Recent news reports of strikes and protests in Colombia underscore how addressing inequality and insecure land rights, especially for Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and rural communities more broadly, remains a key element for the country’s progress toward peace and stability.
Former World Bank Chief Economist and Senior VP Joseph Stiglitz has similarly noted the need for strong investment in Colombia’s rural sector, including promoting smallholder agriculture and land redistribution.
In this context, the World Bank published the Colombia Country Forest Note (December 2018). The CFN rightly recognizes that land and natural resource management was a core issue in Colombia’s 50-year civil war and remains central for lasting peace. It brings together analysis and proposed responses to issues of land policy and administration, agriculture including cattle- raising, forest policy, and coordination among these. It also addresses the potential role of other key donors and the government’s own plans, such as its National Development Plan (NDP) as well as its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for addressing climate change. This is needed and welcome, and in these respects, is a model for other Country Forest Notes, of which the World Bank has committed to produce 20 under its Climate Change Action Plan.
What’s missing? The CFN notes that more than 11 million people, over a quarter of Colombia’s population, inhabit forests. It also notes that poverty, unequal land distribution, violence, and illegal occupations have forced people out of their lands. However, the underlying issues of inequality, discrimination, and corruption/abuse of power are essentially absent from the discussion. These are politically charged, so perhaps we should not be too surprised that a “programmatic” note doesn’t tackle them. But the programs themselves will need to integrate fully the communities they intend to serve—and that’s a challenge the World Bank and its partners still need to address.
For a full CFN summary and analysis of the issues, read our review-- Colombia Country Forest Note: Will World Bank projects live up to the plans?