An International Event For

Securing Afro-descendant Peoples’ Land Tenure Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean


From June 11 to 14, an international event on Securing Afro-descendant Peoples’ Land Tenure Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Effective Pathway to Conservation and Climate Change Action will take place in Bogotá, Colombia and via live streaming. This gathering will be the centre of knowledge delivery where the recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples as subjects of rights and commitments and the visibility of their territorial rights will be promoted to recognize their role in conservation and climate change action.

Since the arrival of African peoples in Latin America five centuries ago, their contribution to all social, economic, political, and environmental aspects of the region has been fundamental. Now, Afro-descendant political leaders, academics, civil society experts, and activists from the Coalition for the Environmental Territorial Rights of Afro-descendant Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (which includes +25 Afro-descendant organizations), Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), and the Coordinação Nacional de Articulação de Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (CONAQ)—in collaboration with Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Office of the Vice President of Colombia—are working together to make visible the urgent need to recognize Afro-descendant Peoples’ land tenure rights and the crucial role of communities in the conservation of biomes that are central to mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss.


  1. Gain recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean as rightsholders with their own rights-based agendas, and attain representation rights (Voice and Vote) in the CBD and UNFCCC.
  2. Take action: Secure commitments from donors, governments, and international agencies for concrete actions and increased funding to close the gap in the recognition and protection of Afro-descendant Peoples’ territorial rights.
  3. Share: Make visible through data and storytelling the territoriality of Afro-descendant Peoples and the role they play in mitigating and adapting to climate change and protecting biodiversity in strategic ecosystems.


In Latin America and the Caribbean, Afro-descendant Peoples make up 21% of the region’s population. Over centuries, they have forged pathways and developed practices rooted in ancestral knowledge. Their customary territories include tropical forests, wetlands, shrublands, and marine ecosystems which are now recognized as global biodiversity hotspots crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, despite their crucial roles and contributions—only 8.1 million hectares have been officially recognized as owned by these communities in six countries.

This event will mark a historic moment for advancing the recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples’ territorial rights in Latin America and the Caribbean and will be a pivotal moment for protecting Afro-descendant communities’ ability to resist legal and illegal activities that endanger their countries’ promised contributions to meeting the goals of the the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

A summary of Day 1—Afro-descendant Peoples Demand the Recognition of the Black Amazon and the Seas and Rivers as an Axis of Territorial Construction

Afro-descendant leaders from more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, donors, allies, and government representatives held hands, closed their eyes, and asked the Afro-descendant ancestors to guide the days of the event. They also asked for strength and good energy to collectively build a roadmap to defend the territorial rights of Afro-descendant Peoples in the region. The ritual was guided by Helmer Quiñones Mendoza, the event’s Master of Ceremony, who is also a philosopher and coordinator of the advisory team of the High-Level Instance with Ethnic Peoples (IEANPE) of the CSIVI, the main mechanism for monitoring and promoting the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Agreement in Colombia.

“What we are seeing now, at this event, is the result of years, decades, centuries of work. At RRI, we began supporting the processes of Afro-descendant Peoples in the region in 2013, and in 2019, we decided to build a territorial map as part of a strategy that would allow us to show the presence of Afro-descendant Peoples with data,” said, Omaira Bolaños, Director of RRI’s Latin America and Gender Justice programs in her welcoming remarks.

A group photo of participants on Day 1 of an international event on Securing Afro-descendant Peoples’ Land Tenure Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Government leaders from Brazil and Colombia also participated in the event’s Opening Ceremony: Miguel Angel Julio, from the sub-directorate of education and participation at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia and Ronaldo dos Santos from the Secretariat of Quilombola Policies of the Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil.

Julio focused his speech on the need for the recognition of maritime and river territories. Water is a living being that has memory and draws from the territories where we build ourselves as human beings. However, when we talk about territory, we do not even recognize the maritime space, such as the insular Caribbean. Focusing the discussion around water implies recognizing it as a system of knowledge,” he said.

“We must conjugate the verb ‘to be’ before the verb ‘to have’ so that the right of participation is a duty. We are committed to adding in the political and international agendas the recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples at CoP16 in Cali because what is not named, does not exist,” added Julio.

