On April 30, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will attend a land restitution event in Colombia, where he will witness the transfer of land titles to individuals who have been displaced by the country’s internal conflict. Inequitable land distribution – an estimated 0.4% of the population owns 62% of the country’s best land – was a fundamental driver of the long-running conflict, which has caused an estimated 4 million Colombians to become internally displaced. Colombia has one of the highest rates of internally displaced persons in the world, and indigenous peoples and members of women-headed households have been forcibly displaced at disproportionately high levels.
As we noted in a previous commentary, land issues must be addressed if Colombia is to achieve enduring peace and stability. The case for addressing land tenure challenges in Colombia was discussed recently in the April edition of Foreign Affairs, where Oliver Kaplan and Michael Albertus argue that targeted land reform may assist the country to develop a more durable peace process. They go on to note that the international community should assist in the land reform effort.
USAID has supported land governance reform in Colombia for more than a decade. The Government of Colombia’s current land governance programs and policies, including the USAID-supported establishment of regional and local land restitution offices and the development of the Victims and Land Restitution Law, seek to strengthen land tenure security, promote rural development, and restitute land to the country’s internally displaced.
As President Barack Obama said in a ceremony with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in May 2012: “[W]e all understand that peace is not simply the absence of war. True and lasting peace has to be based on justice and dignity for every person. And that’s why today is so important. Giving you and so many Afro-Colombian communities title to this land is part of ending this nation’s long conflict. It gives you a new stake in a new Colombia.”
See USAID’s Land Tenure and Property Rights Country Profile on Colombia for more information.