Public Forces, the

State takes action and offers legality. In this sense, we work with a fundamental

basis, such as citizen participation. We do everything with the community. Before

starting any process, we ask the community their opinion. We are also executors of

President Juan Manuel Santos’ sound government policy, conducted jointly among

mayors. We intend to take those regions that were excluded from national development

and help them make progress. The purpose of this policy is to strengthen those


DIÁLOGO: How did the idea of the program arise?

Dr. Chamorro: That work strategy comes from the interagency management

program called 'Centro de Coordinación y Acción Integral' (Center of

Coordination and Integrated Action). It is conducted by the Public Forces, but

people must be convinced and their trust must be won. Therefore, it is a policy that

is made by us and the Public Forces, but we also do it with the Civil Society. It

also has another great advantage, regional politics.
DIÁLOGO: What are the criteria used to select a specific territory?
Dr. Chamorro: The designation of territories is made by the National Security

Council, considering exclusion from national development, and the existence of

illegal armed groups and illicit crops, among other factors. In other words, we

choose municipalities that had been excluded from the development of the country.

DIÁLOGO: What is the Unit's structure and approach?

Dr. Chamorro: We have the Counter Illicit Crops Program within the Unit. There are three directorates: Regions, Joint Execution and the Counter Illicit Crops Program. We also conduct forced manual eradication of illicit crops with the Mobile Eradication Groups (GME), through which we generate employment and conduct eradication operations. In addition to the almost 64,000 hectares eradicated by the GMEs, we also conduct post-eradication actions. Our program most widely promoted has been the Forest Ranger Families.

DIÁLOGO: Are these families that formerly grew coca crops?

Dr. Chamorro: Yes. They are people that were on the verge of illegality

and now operate within the law. I think this is very important support.

DIÁLOGO: Could you tell us about some of the achievements made so far?

Dr. Chamorro: Currently, the UAECT is working to implement the consolidation index, created with the support of 'Fedesarrollo' (a Colombian economic and social research company) and international cooperation, which intends to measure the total progress of the National Consolidation Policy, a main tool for this purpose. Then, we proceed to bringing the State together, making us essentially its unifying agents. The investment on the focused region is historic, representing an increase of almost 400%. There has been almost two trillion [Colombian] pesos (US$ 517,000) made in national state investments, with almost 27 state institutions functioning as intermediaries. With the Quick Response Program, for example, we have taken action in 12 departments, 47 municipalities, 307 sections, and 266 chosen projects, the policy of many which were embraced by the community and taken over to conduct several of them. With the strategy of the Forest Ranger Families 2012-2013, a program that provides people with food security, a productive project and technical assistance so that people can optimize their products, we have supported 19,374 families with an investment of $19,906 million Col. pesos (US$ 10,264.04) in the production of cocoa, coffee, sugar cane, palm, forestry, pasture-forestry, apiculture, among others. We invest resources in those families that have been forest rangers and conclude their cycle by taking up productive projects, so they can obtain sustainability and can make progress.

DIÁLOGO: Are there any examples of how you’ve reached out to the people?

Dr. Chamorro: Our attendance to the opening ceremonies is one of our

distinguishing features. In an area where the State had always been absent, a man

told us “thank you for remembering us.” These are small, life-changing initiatives

for the people; $30 or 40 million Colombian pesos [about US$ 16,000 to 21,000] in

investments, but which had never taken place before, and villagers had never trusted

them before. For example, there is a region in Putumayo, which is called La

Concepción, near the place where Raúl Reyes was killed. It is an area traditionally

dominated by the guerillas, but we were able to reach up and establish a

power-generating plant, which changed people's lives. Before now, they just had

contact with guerillas, so to have State presence means that they were remembered.

DIÁLOGO: Before, guerrillas were their only option...

Dr. Chamorro: Yes, of course. So, it is a way to reshape people's

vision, to show them that there is a State that is thinking of them. People

appreciate small deeds...

DIÁLOGO: What does it mean to build capabilities?

Dr. Chamorro: What we seek is that municipalities become more and more

adjusted. So we give municipalities and villagers the capabilities to do so; we give

them sustainability. We provide them with building capabilities, so that people

become trained and empowered.

DIÁLOGO: How is that done?