Ronaldo dos Santos directed his remarks to another international scenario, CoP30, which will be held in Brazil in November 2025. “Our great role in this international space is to arrive with an organizational, political, and collaborative capacity; to create a scenario with a diversity of voices and with empowered peoples so that we can conduct effective advocacy,” said dos Santos.

Renowned experts and spokespersons for Afro-descendant movements in the region were also part of the Opening Ceremony, including Carlos Rosero, co-founder of Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) who also contributed to the issuance of Law 70 of 1993 in Colombia which marked a milestone in the region for the recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples’ collective rights; Denildo Rodríguez, national coordinator of the Coordinação Nacional de Articulação de Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (CONAQ) of Brazil; Barbara Reynolds, a spokesperson for the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent from Guyana; Eric Phillips, from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Solange Bandiaky-Badji, President and Coordinator of RRI.

Carlos Rosero criticized the lack of action in laws and treaties, such as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, signed in South Africa in 2001 by governments that pledged to fight structural racism. “The recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples in the Durban declaration already exists. We would expect the recognition of this declaration, but it is not. That is why the inclusion and recognition of the term ‘Afro-descendant Peoples’ at CoP16 is important, which is not only a necessity now, but a battle that we have fought all our lives. Let us prepare for the battle, or better yet, let us prepare the instruments for the battle,” he said.

Denildo Rodríguez referred to the invisible Black Amazon in their remarks: “In the Brazilian Amazon, 64% of the population is Black according to the national census. So, the Brazilian Amazon is majority Black, and yet it is not recognized. Quilombola Peoples are in every biome of the country and are key for preserving these ecosystems. This is why there is no way to talk about conservation and climate change resilience without talking to us, because we are the beginning and the middle of this discussion.”

Barbara Reynolds invited organizations to create alliances and frame the debate under the label of collective territories, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities. “If we don’t focus our discussion on the recognition of collective territories, all efforts will be in vain.”

“We must use the same instruments that were applied against us. We have to fight and participate in all spaces. To make alliances that begin in our families, our schools and churches. To support the construction of education systems that make Afro-descendant Peoples visible,” added Reynolds.

Lastly, Solange Bandiaky-Badji called on governments and donors to accelerate and prioritize the titling of Afro-descendant Peoples’ lands and direct financing to them. “Governments across the region must prioritize and accelerate the demarcation and legal titling of Afro-descendant Peoples’ lands and hold accountable those who violate their land rights and other fundamental human rights,” said Bandiaky-Badji.

On access to land and recognition of the territorial rights of Afro-descendant Peoples in the region

The first panel focused on territorial rights and the mechanisms to make them effective. The panellists, José Luis Rengifo of PCN; Hugo Jabini from the Association of Saamakas Traditional Authorities of Suriname; Katia Penha from CONAQ; Davi Pereira from the Tenure Facility; and Astolfo Aramburo from Colombia’s National Land Agency collectively drew attention to the need for identity recognition as Afro-descendant Peoples, as an ancestral right, as well as for representation in decision-making spaces and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as fundamental steps to guaranteeing participation in these spaces.

“There is a set of international scenarios that are making decisions for us, without us, so we have created a coalition to be part of the conversation,” said José Luis Rengifo.

José Luis Rengifo. a member of the Coalition for the Environmental Territorial Rights of Afro-descendant Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), speaks to a packed room on Day 1. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Hugo Jabini reiterated the need for Peoples to be recognized not only as Afro-descendants but also as Indigenous Peoples in Suriname. “The State became the official owner of Afro-descendant lands in Suriname in the 1960s; we saw companies’ invasion of one-third of our lands by logging and mining concessions. In 2007, the Peoples won in a historic court ruling that was a benchmark for the country, which included the right to FPIC. However, Suriname still does not officially recognize us as Indigenous Peoples,” said Jabini.

The Quilombola Peoples of Brazil have similarities to the legal context in Suriname. “Even though the Constitution establishes the regulation and recognition of Quilombola peoples, there is a lack of information and this lack of information is an invisibilization of the Quilombola Peoples,” said Katia Penha.

Davi Pereira of the Tenure Facility in Brazil mentioned many of the obstacles Afro-descendant Peoples’ face in the country. Brazil is a State that recognizes the Quilombola identity, however after being recognized there are a series of obstacles that make this cycle of access to land and legalization not work.”

