Ethnic Information

Mar 24, 2021

Ethnic group communities and operations

Article 7 of the 1991 Political Constitution recognizes and protects the ethnic and cultural diversity of Colombia. Ethnic groups that inhabit the national territory are as follows: indigenous, Afro-Colombian, Raizales, Palenquero and Rom populations. The self-recognition of an individual or group as a member of an ethnic group is the starting point for the application of the Colombian legal framework, which is based on three principles:

  • Autonomy: Ethnic groups, as political subjects, consider that their long presence in the territories, the exercise of their own governments and the identity manifested in their uses and customs gives them the power to regulate themselves under their customary law. Also, it is considered as the faculty that ethnic groups have to organize and direct their internal life according to their own values, institutions and mechanisms within the framework of the State.
  • Territory: The recognition of the relationship between the cultural survival of ethnic groups and the occupation of the territory where they have traditionally settled, have supported the promulgation of different norms aimed at protecting said relationship. This relationship is constituted as the fundamental basis of the social, economic, cultural and spiritual life of ethnic groups.
  • Participation: The right to participation from the perspective of development and the exercise of their rights. Prior Consultation materializes the right to participation under a differential approach. Prior Consultation is a space where communities hold town hall meetings with the presence of their representative authorities and have the opportunity to learn about the projects, works or activities to be developed in their territories, their phases, concrete actions; and the changes (or impacts) that they could generate in the communities. Based on this information, the community has the opportunity to know and evaluate the potential impacts and their management measures; to propose prevention, mitigation and compensation measures taking into account the knowledge of their environment, their conception of development and their priorities regarding their life plan.


Through Unification Ruling SU-123/2018, the Constitutional Court has indicated that “there is a certain right to participation of indigenous peoples regardless of the impact, as a manifestation of the right to participation but, in accordance with the principle of proportionality, international human rights law and constitutional jurisprudence have understood that the types of participation are diverse. Such typology is guided by the type and scope of the affectation that the group’s conditions of existence could receive, as follows:

  • When the ethnic people are not directly affected, participation will correspond to the basic intervention standard – i.e. the inclusion of communities in national decision-making bodies or the mediation of their organizations in any scenario that interests them.
  • All the rules of deliberation with traditional communities shall apply when the measure is likely to directly affect the ethnic people, in accordance with the right to prior consultation and with the genuine purpose of reaching an agreement. In the event that the consultation is properly carried out but does not lead to an agreement, the administration shall implement the measure based on the principles of conscionableness and proportionality.
  • There may be an intense direct impact when a measure threatens the subsistence of the traditional community, for which, in principle, the execution of the measure requires the prior, free and informed consent of the traditional communities and in the event of not reaching an agreement, the protection of traditional communities will prevail. In accordance with jurisprudential developments and international law, Prior consultation occurs in these three exceptional cases: (i) Transfer or relocation of the indigenous or tribal people from their place of settlement; (ii) storage or deposit of dangerous or toxic materials in their territories: (iii) measures that imply a high social, cultural and environmental impact that puts their subsistence at risk. “

See our Guide for Relationships with Ethnic Communities

Presence of ethnic groups in the departments where we operate

Areas where the presence of ethnic communities is identified at the territorial level and where Ecopetrol S.A. has active operations:

