Colombia to build environment-friendly peace

What is next for Colombia? The peace agreement is one of the first in history that put heavy emphasis on environment and sustainability as part of the peace building process. Today in Oslo, Colombia's Government share their plans on the way forward.

The peace agreement signed on the 24th of November, brings an end to 52 years of armed conflict between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP. More than two hundred thousand people have lost their lives as a result of the conflict, and millions have been forced to flee their homes. Peace brings an opportunity for sustainable development and a better future for Colombia’s people.

"We firmly believe that reducing deforestation and restoring degraded lands, by supporting environmentally sustainable production alternatives for farmers in rural areas, is the key to ensuring a stable and lasting peace. Social conflicts could be prevented, and for those who were previously involved in the armed conflict, a viable path could be offered for their reintegration into society,” says Colombian minister of environment and sustainable development, Luis Gilberto Murillo.

Colombia's rainforest is among the most biodiverse on earth. Credit: Elisabeth Brinch Sand/KLD

Santos' green vision for peace
Green growth and sustainable development is a key part of President Santos' vision of peace, and is a priority in Colombia's National Development Plan for 2014-2018. Both the Colombian government and the FARC has expressed that sustainable management of natural resources will be needed to achieve a lasting peace.

"We are impressed and strongly support Colombia's vision for a green future and peace-building. We hope this will be a model for other countries on how post-conflict development and environmental principles can be reconciled, while also contributing to a sustainable and lasting peace", says Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen.

Norway to support Colombia’s post-conflict initiative
During the climate summit COP21 in Paris in 2015, Colombia, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom signed a Joint Declaration to strengthen collaboration on climate and forest in Colombia. Norway has committed to a total of 1.8 billion Norwegian crones to Colombia, within 2020.

During the climate summit in Paris, President Santos also launched an initiative and post-conflict fund called “Sustainable Colombia”. The aim is to contribute to a sustainable rural development and poverty reduction, whilst addressing the environmental degradation and deforestation in the territories that have been most affected by the conflict. The fund is likely to be the most important channel for Colombia in terms of attracting international financing for the rural reform agenda. Norway intends to support the "Sustainable Colombia" fund as part of the climate and forest partnership.

"With the new reality of peace in Colombia, we must promote a low carbon and resilient rural development that protects Colombia's rich biodiversity and stops deforestation in the Amazon. This is why the Government of Colombia, the international community and the Inter-American Development Bank have joined efforts to launch Colombia Sostenible, a multidonor fund that will finance long-term green initiatives in disperse rural areas that are critical for environmental sustainability. The success of Colombia Sostenible will be the success of a greener world," says Alejandro Gamboa, Director of the Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation. 

The governments of Colombia and Norway invite to a high level event in Oslo today, where minister Murillo and Colombia's minister of post-conflict Rafael Pardo share their plans for the implementation of the peace agreement and how to reduce rural poverty and promote economic development without damaging the country's unique rainforest and nature. Among the participants at the seminar are also representatives for Colombia's indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombian communities and the private sector. The event will be live-streamed both on the Norwegian Government web site and here on Facebook.

The promotion of a sustainable peace
Environmental degradation caused by the conflict has been estimated to have cost Colombia up close to USD 2.2 billion annually. With a peace agreement, it is expected that government presence will be strengthened in the territories and the authorities will be better equipped to deal with the illegal driving forces behind environmental degradation and deforestation.

However, the decades’ long conflict has also in many ways contributed to protecting Colombia’s unique natural forests from major infrastructure developments, large-scale agriculture and/or other types of investments. Experience from other countries shows that when conflicts end, there is great danger that the pressure on the forest and natural resources increases significantly. This risk is also present in Colombia.

“Our natural heritage is under increasing pressure. Recognizing the vital role that biodiversity and ecosystem services play in securing more and better development opportunities for our people; the Colombian government has chosen to take firm and concrete actions to counteract the loss of biodiversity and to mitigate and adapt to climate change", says Murillo.

Note to Editor:

Photos from the event will be made avalable here

Photos from Colombia's rainforest

Facts about the Norway-Colombia rainforest partnership

In 2015, Colombia, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom signed a Joint Declaration to strengthen collaboration on climate and forest in Colombia. Norway has committed to a total of 1.8 billion Norwegian Crones within 2020. Most of this contribution will be payment for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the reduction of deforestation, and paid thus only if Colombia manage to reduce deforestation. Colombia has prepared a strategy for the sustainable development of the Amazon, known as the Amazon vision. In June 2016, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom contributed with six million US Dollars to Colombia for emissions reductions from reduced deforestation. A substantial portion of the contribution goes to the Amazon vision. This strategy will be implemented in some of the territories in the Amazon that have been hard hit by the conflict. 60 percent of the contribution will benefit local communities.

Colombia's rainforests cover an area of almost 600,000 square kilometres- almost 1.5 time the area of Norway. About half of Colombia's greenhouse gas emissions come from the forest and agricultural sector.