Canada Announces More Support for Land Restitution in Colombia

November 14, 2012 - The Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), today announced additional Canadian support for the Colombian government’s land restitution efforts, which will help foster peace, security and justice for Colombians.

Under President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the Government of Colombia has made land restitution to victims of forced displacement a priority. Land restitution is a key component of Colombia’s justice and reparations process, in which victims seek information, transparency and judicial accountability for human rights violations committed by armed groups in Colombia.

“Canada is proud to support the Government of Colombia’s land restitution efforts,” said Minister Ablonczy. “Fair land tenure—coupled with opportunities for rural communities to earn sustainable livelihoods on their lands, free of landmines—lays the crucial foundation for long-term peace and security in Colombia. The projects Canada is supporting will make a concrete difference to thousands of families who were forced from their homes.”

The additional funding of $1.6 million supports three projects whose aim is to assist the victims displaced by the internal conflict in returning to their land. The first project supports the land restitution unit of the Ministry of Agriculture in helping displaced families receive legal land titles and return to their homes; the second supports the clearance of landmines to allow the safe return of those displaced; and the third assists Colombia’s Office of the Ombudsman in monitoring the assistance process and providing legal advice to victims.

Support for these projects further demonstrates Canada’s commitment to strengthening security and institutions as part of its strategy for engagement in the Americas. Since 2006, through its Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), Canada has put $165 million toward initiatives that promote peace and security, human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the Americas.

In the same period, the START fund has provided more than $32 million to initiatives that strengthen justice for victims, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, human rights, landmine clearance, and peace and security efforts in Colombia.

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Joshua Zanin
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
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Backgrounder - Canadian Support to Colombia’s National Policy on Land Restitution

Since 2007, Canada has made its engagement in the Americas a foreign policy priority. As part of that engagement, Canada works with partners toward three goals: to increase economic opportunity, to strengthen security and institutions, and to foster lasting relationships.

The three projects announced today are being funded by the Global Peace and Security Fund, which is part of Canada’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START).

In August 2010, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón declared land restitution for victims of forced displacement a priority for his government, with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as the lead institution. In June 2011, the Colombian congress adopted the landmark Victims and Land Restitution Law, which aims to compensate 4 million victims and return 6 million hectares of land over 10 years to people displaced by the conflict.

The three projects announced by Minister Ablonczy are intended to help Colombia implement the Victims and Land Restitution Law.

Details of the individual projects follow.

Implementation of National Land Restitution Policy

This project supports the efforts of the land restitution unit in the department of Sucre (one of the 17 such units across the country) to register, investigate and process claims by families who were forcibly displaced by armed groups. Through this project, these families will receive legal land titles and will be allowed to return to their land. This project is implemented by the International Organization for Migration.

Canada provided an initial amount of $488,535 to this project (announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to Colombia in August 2011). The new funding of $290,361 will allow additional training for land restitution units across the country and for other actors involved in the process of land restitution to better carry out their duties and ensure that victims have their cases processed effectively. Canada’s total contribution to this project is $778,896 over 23 months.

Integral humanitarian mine action

Colombia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. This project helps the Government of Colombia to clear anti-personnel mines from priority areas, allowing displaced people to return to their land and use it productively. The project provides technical, logistical and administrative support to teams clearing mines in up to nine areas in the departments of Caldas and Santander. The project also supports community outreach and mine-risk education to prevent accidents and provides modest assistance to victims of landmines. The project is implemented by the Organization of American States. Canada’s contribution to this project totals $1 million over nine months. Since 2006, Canada has contributed a total of $3.6 million to demining initiatives in Colombia.

Effective implementation of Victims and Land Restitution Law

This project aims to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman, the national government agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Victims and Land Restitution Law. The project provides technical assistance and a surge capacity of specialized staff to review cases and provide guidance and legal counselling in order to ensure that victims with legitimate claims have access to land and compensation. The project is implemented by the International Organization for Migration. Canada’s contribution to the project totals $350,000 over 11 months.