Finally, Astolfo Aramburo confirmed the Colombian Government’s commitment to recognizing the collective territories of Afro-descendant Peoples: “This Government has been committed from day one to the Afro-descendant Peoples,” he said.

At the end of the panel, Cecilia Ballesteros, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in Chile, concluded: “This meeting here is as if we were in a Palenque and I invite you to continue with that strength and conviction that is in the DNA, in the memory, and the ancestrality.”

Participants participate in a Homage to Mother Earth during the Opening Ceremony. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

A Summary of Day 2: The Intersection of Territorial Rights, Food Sovereignty, and Gender Equity

Day 2 had a full agenda with a focus on the CBD CoP16 and UNFCCC CoP30. Throughout the day, the Coalition of Afro-descendant Peoples discussed the demands they would bring to these international spaces and addressed two fundamental subjects when talking about Afro-descendant territorial rights: Food sovereignty and gender equity and justice in access to land.

Session 2: What are the demands that Afro-descendant Peoples have for CBD CoP16?

By Wellington Melo, RedAfros (Dominican Republic), with contributions by Daiana Gonzalez, RRI

“There is an invisibilization of Afro-descendant Peoples in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); their territories, their ancestral knowledge, and their own forms of biodiversity conservation. It is critical that in these types of international spaces the category of ‘local communities’ includes the Afro-descendant populations who have territoriality and different forms of organizing.” With this forceful statement by José Absalón Suarez of PCN, the first dialogue of Day 2 focused on the Afro-descendant Peoples at the CBD began.

The panel included Tatiana Roa Abendaño, Vice Minister of the Environment of Colombia; Q’apaj Conde Choque of the Peoples and Biodiversity Unit of the Secretariat of the CBD of Bolivia; Padu Franco, Bezos Earth Fund (Colombia); Ronaldo dos Santos, Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil; and Miguel Pereira, representative of Mundo Afro collective from Uruguay.

The speakers’ contributions focused on the current social, legal, and economic situation of the Afro-descendant Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, given the celebration of CBD CoP16, which will take place in October 2024 in Cali, Colombia.

José Absalón Suárez said that in these spaces of international discussion like the CBD CoP16 and UNFCCC CoP30 it is necessary to achieve three fundamental points:

  1. Ensure that the negotiating commissions of the parties are instructed to include the category of ‘Afro-descendant’ in these texts
  2. Achieve the institutional addition of Article 8j of the CBD so that the Afro-descendant category is incorporated
  3. Influence the Biodiversity Action Plans that States are going to present at CBD CoP16

“In the plenary of CoP16, we must succeed in removing the [Afro-descendants], in brackets, and have the inclusion and recognition of these peoples in the mechanisms, instruments, and bodies of the CBD,” concluded Suárez of PCN.

José Absalón Suárez from Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) gives the framework presentation on Afro-descendant Peoples in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Q’apaj Conde Choque of the Peoples and Biodiversity Unit, CBD Secretariat, Bolivia said: “We have a CBD working group because there are important registration dates that must be taken into account in order to participate: August 31 is the deadline for registration for the working group for organizations that are not registered. By September 15, those already registered have a deadline to include their delegation.”

Tatiana Roa Abendaño added: “The Vice Presidency and the Ministry [of Colombia] have already assumed the need for the inclusion of the term Afro-descendant Peoples in the CBD CoP. We have been working on the National Biodiversity Plan, which is a commitment that we must make before CoP16. To this end, we carry out workshops that include the participation of Afro-descendant, Raizal, and Palenquero Peoples, as well as Indigenous communities.”

Miguel Pereira, representative of the Afro World Collective of Uruguay, added that it is necessary to incorporate biodiversity as an intersectional approach to the public policies of Afro-descendant Peoples and to have a diverse territoriality approach on the part of the States. “There are nations, like my country, in which it has to be explained that there are territories inhabited by Afro-descendant Peoples, both in urban and rural sectors,” said Pereira.

“The social movement managed to build a mechanism of participation that the [Brazillian] government has the obligation to promote. We know that the law is only an instrument, land titling is only a step, which does not cover all the vulnerabilities of the communities. Land regulation must include a policy framework that focuses on reducing these vulnerabilities, added Ronaldo dos Santos.

