Guardians of the Atrato River in Colombia

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"The Afro-descendant communities along the Atrato River, together with the Interethnic Solidarity Forum of Choco (FISCH) and Tierra Digna, achieved a landmark ruling in 2017, which recognised the Atrato as a holder of legal personhood and environmental rights that must be safeguarded alongside the communities’ bio-cultural rights. This placed direct responsibility on the State to ensure its protection, maintenance, conservation and restoration. The Constitutional Court ordered that two “Guardians of the Atrato” be appointed to monitor the implementation of the sentence (T-622) and to keep the communities along the 750 kilometers of the River Quito informed. However, the communities decided that the work involved would be too much for just one community leader, as a result they formed a group called the “Guardianes y Guardianas del Atrato” (Guardians of the Atrato). This group consists of fourteen delegates (seven men and seven women) from the ethnic communities along the river. This group is coordinated by the FISCH.

Bernadino Mosquera is one of the Guardians he is the afro-Colombian leader of one of the communities in the River Atrato and he undertakes vital work towards:

  • Preserving the natural resources along the river;
  • Integrating local communities into initiatives involving the Atrato’s protection, maintenance, conservation, and restoration;
  • Defending the rights of the communities by denouncing the issues present as a result of persistent social exclusion and the armed conflict;
  • Advocating for the accomplishment of the High Court ruling."