IRI Colombia advocacy leads to approval of landmark bill in Congress criminalizing deforestation

An extensive advocacy campaign conducted by IRI Colombia played a critical role in the recent adoption of landmark legislation in the country criminalizing deforestation. On April 6th, the House of Representatives of the Colombian Congress approved replacing the ‘crimes against natural resources and the environment’ section of Law 599 of 2000. The bill is of particular importance because it not only updates and adapts the Colombian Penal Code so it can better address the serious environmental challenges facing the country, but also so it can confront and combat criminal forms of deforestation that are destroying Colombian forests. The bill criminalizes, among other things, deforestation and the promotion and financing of deforestation, in addition to the crime of illegal appropriation of state-owned land. The bill still has to receive a third and fourth debate in the Senate before it becomes law. However, it is expected to pass without major difficulties, as it had broad political support during the debate. The bill preserves the artisanal and subsistence economic activities practised by indigenous communities. IRI Colombia, through its Advisory Council and religious leaders in the country, undertook an extensive campaign pushing for adoption of the bill, calling on each of the members of the House of Representatives to approve it.  This represents a historic legal victory in the country for forests and the rights of indigenous peoples.