Ronaldo dos Santos, Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil, speaks on a panel on Day 2 of the international event on Securing Afro-descendant Peoples Land Tenure Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Padu Franco also commented on the Bezos Earth Fund’s vision of including Afro-descendant Peoples in its commitments to protect biodiversity: “Eighty-five percent of the protected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean are de facto in the hands of collective territories and local, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities. For us, there is no way to achieve the 30×30 goals without taking these communities into account. Our commitment is to ensure the ownership, governance and governability of these collective territories.”

Session 3: Food sovereignty is attached with the guarantee of socio-environmental justice

By Nathalia Purificaçao of CONAQ, Brazil with contributions by Richard Moreno, National Afro-Colombian Peace Council of Colombia and Daiana González, RRI

The title of this section was made by Fran Paula of CONAQ, moderator of the third dialogue focused on Afro-descendant Peoples’ food sovereignty. The term ‘food sovereignty’ was proposed mainly by the social movements of Brazil as a political concept, said Paula. This includes ancestry and the care of native seeds which make it a fundamental part of Afro-descendant Peoples’ collective rights.

This panel included comments by: Renan Tadeo, Federation of Black Communities and Organizations of Imbabura and Carchi (FECONIC) from Ecuador; Martha Rosero, director of social inclusion at Conservation International;  and Leidy Johana Bastidas, Association of Afro-descendant Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM).

“Defending food sovereignty is defending our ancestry. Losing it means losing our culture and local economy,” said Martha Rosero, adding that African heritage played a fundamental role in the adaptation of European colonizers in the Americas: “Not only slaves came on the ships, but also their foods and spices from African heritage. Our ancestors carried out the adaptation of spices to these ecosystems.”

Renan Tadeo added: “Water and territory are part of food sovereignty but it is also important to recover traditional seeds that generate even greater production volume. With the famous green revolution, much less is produced in every backyard. We must protect native seeds and, for that, we require a land fund that allows us to reach that reality.”

Leidy Johana Bastidas said: “Food sovereignty in our Afrodescendant communities is primarily derived from our own production practices. We work to ensure this food is in our territories.” Bastidas concluded with a phrase that became the catchphrase of the day:

“Because territory is life and life is not for sale; it is loved and defended.”

Gregoria Jiménez from the Organization for Ethnic Community Development (ODECO) in Honduras speaks on stage during Dialogue 4 on Afro-descendant women’s land tenure rights. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Session 4: Afro-descendant women and gender justice

“We are going to break the rules because, as we say, transgression is our salvation,” said Paola Yañez Inofuentes of the Network of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women of the Bolivian Diaspora (MAAD), and then surprised the audience by doing an unplanned act and passing the microphone to the singer of the Afro-Bolivian Center for Integral and Community Development (CADIC), Mirian Iriondo. “We are women, we are women, we are the land we step on,” Iriondo sang, and suddenly the whole room accompanied her in unison.

Afterwards, Yañez mentioned the existence of Afro-descendant women’s political strategies such as the 2015 Summit of Afro-descendant Women Leaders held in Managua and the first March of Black Women Against Racism and Violence and for Good Living that took place in Brasilia in 2015.

The panellists agreed that to talk about gender equality is to talk about the exposure of Afro-descendant women to poverty and environmental degradation; the lack of access to resources; the lack of participation in decision-making; the lack of access to land, territory, and productive resources; and the lack of reproductive justice. Gender equity and justice must be addressed from an intersectional perspective.

The lack of disaggregated data that shows women’s access to land is a challenge to be solved to effectively demonstrate that Afro-descendant women do indeed live, work, and play in the region.

Paola Yañez said: “Labor informality and poor remuneration are among the great problems of Afro-descendant women, which includes their habitability, which is often in the periphery of cities.”

The Garifuna community (descendants of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples), has an overtly matriarchal approach. Men go to the sea and women are left in charge of the land, the harvest, the management of the house. So in our case, our opinion is taken into account in decision-making spaces,” said Gregoria Jiménez from the Organization for Ethnic Community Development (ODECO) of Honduras.

Panelists from Dialogue 4 on Afro-descendant women’s land tenure rights sit on stage. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Sindis Meza of the Ford Foundation (Colombia) gave her perspective on the challenges philanthropic institutions face in the defense of gender equality: “One of the challenges is the absence of disaggregated statistical data on the traditional use of land, the tenure of collective titles, and how to ensure the right to use and usufruct the territories of Black women.”

