Colombia: Blessed to still be here
Richard Moreno is from Tanguí in Colombia - a village where the inhabitants have experienced attacks from the military and the gerilla. The latest years, the people of Tanguí have several been at the verge of fleeing from their homes. That's why Richard think they are blessed to still be there.
Teaches human rights
Today, the population of Tanguí are proud owners of their land thanks to a legislation created in 1993, which was one of the largest social sucesses after a long struggle containing the creation of alliances, strikes and advocacy. But as Richard Moreno puts it, being the owner of one's land does not mean that the problems disappear.
Richard works for the organization Cocomacia.
"I work with a lot of things, first and foremost teaching human rights. I believe it is important to educate inhabitants in leadersin order for them to know their rights, how to demand that they are upheld and which institutions and officials you should turn to in order toi demand for your rights to be met."
Diakonia's partner organization Cocomacia have been working since 1982 in Chocó, Colombia, focusing on strengthening the region's cultural identity and standards of living. The goal of the organization is to improve the life quality of the Chocó societies by working with identity, respect for differences and basic needs.
Thanks to the work of Cocomacia, people have been able to stay on their land. This is an important result in Colombia, being the country with the highest rate of internal refugees in the world due to the armed conflict and the large extraction of natural resources in the region. Another result produced by Cocomacia is the social and political organization of 124 societies in Chocó.
Training and judicial advicing
"I have dedicated a large part of my life to Cocomacia. I enjoy the work I do," says Richard Moreno. He has been a member of Cocomacia since it started, spending more than half his lifetime on being a part of the organization; first as a common member and then later as the organization's judicial advisor.
Richard works in the field, in for example the isolated societies of the river Atrato. His work includes holding workshops in human rights and being present when conflict are resolved and when villagers return to their land.
Cocomacia has got propositions for conflict resolution
"We believe that the development model which has been imposed on Colombia and Chocó does not take into account our needs and culture. Chocó has always been regarded by others as a region with a sole purpose: the extraction of natural resources. The investments made therefore only respond to external interests and needs. We who actually live here need other models," says Richard.
Within Cocomacia, there is an ongoing process with outting forward a proposition for resolving the conflict, a regional peace agenda, which suggests how conflicts should be resolved. The proposition will be presented to the state and different authorities to make sure that the voices of grassroots organizations are heard. The model developed by Cocomacia focuses on the consideration of the societies and their culture instead of investments in natural resources. The resources are instead to be put on education and advocacy.
Working at the grassroots level
Richard Moreno summarises his work with Cocomacia.
"We are still here. Cocomacia's work enable people to stay on their land, and for others to return. If Cocomacia didn't exist, I don't think that many societies in the Chocó region would either."
"I can't see myself sitting at a desk yet. I am a part of changing the reality of those living in Chocó and Colombia. And I do it form the grassroots, from the local societies. I hope that I become a respectable leader one day. In fact, my dream is to be known as a leader for the afro-Colombian societies."