A brave Colombian

While Colombia’s ‘peace process’ moves slowly forward, the damage caused by the decades of conflict to the country’s environment and ecology will take equally long to repair. During those years of conflict, not just involving the Leftist FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the BACRIM Right-wing paramilitaries but also wider political actors going back to the La Violencia period between 1948-1957, local people and organisations struggled to protect Colombia’s wide and varied biodiversity which includes a number of globally significant ‘hotspots’.

In recognition of these efforts the fourth Marjan-Marsh Award has been given to Colombian conservationist, Julia Gorricho, who has worked in environmental protection and biodiversity conservation in her country since 2004, beginning when she assisted with the International Crisis Group’s Colombia and Andean regional project.

With her in-depth knowledge of biodiversity conservation in settings affected by violent conflict and transnational drug-trafficking Julia has become a well-known figure in Colombian conservation circles. In an environment heavily affected by the transhipment of illegal drugs from mainland Colombia to the United States, Julia developed methodologies that combine coastal fishing and conservation activities.

The Marjan-Marsh Award is given to a person for making an outstanding contribution to conservation in areas of conflict; it is supported by the Marsh Christian Trust in conjunction with the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and Conservation within the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London. The award includes a sum of money and expenses generously given by the Marsh Christian Trust, which will be presented to Julia by Brian Marsh on November 5 followed by talk by Julia (please see details below).

Julia took a Masters in Environmental Studies at York University (Canada), her thesis being on ‘socio-environmental conflict management in protected areas: the case of the Galapagos Marine Reserve’. She returned to Colombia to engage in a high risk/high reward project with the Bogota-based World Bank Patrimonio Natural Trust Fund as Conservation Mosaics Program Officer when she was tasked with the management and implementation of the Conservation Mosaics program in Colombia’s Atlantic coast, developing a portfolio of conservation and development projects with a range of stakeholders (including local communities, the Colombian National Parks authority and representatives of other government institutions and international organizations).

Julia’s task required extraordinary courage because Colombia’s Atlantic coast was emerging from decades of para-military control, oppression and violence: virtually all communities in the region had been deeply affected by para-military rule (often in collusion with members of the Colombian armed forces and regional political and economic elites) as well as large-scale illegal drugs and arms trafficking.

This difficult and daring work by Julia made a significant contribution to the lives of the people in the region, and Julia was among the first group of Colombian environmental professionals to actually start addressing in practice the enormous challenges of biodiversity conservation in regions of the country that had been affected to the core by violence and trafficking. Latterly Julia has just completed her PhD studies at the Institute of Environmental Social Science at the University of Freiburg.

Award Date: November 5 (2015).

Venue: The Pyramid Room, King’s College.
Location: 4th floor. Main Strand campus.
Time: 6pm; it is free and open to the public.
For more information please contact: Jasper Humphreys: jasper.humphreys@kcl.ac.uk

This entry was posted in Colombia, Conservation, Guerrilla Warfare, War and conservation. Bookmark the permalink.

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