“We are women, we are women, we are the land we step on. This means that we are territory and we work collectively in the local and global spheres. But that has generated risks to our security. We cannot look at gender equality without first addressing impunity and leaders’ protection,” said Gloria Monique de Mees of the IACHR.

Genesis Gutiérrez Morales of the Santa Rita Association for Education and Promotion (FUNSAREP) spoke on behalf of young people of African descent and said: “There is no apathy from young people, there is a system that reminds you what you can’t do, specifically as a Black woman living on the outskirts of cities.”

Gutierrez also added that reproductive justice is an issue that touches all generations:

“Afro-descendant women have been claiming the body as territory. When we recover the power of our body and it is no longer seen as a commodity, we can talk about territorial rights. That includes deconstructing our own communities’ practices from the past.”

Estela Aguiar de Sousa, Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil, mentioned a long list of government policies that seek to promote racial equity, psychosocial care, religious diversity, and plans to combat racial stigmatization and support the promotion of the participation of Quilombola women. “Last year we published the Quilombola Brazil Decree for the Comprehensive Inclusion of Quilombola Peoples, and the PENTAC, launched in November 2023, has a strong participation of women.”

Epsy Campbell of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-descendant Peoples of Costa Rica, concluded the dialogue on gender with powerful final thoughts: 

“We are not a homogenous group. We are diverse, but we also have to understand ourselves as Africans and, whether we like it or not, we will be treated as such. My nationality is Black. I am part of the diasporic identity that requires historical reparation, which is nothing more than (re)understanding intergenerational trauma and demonstrating what makes us visible.”

A summary of Day 3—A Day to Delve into Alliances, Other Territorialitics, and Historial Reparations

On Day 3, we moved to the Caribbean and the Colombian Pacific to hear words from Afro-descendant leaders and researchers about unrecognized territorialities, such as coastal and marine ecosystems. After this, the discussion turned to one of the issues the Afro-descendant population of Latin America and the Caribbean are demanding the most: Historical reparations. At the end of the day, strategic alliances were created and a final recommendations document was drafted, which will be delivered to government officials on Friday, the last day of the event. 

Session 5: ‘Maritorio’ and Urban Ecosystems Also Matter

By Wellington Melo, RedAfros (Dominican Republic), with inputs from Daiana González RRI

On Day 3, interesting debates arose during the fifth dialogue on ‘Other Territorialities: Urban and Coastal/Oceanic Ecosystems.’ The concept of ‘maritorialities’ emerged, which was explained during the framework presentation by Ana Isabel Márquez, from the Javeriana University of Colombia.

“The non-recognition of marine and coastal territorialities, or ‘maritorialities’, as well as urban ones, prevents the creation of public policies in which these spaces are protected and the well-being and justice of their inhabitants are guaranteed,” said Márquez.

The concept of ‘maritorialities’, as an argumentative approach to what other territorialities are, served as the common thread of the interventions, which had as protagonists: Darío Solano, from the Red Afros, Dominican Republic; Orlando Ávila, from the University of Cartagena, Colombia; Johanna Herrera, from the Observatory of Ethnic and Peasant Territories (OTEC), of the Javeriana University of Colombia; Pablo de la Torre, from the Afro-Ecuadorian region of the North of Esmeraldas, in Ecuador; and Cristian Báez, from LUMBANGA, Chile.

The panel was moderated by Manuel Pérez Martínez, from the Javeriana University of Colombia, and explored some of the great challenges experienced in these territorialities, among them the consequences of mass tourism at a global level and the task of achieving a comprehensive mapping of these maritorios.

“We have to question this development model that we are denouncing, and that means not only rejecting it but showing alternative solutions, for which social construction and the existence of a critical citizenship is fundamental,” said Darío Solano.

Regarding this problem of mass tourism, Orlando de Ávila, from the University of Cartagena, Colombia said: Pollution and destruction due to mass tourism is a global problem and requires global solutions. Dialogues must be had in which informal settlements that have been impacted by privatization are discussed so that collective titling can begin.”  

