COVID-19 and Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia

September 15, 2020

Three country experts debate how COVID-19 has affected the implementation of Colombia’s Peace Accords of 2016 and their environmental implications.

Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia_Puyana, Pearl, Arenas
Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia_Puyana, Pearl, Arenas

The COVID-19 pandemic is complicating environmental peacebuilding in Colombia in multiple ways. It is eroding livelihoods and natural resource management overall, undermining dialogue and cooperation, and making communities more vulnerable as they face growing challenges to cope with the crisis.

The webinar hosted a conversation between Frank Pearl (Former Minister of Environment, High Commissioner to the President for Reintegration of Ex-combatants), Jimena Puyana (Manager for Sustainable Development, United Nations Development Programme-Colombia), and Wendy Arenas (Activist and Managing Director of Alysos (Alliance for Sustainability in the Amazon).

Moderated by Miguel Londoño of the Global Green Growth Institute, the speakers discussed the environmental implications of COVID19 and how these issues impact the implementation of Colombia’s Peace Accords.

The event was the first in a set of five webinars on environmental peacebuilding in Colombia co-sponsored by the Environmental Peacebuilding Association, the Duke Center for International & Global Studies/Rethinking Diplomacy Program, The Global Green Growth Institute, and the Environmental Law Institute.

 

Excerpts from the webinar:

 

ON COVID19, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY

JIMENA PUYANA:

“The effect of the pandemic has been high on consumers. A recent survey, published by Universidad de los Andes, shows that 81 percent of consumers have the intention to reduce their total expenditure…They highlight the trend after [COVID19 where consumers] look for healthier products. That’s definitely a great advantage – it’s a window of opportunity to share information with consumers to promote all of these environmental products.

FRANK PEARL:

“Families…could work seven days a week, 24 hours a day throughout their life and they’ll always remain poor because of the capital multiplier and the credit multiplier, the lack of access to formality, to training…So [the CRR] includes a massive plan…for the conception of comprehensive access…it’s not just about people having or owning [land], it’s about making sure the benefits generated from the land [reflect those before the pandemic].”

WENDY ARENAS:

“[COVID19] moves us all in a personal way… The planet stopped, one fourth of the planet stopped. Not because of environmental issues. It is stopped because of the imminence of risking human beings. If you think about what [COVID19 has] implied for those of us who have worked with environmental issues for many years… it means everything Greta was asking for – that break – the virus achieved that. But it was risking a lot of the population. So, this is an important reflection – how to understand environmental issues and how to place them in the agenda.”

 

ON COVID-19 AND GLOBALIZATION

JIMENA PUYANA:

“The [climate and green finance findings] show that there are some adjustments in the budget, conducted by the national government to reassign resources to the emergency budget for COVID. It has allowed the country to respond to the crisis. [But] it impacts the finances of other sectors, especially the environment…Given the estimate [the United Nations Development Program] came up with, this could also impact the availability of resources given by international donors in our bilateral relations because all countries are going to have to double their efforts to resume sustainable development.”

WENDY ARENAS:

“How can we effectively understand that nature is part of a reality that is affecting us, to start understanding that globalization and interconnectivity do have real relations and deeper implications… In those isolated territories, like in the Amazon, like in Córdoba…those of us who have projects that we could not get there because of COVID19…we started developing different ways of communicating, we realized that these territories…need to overcome institutional weaknesses.

 

ON PANDEMIC REFLECTIONS

WENDY ARENAS:

“If we pretend that going back to normalcy is [going back to where we were before] – that’s one thing. Or we can assume that COVID made us reflect deeply as human beings and that these deep reflections - we're going need to take advantage [of them]. Topics about food safety start having real, vital importance in those territories where the peace accord is being implemented. The lack of healthcare, like in Amazon - they had to open a special flight to be able to be treated in Bogota.”

FRANK PEARL:

“We have a pearl. Nature gave up a country that is absolutely privileged, environmentally speaking... This pandemic, I hope it helps us all to reflect because we need a new political pact so that we can protect ecosystems, so that Colombians that are in poverty, that have those unacceptable social conditions – they can have access to live in a society where there is equity.”