'A River with rights? Interrogating spaces for socio-environmental resistance in Chocó, Colombia'

Authors: Mo Hume*, University of Glasgow
Topics: Latin America
Keywords: Pluriverse, socio-enviromental conflict, River
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2017, the Colombian constitutional issued court ruling T622, a pioneering legal mechanism that gives explicit recognition to the River Atrato as a ‘subject of rights’. The Atrato is the third river in the world to be granted such rights and formalise the recognition of the pluriverse. T-622 explicitly articulates ideas of post-development thinking and confirms in legal terms the inextricability of nature from humans and vice-versa. Founded upon the idea of a sustainable socio-environment, expressed as ‘bio-cultural’ rights, T-622 seeks to ensure the river’s ‘protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration’, as well as recognising the ways in which the river is inseparable from the livelihoods and survival of the communities who live around it.

While the ruling marks a legal victory in this struggle and the wider struggle to reverse the ‘invisibilisation’ of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia (Oslender, 2008), the paper situates the ruling in a wider exploration of socio-environmental challenges in the Chocó region. Chocó remains characterised by ‘structural racism’, historic disinvestment and a worsening ‘humanitarian crisis’ (Wade, 2017; UMAIC, 2017). Against this backdrop, tensions emerge as to how can a river articulate and claim its rights. The paper engages with such questions, exploring the struggles for bio-cultural rights along the Atrato River.

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