Johanna Herrera of OTEC talked about fishing, a common economic activity Afro-descendant inhabitants of the maritime areas practice: “Artisanal fishers account for more than half of fish production in the Global South and are the most marginalized in sustainability discussion spaces. Fishing must be positioned as a way of life, so that it is linked to collective rights and not linked to a mere economic activity.”

Pablo de la Torre confessed that he had mixed feelings in the debate because it was the first time they were in a dialogue where the marine-coastal inhabitants were being contemplated in a situation of equal rights with those who live on the territory.

“Whenever we talk about territorialities, we talk about the right to territory; but this is the first time we talk about our maritime reality, and with our own voice,” said de la Torre.

John Antón Sánchez of the Institute of Higher National Studies of Ecuador, and one of the spokespersons of the Afro-descendant Coalition, was in charge of the final remarks of the session and added that one of the Coalition’s challenges is to conceptualize who the Afro-descendant People are: “What is to be Afro? We are Indigenous, as in the case of the Garifuna. Afros are the original Peoples. Let us reflect on territory as a driving element for the development of practices that identify us as Native peoples of Latin America.”

Panelists sit on stage during the dialogue on Other Territorialities: Urban and Coastal/Oceanic Ecosystems. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Session 6: Afro-descendant Peoples Demand Historical Reparations

Public apologies followed by reparation. This is what the Afro-descendant Peoples demanded in this dialogue. But what should this repair look like?

“Justice for Afro-descendant Peoples is linked to the environmental line, to the management of the resources that have displaced Afro-descendant Peoples from their territories,” said Margarita Flórez of the Environment and Society Association of Colombia, in charge of opening the dialogue focused on Historical Reparations, Human Rights, and Territorial Defense as Tools for Social Transformation.

The panel included: Pastor Murillo, UN Permanent Forum on Afro-descendant Peoples, Colombia; Barbara Reynolds, UN Working Group of Experts on Afro-descendant Peoples; Oswaldo Bilbao, Center for Ethnic Development (CEDET), Peru; Angélica Remolina, International Labor Organization (ILO), Colombia;  Leyla Andrea Arroyo Muñoz of PCN, Colombia; Carlos Rosero of PCN; Raquel Pasinato, Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), Brazil; and Eric Phillips, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Guyana.

Leyla Andrea Arroyo Muñoz commented that unfortunately, in Colombia, land rights have worsened. “Our progress in participation and territorial rights is undeniable, but what we have not advanced in is transforming living conditions and they have even worsened, in part due to structural violence.”

“There is no violence in the armed conflict. There is a conflict that exacerbates violence that we have historically been suffering,” added Arroyo Muñoz.

Barbara Reynolds also reiterated the need for a public apology as an initial part of this historic reparation. “Apologies, followed by a full stop, is not enough. We need apologies followed by a coma and see what comes next, what are the measures that are going to be taken,” Reynolds said.

Pastor Murillo, Angélica Remolina, and Carlos Rosero spoke of some of the tools created in the region that seek historical reparations. For example, Murillo drew attention to the Permanent Forum’s desire to create a commission on reparations; Angélica Remolina focused on ILO Convention 169 (1989) which seeks to guarantee the rights and respect for the territories, cultures, and worldviews of Tribal peoples; and Carlos Rosero mentioned PCN putting the issue reparation on the Colombia government’s agenda take advantage of the circumstances for the defence of the territories.

“There is a challenge we have and that is the political composition. The ministry and the current senate are made up of landowners and they are the ones who are making the policies. That is our biggest challenge,” said Raquel Pasinato.

Eric Phillips of CARICOM, Guyana, said that his organization is working on the formal apology request mentioned by Reynolds.“We require a formal apology, an Indigenous development and repatriation plan and a return of our stolen heritage. We require psychological rehabilitation and strengthening of technology as well as financial reparation and repatriation.”

Palmira Ríos Gonzales from the University of Puerto Rico, was in charge of the concluding remarks: “We need to work collectively, including Indigenous Peoples, and we have to seek reparations in a holistic way.”

“Colonialism persists in our region. We are still Peoples who do not have the right to self-determination, who do not have autonomy in their territories. In 2020, the fourth decade for the abolition of colonialism was celebrated. I don’t want a fifth decade, I want us to end colonialism,” said Gonzales.

