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
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