Bogotá, February 14, 2019.- As part of his program in Colombia, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norwayvisited the Territorial Training and Reintegration Space -ETCR- of Mesetas, in the department of Meta, to inaugurate the Mesetas-Uribe ecotourism corridor "Hidden Paradises". Civil society organizations and former combatants of the FARC-EP lead today this and other productive projects for their social and economic reintegration.
The ecotourism corridor was designed by the social organizations and the community in the process of reintegration and is part of the results of Environments for Peace: a dignified life and reconciliation, a program financed by the Government of Norway and implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the FARC that promotes environmental training initiatives for local communities and former FARC combatants. It also fosters the development of productive and conservation alternatives that contribute to sustainable development and grassroots peace.
Hidden paradiseswas born with the aim of showing some of the most beautiful and biodiverse places in Colombia that were hidden during the armed conflict and can be visited today together with the people who live there.The corridor is 175km in length, and includes 12 trails to enjoy nature, adventure sports and to learn about the reintegration process.
"The conservation of nature is usually not one of the main concerns at the end of an armed conflict, but peace is an opportunity to use the natural resources that these forests represent in a sustainable way. Sectors such as ecotourism have begun to represent genuine job and income opportunities. Environments for Peace makes an important contribution to that end," said Crown Prince Haakon.
For his part, the General Director of the Agency for Reintegration and Normalization (ARN), Andrés Stapper, the entity responsible for the social and economic reintegration of former FARC-EP combatants, stated that " in addition to the coordinated work between institutions and the cooperatives established by the people in process of reintegration, the allocation of international cooperation resources is of great importance for the implementation of initiatives in the territories ".
To operate the Mesetas-Uribe corridor, social organizations and former FARC combatants created Catypsa, a tour operator that has 100 members, 30 percent of which are former combatants, and 70 percent members of the community. The provision of services such as guides, food, and accommodation within the ETCR will be coordinated by various cooperatives created for that purpose.
"Thanks to Environments for Peace, we have united. We have learned from other regions of the country and have also shared what we know. Former combatants are coming out of adverse circumstances, and this has been the gateway to the future and a new life; not so much as an economic ambition but rather as a way of sharing the beauty of these hidden paradises. Here, the reintegration process belongs to all of us, including the communities. The conflict separated us and now we have come together as a family, with the single purpose of protecting the environment ", said Alexander Parra of the Mesetas ETCR.
Overall, 3810 people benefit from the Program, 30 percent of which are former combatants of FARC and 70 percent local organizations, such as Community Action Boards, committees, associations, guilds and cooperatives.
UNDP in Colombia: Carmen Morales, Communications Coordinator, email@example.com+51 313/494-9805.
Nadia Rey, Communications Specialist for Sustainable Development
Carlos Rivera, Communications Specialist for the Consolidation of Peace firstname.lastname@example.org+57 315/795-1440
UNDP works in more than 170 countries and territories helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion, aimed at improving the quality of life of all people. The 2030 Agenda is a programme focused on people and the planet with 17 Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty in all its forms and build more peaceful, inclusive and resilient societies. www.co.undp.org