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Cablegate: Unhcr and Goc Agriculture Minister Sign Idp Land

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1920 1422202
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 212202Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2962
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0467
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAY 9454
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6219
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1767
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6877
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE PRIORITY 4892
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4436
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1927
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1548
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001920

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL CO
SUBJECT: UNHCR AND GOC AGRICULTURE MINISTER SIGN IDP LAND
RIGHTS ACCORD

REF: BOGOTA 1571

SUMMARY
-------

1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
signed an agreement on April 7 with the GOC's Agriculture
Ministry to implement joint projects to protect and restore
land rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). UNHCR
believes the new accord complements previous agreements to
advise and provide technical support to the GOC on IDP rights
and assistance. END SUMMARY.

2. On April 7, UNHCR Colombia and the Colombian Minister of
Agriculture and Rural Development (MOA) announced a framework
agreement to work together to implement joint projects to
protect and restore the land rights of internally displaced
persons (IDPs). UNHCR Colombia's Resident Representative Jean
Noel Wetterwald and Agriculture Minister Andres Arias signed
the accord with Colombian President Uribe in attendance.

3. Discussions on the agreement began in February after local
press reported that the MOA planned to allow agribusiness
interests to access 17,000 hectares of land in Carimagua
(Meta). In 2004, the GOC had promised to give this land to
IDPs as a reparation. The media reports triggered a political
controversy, leading the MOA to cancel the agribusiness land
deal. At the same time, Wetterwald approached Agricultural
Minister Arias and offered to work with MOA on IDP land
issues.

4. Under the agreement, UNHCR and the MOA will help the 2.4
million registered IDPs recover or obtain reparations for the
estimated 6 million hectares that they lost due to violence
or threats by terrorist groups. Wetterwald said the
agreement, along with the GOC's recent reparations decree
(see reftel), shows the GOC is serious about resolving IDP
land issues - especially collective land issues involving
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Wetterwald expects
some human rights groups will criticize UNHCR for having
"surrendered" to the GOC on land issues, but added that the
initiative is consistent with UNHCR Colombia's 1999
Memorandum of Intent with the GOC to advise and provide
technical support to the government on issues related to
displaced persons.

5. UNHCR Colombia's Land Program Coordinator Adriana Buchelli
told us UNHCR hopes to work with the MOA over the next year
to resolve at least three emblematic cases to test the
challenges, gaps and opportunities in the restitution
process. UNHCR envisions other projects under the UNHCR/MOA
agreement that will complement the four-year old Tierras
Project. The International Organization of Migration (IOM)
manages the Tierras Project which has registered about 2
million hectares of land forcibly abandoned by IDPs, thereby
preventing its sale. IOM works with the GOC's Accion Social
to implement the Tierras Project. The GOC, UNHCR, USAID and
the World Bank are the principal donors/advisors.
BROWNFIELD

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