Pandemic impact on Indigenous Peoples of Colombia is disclosed to the UN Special Rapporteur


Bogotá DC, Colombia –  Lima, Peru,  June 25, 2020. Within the call for   contributions to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations for the report on the impact of the pandemic on indigenous peoples to be presented to the UN General Assembly next October, the Colombian National Indigenous Organization – ONIC, the Akubadaura Community of Lawyers Corporation and EarthRights International, jointly presented a report to the Special Rapporteur, Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay, which reports on the situation of the indigenous peoples and nations of Colombia in the face of the pandemic and the response of the National Government to the emergency, characterized by an action that does not guarantee participation, nor the differential approach of the measures adopted, which contributes to the materialization of the risk of physical and cultural extermination in which the majority of indigenous communities in the country are located.

The Rapporteur’s attention is drawn to making the especially vulnerable situation of indigenous populations cross-border and in the border area visible, indigenous peoples in the city context and the risks of extermination associated with the internal armed conflict that are potentiated in the context of a pandemic.

The report highlights how the situation of pre-existing vulnerability to the pandemic potentiates the disproportionate increase in the risks to the life and integrity of indigenous peoples in Colombia against the spread of the virus, taking into account, for example, that in conditions prior to the emergency infant mortality rate in the indigenous population is 2.79 times higher than that in the non-indigenous population and that in capital cities such as Leticia, today with the second highest prevalence in the country (6.3), the 26.9% of its population has its Unmet Basic Needs, compared to a national percentage of 14.13%.

Likewise, it reports on the initiatives taken by indigenous peoples within the framework of their autonomy, government and their own right to prevent, contain and deal with the pandemic, which have not had the support of the national government; as well as the fundamental work of the indigenous guard and the strategies implemented based on spiritual work, knowledge of plants and territory, and the strengthening of traditional medicine and ancestral knowledge. Among the positive repercussions, this pandemic has meant an opportunity to Return to the Origin, according to the guidance of the Elders.

Regarding the measures adopted by the National Government within the state of emergency, in addition to not considering a comprehensive differential approach, the report presents how, at the beginning of preventive isolation, through circular CIR-2020-29-DMI1000 issued by the Ministry of Interior, it was intended to implement scenarios of prior consultation through virtual means, which were opposed by indigenous and ethnic organizations, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, after which it was finally repealed although the unconstitutional nature of virtual prior consultations was not recognized.

The actions for health care have not taken into account the proposals formulated by indigenous peoples within the framework of the Indigenous System of Own and Intercultural Health (SISPI); Access to education for indigenous children and youth has not been adequately guaranteed, since according to data from the 2018 DANE Census, only 6% of indigenous households have internet coverage, and the Emergency Humanitarian Aids announced by the government national for indigenous peoples have been delivered in a minimum percentage, almost 3 months after initiating isolation, to the point that in the first instance ruling of the “tutela” action filed by the Delegate Attorney for Ethnic Affairs, the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca protected the rights to dignity human and the vital minimum of the indigenous communities targeted for their attention, ordering the effective delivery of emergency humanitarian aid that totals 468,896, as well as the delivery of 17,488 biosecurity kits for the indigenous guard.

Recommendations are also made to mitigate the serious and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on peoples, in the form of actions by the National Government, coordinated and agreed with indigenous authorities and organizations.

We urge the National Government, headed by President Iván Duque, to heed the recommendations made in the report, and guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples as subjects of special constitutional protection.