Farmer at work in the Colombian Amazon region_Photo FCDS

New ‘Observatorio Amazonia’ makes socio-environmental conflicts in Colombia visible

The Colombian Amazon is home to an exceptionally large number of species, including 1.2 million people. As in many parts of the world, Indigenous peoples and local communities play a crucial role in protecting this biodiverse region. But their efforts are often not without struggle. This month, our Colombian partner organisation FCDS developed launched ‘Observatorio Amazonia’ supports Indigenous peoples and local communities in exercising their and the forest rights by documenting, monitoring, analysing and reporting on socio-environmental conflicts.

Header photo: FCDS

The Observatorio Amazonia is developed by the FCDS (Fundación para la Conservación y el Desarrollo Sostenible) and is part of our joint programme in Colombia’s Amazon region. The platform was launched on 13 April, 2023 with a panel discussion on how to the new tool will contribute to reducing socio-environmental conflicts.

Socio-environmental conflicts in Colombia

Colombia has been the country with the highest number of murdered environmental human rights defenders for two consecutive years. The economic interests in the Colombian Amazon are enormous, but the national government has been fairly absent in the region. The lack of rule of law created more space for illegal activities, according to FCDS Director Rodrigo Botero: ‘Colombia has a well-developed system that allows illegal activities to occupy rapidly growing large areas of the Amazon.’

The surging demand for commodities such as palm oil, beef and illicit crop threaten biodiversity and the way of life of Indigenous peoples and local communities. These people often lack information on administration processes and access to legal services, making it more difficult to exercise their rights.

As natural resources become scarcer, these communities often draw the longest straw. When the water source they depend on is polluted by mining, for example, or when the land on which they have lived for generations is taken over by a multinational oil company. If people are not aware of their legal options their cases are not reported, which does not only limit their chances: it also creates incomplete data on the socio-environmental conflicts in the region.

‘We want to show what is behind deforestation. There are enormous conflictive situations associated with this great phenomenon and its main drivers, such as land grabbing, mining, roads and hydrocarbons, which now become visible.’

Maryi Serrano – FCDS

Observatorio Amazonia: showing what is behind deforestation

The objective of the Observatorio Amazonia is to make the socio-environmental conflicts that have gone unnoticed by the Colombian authorities and the international community visible. ‘We want to show what is behind deforestation. There are enormous conflictive situations associated with this great phenomenon and its main drivers, such as land grabbing, mining, roads and hydrocarbons, which now become visible,’ says Maryi Serrano, coordinator of territorial ordering and development planning at FCDS.

The online platform shares information on the scale, structure and scope of forest crime, as well as on the economic, social and ecological impact of these illegal activities. This information can support community members and government authorities in strengthening their capacities and policies.

Re-thinking solutions to deforestation

Mariel Cabero, expert environmental justice at IUCN NL: ‘The Observatorio is a very useful tool, since the conflicts in the Colombian Amazon have not yet been monitored and visualised to the level of detail. Its approach creates the opportunity to have an in-depth understanding of the socio-environmental conflicts and allows to re-think possible solutions.’ 

Identifying and analysing conflicts in depth contributes to the protection of the Amazon people and the territories they protect. In addition, the initiative offers timely information to policy makers and aims to improve reporting mechanisms serving local communities. These communities have the leading role in the initiative.

The Observatorio Amazonia also supports the work of civil society organisations. With the provided information, these organisations can continue to investigate and analyse the causes, actors and temporalities of the socio-environmental issues in the Colombian Amazon in the long term.

Amazon rights in focus

This initiative is part of Amazon rights in focus: peoples and forest protection, a collaboration of FCDS, Ambiente y Sociedad, news platform Mongabay and IUCN NL.

The Amazon is the most extensive rainforest on earth. But the Colombian Amazon is at risk: the surging demand for commodities such as beef, palm oil, gold, and illicit crops trigger deforestation. To safeguard the Colombian Amazon, we aim to end forest crime and to improve the territorial rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

More information?

Liliana Jauregui
Liliana Jauregui
Senior Expert Environmental Justice