Oswaldo Bilbao from the Center for Ethnic Development (CEDET) in Peru speaks on the panel on Pathways to Dignity: Historical Reparations, Human Rights, and Territorial Defense as Tools for Social and Environmental Transformation. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Session Seven: Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives

By Nathalia Purificaçaô of CONAQ, with contributions from Daiana González RRI

In a session dedicated to exploring alliances and strategic initiatives, the importance of building a common agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean with a perspective of global expansion was highlighted.

This session, moderated by Keith Slack, Senior Director of Programs at RRI, was to establish strong connections between different actors to drive a common agenda that not only addresses local issues but also has a global reach.

The Quilombo of the Americas

Ronaldo dos Santos, from the Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil, presented the initiative of the Quilombo of the Americas. “This initiative of Quilombo of the Americas seeks to build a common agenda for Latin America, with the intention of expanding globally,” said Dos Santos. The initiative focuses on analyzing the region and promoting inclusive and equitable policies for Afro-descendant Peoples.

María del Pilar Catacoli, from the Ministry of Equality and Equity of Colombia, emphasized the importance of articulating efforts and working with communities and organizations. Her ministry, especially the Vice Ministry of Ethnic Peoples and Peasants, is committed to bridging gaps through strong political will. We are going to work, we are going to articulate, we are going to continue weaving as in our ancestry, with the communities and organizations, and with a political will committed to minimizing the gaps,” said Catacoli.

Women in Global South Alliance (WiGSA)

WiGSA was another focal point of the session. Ketty Marcelo, representative of the National Organization of Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Women of Peru (ONAMIAP) and member of WiGSA, underscored Indigenous and Afro-descendant women’s struggle to receive direct access to funding.

“WiGSA brings together diverse voices and works so that women are recognized as subjects of rights and receive direct funding for their organizations. Territorial diversity is a strength that has allowed us to walk together and define common criteria,” says Marcelo.

Clemencia Carabalí, from the Association of Afro-descendant Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and WiGSA, highlighted the specific fund created by CLARIFI for the participation of Afro-descendant women. This fund has allowed concrete actions such as the planting of more than 1,000 banana plants and the construction of collective plots and nurseries for the reforestation of degraded land. 

“I thank CLARIFI for creating a specific fund for Afro-descendant women and this is proof of the commitment of this organization and RRI to a concrete path in supporting women’s economic autonomy,” said Carabalí. She emphasized the need for direct and unhindered support for Afro-descendant women to promote their economic autonomy and ensure equity for Afro-descendant Peoples.

Community Funds and Economic Autonomy

Maria Alaídes, from Fundo Babaçu (Brazil), together with Aurelio Vianna, from the Tenure Facility (Brazil), and Valerio from Fondo Quilombola, discussed the importance of community funds as its own financial instruments. MIZIZI DUDU, the Quilombola fund, was presented as a catalyst for autonomy and a crucial component in state programs. This fund represents an innovative approach to community participation and democracy, ensuring equity for Afro-descendant Peoples.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Day 3 concluded with the presentation of the final recommendations document, which will be officially delivered to government officials, policymakers, and donors on Friday, June 14. This document includes proposals and commitments discussed and addressed to different governmental, intergovernmental, and donor actors so that the category of Afro-descendant Peoples is assumed as a subject of rights in international decision-making spaces on biodiversity and climate change.

Read the Afro-descendant Coalition’s recommendations here. 

Audience members shout “The people will not give up!” during Day 3 of the event. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.


A summary of Day 4—Commitments and Next Steps: Pathways to Close the Gap in the Recognition of Territorial Rights

The final day of the 4-day event concluded with a powerful call to action. Key stakeholders, including the Honorable Vice-President of Colombia, Francia Márquez, multilateral organizations, and grassroots activists emphasized the urgent need for the inclusion of Afro-descendant voices in global environmental spaces such as the CBD CoP16 and UNFCC COoP30. 

The Coalition for the Environmental Territorial Rights of Afro-descendant Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean brought forward key outcomes. José Luis Rengifo, from PCN and spokesperson for the Coalition, began with a reading of 16 key points endorsed by all present organizations, highlighting the need for their inclusion in multilateral platforms such as the CBD CoP16 and UNFCCC CoP30. Rengifo emphasized that Afro-descendant Peoples must have a significant voice in these spaces, pointing to social mobilization and autonomous research as fundamental strategies.

