Honoring a Leading Commitment to Conservation in Concert with Indigenous Peoples

Date: 
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On September 21, 2017, in the company of indigenous leaders and ACT staff, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was honored at the National Geographic Society for his special leadership in environmental conservation and his commitment to the preservation of biodiversity. 

The ceremony included a special presentation to President Santos by ACT and leaders from the Murui-Muina, Inga, Kamentsa, Kogi and Arhuaco indigenous communities commemorating the expansion and establishment of reserves in the Amazon, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Putumayo, and Caquetá.  ACT staff handed the President a map titled Legalizando Territorios Indígenas en Colombia: Avances en la Consolidación de Corredores Bioculturales (Establishing and Expanding Indigenous Territories in Colombia: Progress in the Consolidation of Indigenous Territories), showcasing three emblematic examples during Santos’s term where local indigenous organizations, international cooperation networks and the government joined forces to simultaneously support the territorial rights of indigenous communities and build conservation mosaics or corridors.  In each of these cases—with the Inga-Kamëntsá  people of the Andes-Amazon transition region, the Murui-Muina of the middle Caquetá River region, and the Kogui, Arhuaco, Wiwa and Kankuamo peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta—ACT facilitated the protected area creations and/or expansions. 

Most recently, in August 2017, with ACT’s legal and technical assistance in support of the efforts of the majority Murui-Muina people, the Colombian government realized the expansion of the Puerto Sábalo – Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves, placing some three million more acres of Amazonian rainforest under official protection and effectively establishing a conservation corridor of nearly 25 million acres that includes Chiribiquete National Park.  Chiribiquete itself was earlier expanded by the Santos administration expanded to an area of one million hectares with the support of ACT, the Andes Amazon Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Per President Santos: "Colombia is a world treasure of biodiversity. Our duty to current and future generations is to protect it and ensure the sustainable development of our country."  For this commitment, and his longstanding recognition of the importance of the physical and cultural survival of his country’s indigenous peoples, ACT honors his transformative legacy.