International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2022: Celebration and Respect

On August 9 we commemorate indigenous peoples, their culture and traditions around the world, an excellent opportunity to showcase the actions carried out by the company in the areas where it operates.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly established August 9 as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to commemorate the first meeting, in 1982, of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. We take this opportunity to celebrate the progress made by the Project to Strengthen the Working Group for Indigenous Peoples in the heart of Colombia.

Puerto Gaitan, a town in the oil-rich department of Meta in Colombia, is home to the Sikuani people, one of the protagonists of this innovative public-private initiative. The idea is to arm them with the know-how to make the most of the public and private-sector resources needed to develop projects in their region. Specifically, the program provides them with tools so that they can identify and build proposals to help them manage their sources of income, strengthening their skills and abilities as an indigenous people.

Today, the initiative has gained a life of its own, going well beyond its initial mission: it’s a meeting ground for dialogue, listening and learning where all those involved honor present-day and ancestral knowledge and beliefs. These meetings are also a springboard for actions to help strengthen their organizational capacity, empowering traditional leadership in modern times and promoting the articulation of issues that prioritize collective interests over individual benefit.

In mid-2021 the project delivered a training program in Puerto Gaitan for community leaders, built as a diploma study course, consisting of four axes:

— Organization and governance

— Drawing up investment projects

— Gender focus

— Entrepreneurship

The diplomas were awarded to leaders and representatives, both men and women, as proof of their attendance during the entire training process. Receiving the diploma is tangible evidence of people’s commitment to their communities and envisages them being able to apply their learnings in their circles of influence.

It is worth noting that it’s only been possible to put these policies into practice thanks to the legal figure governing the Reservation system, designed to legitimize and recognize the ancestral rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, understanding that this is collective and unattachable property which cannot be taken away.

Further upstream from Puerto Gaitan, the company has also entered into an agreement for the process of Prior Consultation with the El Tigre reserve, inhabited by a Sikuani indigenous community. This means that the community has a prior right to participate and take decisions about projects and works, as well as discuss the legislative and administrative measures being planned in their territories, to enable them to actively protect their integrity and their cultural, social and economic heritage.

The Prior Consultation process is a joint effort developed between the community and the company, designed to identify any possible impacts of company activity and see which measures can be taken to offset these, such as mitigation, prevention and compensation. It serves as a mechanism to foster participation and interaction, as common ground for mutual learning and a coordinated approach to managing environmental issues for company operations carried out in the territory.

Typically, the process involves identifying and categorizing impacts at ecological and social levels before drawing up a series of measures to be implemented before, during and after the development of each project.

The underlying thrust is to care for the communities and their natural environment by helping to preserve water sources and care for fauna and flora, prioritizing the practices and knowledge of the Sikuani people.

Today, together with the entire company, they celebrate another anniversary of a symbolic day for closer relationships and mutual understanding between people.

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