“After days of discussions, we have built a consensus document, the product of an analysis among youth, ethnic, territorial, women, and Afro organizations to reflect our demands as Afro-descendant Peoples,” said Rengifo.

Participants in the press conference sit on stage on Day 4 of the international event. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Key Contributions and Challenges

Sonia Viveros from Fundacion Azúcar, Ecuador, emphasized the importance of not limiting struggles to the governmental sphere and advocated for the preservation of land and territory. Omaira Bolaños, Director of RRI’s Latin America and Gender Justice programs, analyzed the impact of collective tenure systems on women, while Katia Penha from CONAQ, Brazil highlighted the need to consider the Quilombolas in territorial discussions and called for an inclusive CoP30.

Commitments and Steps Forward

Moderated by Solange Bandiaky-Badji, President and Coordinator of RRI, the panel included multilateral organizations, donors, international organizations, the UK embassy, the Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil, the Ministry of Environment of Colombia, and the National Land Agency of Colombia (ANT). They agreed that, to date, there has been no concrete recognition of Afro-descendant Peoples’ rights.

Mauricio Cabrera from the Ministry of Environment of Colombia highlighted legislative advances in Colombia, while Ronaldo dos Santos from the Ministry of Racial Equality of Brazil emphasized the need for social mobilization and resistance to strengthen political agendas.

dos Santos also called for coordinated action between the governments of Colombia and Brazil to implement effective policies that include culture, territory, and racial equity:

The best way to formulate a policy always comes from the people working on the ground, from those who have calluses on their hands and walk the land; it must come from the Afro-descendant Peoples themselves, and we must gather strength within the government to give force to these agendas.”

Astolfo Aramburo from the ANT stressed that governments are only temporary: “We are a link in the chain since governments are very cyclical, and this can pose a challenge, but what sustains is the union of the various organizations that have helped in this regard.”

Biodiversity Conservation and Community Participation

Representatives of multilateral organizations and embassies discussed the importance of biodiversity conservation and the implementation of ethnic chapters in environmental policies. The panellists emphasized the need for direct financing mechanisms and community participation in these efforts.

Renata Neder from the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) spoke about the role of philanthropy in supporting sustainable and structural efforts, while Juanita Bernal Lopez from the Inter-American Development Bank in Colombia underscored the importance of biodiversity conservation with the active participation of Afro-descendant Peoples.

The Honorable Vice-President of Colombia, Francia Márquez Mina, gives a speech on Day 4, noting the importance of the connections between Afro-descendant and Indigenous movements globally and the need to weave strategies to reclaim the rights of these peoples. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.

Closing Speech

The Honorable Vice-President of Colombia, Francia Márquez Mina, concluded the event with a speech that encapsulated many of the Coalition’s demands.

“In none of the international instruments of the CBD or the UNFCCC are Afro-descendant Peoples included. Neither the term local communities nor that of Indigenous Peoples identifies or includes us, which is why we have taken on the task with the Ministry of Environment of Colombia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the CoPs include the category of Afro-descendant Peoples. We ask Brazil to join Colombia in this request, which is a huge tool to establish a safeguard and protection plan for the territories, rights, and knowledge of Afro-descendant Peoples,” she said.

Márquez highlighted the importance of articulation between Afro-descendant and Indigenous movements globally and the need to weave strategies to reclaim the rights of these peoples. She emphasized the urgency of having accurate data to overcome marginalization and work together to change imposed colonial realities.

“There are challenges to advance the emancipation from colonial thought, and only together can we transform that reality. Having a Vice President is not the end; it is the means. The end is to transform the realities in which we live,” Márquez affirmed.

Future Goals

Among the mentioned challenges was the creation of a new ‘Afro-descendant Decade’ focused on historical reparations and inclusion in global dialogues on biological diversity and climate change. A call for joint action was made to ensure Afro-descendant Peoples’ dignity becomes a regular reality.

The day concluded with a firm commitment to continue the fight for Afro-descendant Peoples’ territorial and environmental rights, ensuring that their voices are heard and their rights recognized at all levels of government and in the international sphere.

Dancers perform during the closing ceremony on Day 4 of the event. Photo credit: Monica Cotes from Trineo Communications for RRI.