Dr. Chamorro: Community Action boards conduct the people's training. They have continued actions that we have started, and people are satisfied because they are able to decide how to invest. Consolidation areas are conflict zones, but very rich in oil, nature, mining, water, hydroelectric resources; we have four hydroelectric generators in our regions. So, there is a lot of potential here for energy management through the use of hydroelectric powerplants.

DIÁLOGO: Tell us about the consolidation indicator...

Dr. Chamorro: It is a new indicator that was made with U.S. contribution, which has not been implemented yet, but will measure the whole consolidation process in all regions. Its scope is very wide, since it measures politics in different regions, so the population can be interviewed and then the state presence can be measured; we can figure out how regions are consolidated. A pilot test was conducted in Tumaco, Monte Líbano and San Juan de Arama. The indicator

will be applied this year in all 58 municipalities, with the aim of measuring the

level of consolidation in the region.

DIÁLOGO: In a post-conflict scenario, what are the roles and responsibilities

of the Consolidation Policy?

Dr. Chamorro: The mechanisms and methodology used by the Unit deployed

in territories where the National Policy for Territorial Consolidation and

Reconstruction (PNCRT) are applied - areas with high violence rates and illicit

crops - are already under a post-conflict scope. I consider this to be the best

contribution to facing the challenges of the country at this stage. There is no

question that the new peace scenarios require not only a national outlook, but also

the need to integrate territorial actions and policies that will provide a

transition towards a stronger Colombia in terms of democracy, peace and coexistence.

We are willing to make our contribution in this area. We have a great program that I

would like to mention. We have an agreement that has been nominated to the National

Peace Program. The University of La Salle has an agronomy school called Utopía, and

we have signed an agreement with them, by which we grant scholarships to... so far,

about 64 people from violent areas. These beneficiaries graduate as agronomic

engineers, and are committed to return to their hometowns and start working and

taking projects. Utopía is related to peace, because that is the goal. All we do is

part of the post-conflict scenario in these regions, which are so deeply affected by


DIÁLOGO: What is the difference between civil and military territorial

consolidation actions?

Dr. Chamorro: The main difference is that we address social and civil

mobilization for the construction of governance scenarios, in accordance with

national, regional and territorial public institutions, as well as with the

community, in order to pursue continuity and sustainability of actions proposed, so

we can overcome obstacles generated by exclusion as a factor that has provoked

violence. Through the Armed Forces' interagency program, they intend to assist

territories in an emergency action with their scarce resources; assisting

populations affected by armed confrontation in a civil-military approach. Our basis

is territorial security, although our intervention is merely civil and social. From

the Community Action Board, we are working with town halls, governor’s offices and

international organizations, with a permanent involvement intended to be

sustainable. It is a very different intervention, compared to the operations

conducted by the Public Forces with the Army in Integrated Action.

DIÁLOGO: But they go hand in hand...

Dr. Chamorro: Yes, hand in hand. Since I took office, we have had a

close relationship with the Army, and we are working hand in hand with budgetary

considerations. For instance, we have invested in the Cauca project; they invest in

our projects, so there is an exchange. It is a joint and coordinated effort, so

there is no overlapping and coverage can be more extensive.

DIÁLOGO: Is the Colombian Government planning to share experiences with other


Dr. Chamorro: In the South-South cooperation process –cooperation aimed

at overcoming common development challenges in a joint way, offered by Colombia to

help Central American, Caribbean, South American, South Asian and African countries,

which had requested that cooperation– we have been visited by countries that are

looking for new government approaches, in order to find intervention alternatives in

areas where violence and lack of governance cause vacuums affecting national

security. Furthermore, we consider that this is a way to return to the world the

solidarity received through the international cooperation with the same purpose. We

have also held exchanges with the south in operations to eradicate illicit crops;

exchanges with Thailand, Peru, Bolivia...

DIÁLOGO: To conclude, Dr. Chamorro, would to like to add anything for Diálogo readers?

Dr. Chamorro: It is important to emphasize that the achievements of the

Consolidation National Policy and the Consolidation Unit have been made with the

support of international cooperation, especially by USAID, becoming a strategic

partner to enforce our institutional mission, and making the community develop trust

where the UAECT has intervened, as well as promoting State officials to learn about

the regional and local spheres, about which path to follow. The support of the

Southern Command is also fundamental for the creation of all our strategies.
Good afternoon. The interview with Dr. Chamorro was very good, as well as the implementation of the program in different regions. It would be good to know the municipalities involved nationwide, that are benefiting from the outreach of the Consolidation program. a good page