  • Department of La Guajira: Chuchupa and Ballenas Fields in the Department of La Guajira, which adjoin Block RC-9, in which the Molusco-1 exploratory well was drilled and for which prior consultation was carried out with 119 Wayuu communities and it is closed. For the Chuchupa and Ballenas production fields, the partner Chevron has carried out the requisite prior consultations.
  • Department of Bolívar: The Cartagena Refinery - REFICAR and the Nestor Pineda Maritime Terminal are located in the Mamonal Industrial District in Cartagena. Although there are no ethnic groups in the Industrial District, Community Councils and Zenú Cabildos (associations) have been established in the adjacent areas.
  • Norte de Santander Department: In the Norte de Santander Department, we operate production fields near the Motilón Barí communities.
  • Department of Santander, Boyacá and Arauca: The U’wa Town is located in this department, close to the operations of Campo Gibraltar and its facilities. Various community councils of black communities have been organized in recent years. Embera councils have been organized in Santander, claiming to have settlements in Puerto Parra, Cimitarra, Puerto Berrio and Puerto Boyacá for more than forty years.
  • Meta Department: There are 9 indigenous reservations and a community land in the municipality of Puerto Gaitán. Nearby Campos Rubiales and Campo Mago operated by Ecopetrol are the Vencedor Pirirí, El Tigre, Alto Unuma, Walliani, Domo Planas and Iwiwi Reservations. Prior consultation processes have been carried out with the Vencedor Pirirí, Domo Planas and Iwiwi reservations for the Mago Norte and CPO-8 Sur exploratory projects respectively.
  • Putumayo Department: The Putumayo Department has been the recipient of various ethnic groups that have arrived – either through colonization processes or displaced by situations of violence. In recent years, these communities have requested for a registration before the Ministry of the Interior which leads to their recognition. Thus, in Putumayo there are councils of the Embera, Nasa, Awá, Pasto, Kichwa, Pijao and Muruy peoples. Community councils have also been formed. The Camentsá and Inga communities are originally from Upper Putumayo and the Siona and Cofán communities from Lower Putumayo.
  • Department of Nariño: The municipality of Ipiales in the Department of Nariño includes the Sucumbíos Field in which there is a presence of the Pasto, Awá, Nasa and Cofán indigenous peoples, as well as Community Councils with whom a consultation was initiated. The Trasandino Pipeline is also present here, on which the Awá, Pasto and Community Councils are located.

Procedure for conducting prior consultations

The possible impact on ethnic groups in the work areas is verified from as early a stage as the planning of the operations to be carried out. In the event that a possible direct impact on ethnic groups in the areas is verified before the authority, Ecopetrol accompanies and promotes the guarantee of the right to Prior Consultation. The development of prior consultations at Ecopetrol has an internal procedure, based on current regulations and on the analysis of the potential impacts of the projects.

Three relevant moments in the development of a Prior Consultation are shown below, in operational areas with the presence of ethnic groups:

  1. Origin of the prior consultation: In order to affirm the guarantee of the right to prior consultation initially and for each project, the National Prior Consultation Authority (Ministry of the Interior) is requested a formal procedure to determine the origin of prior consultation on an area of ​​influence of the project, which integrates the activities to be carried out and its potential impacts. This technical document includes terms of reference established by current environmental regulations. Such Ministerial resolution determines the application (or not) of the Prior Consultation for the project. It may be that Ethnic Groups are not identified in the administrative act for the Areas of Work emanating from the Ministry. In such case, as part of the due diligence on Human Rights, Ecopetrol reports the presence of said community in the area to the National Prior Consultation Authority and requests the proper pronouncement of the Authority on the application of the Prior Consultation process.

  2. Baseline and impact analysis: A fundamental part of the Consultation process involves the collection of social, environmental and cultural information, information taken together with the communities and consolidated into a Baseline. This primary source of information allows to determine and know the real characteristics of each community, and subsequently to develop a particular analysis of the possible impacts and to formulate proportional management measures. Preparation of a participatory baseline with black communities for the Polígono Churuyaco project.
  3. Compliance with agreements: Consultation Agreements are generated for the projects in which the Prior Consultation process was developed in their maturation process. These agreements were integrated into the ministerial act in the Protocolization phase of the Consultations. The agreements are binding for Ecopetrol and compliance therewith is activated in the operational stage of the project. These agreements correspond to management measures to be applied so that the project can be carried out while protecting the integrity of the ethnic community. APE Naphtha Project: A community endowment was delivered to the community for the Embera Dachidrua council. Formally, no agreement was reached for the project to use a water source close to the community for operational activities. The water was brought in from other collection points.

Click here to see the Procedure for conducting Prior Consultation processes


Ongoing previous consultation processes

Below are the projects that have required the development of prior consultation processes with ethnic communities and their current status.

Communities consulted / Location

Ecopetrol project

Advances /

Phase reached in 2020

Uitoto de Coropoya Reservation, Coreguaje de Jericó, Consaya and La Teófila / Solano (Caquetá) Reservations

Samichay 2D seismic.

Consultation protocolized in 2013 and in the follow-up stage.


Project not commenced.

Sikuani Reservation, Vencedor Pirirí, Guamito Matanegra / Puerto Gaitán (Meta)

Exploratory Drilling Area

North Wizard

Consultation protocolized in 2013 and in the follow-up stage.


Project not carried out.

Sikuani, Domo, Planas and Iwiwi / Puerto Gaitan Reservations (Meta)

Exploratory Drilling Area

CPO-8 South

Consultation protocolized in 2014 and in the follow-up stage.


Project executed. Consultation agreements in execution.

Kichwa Calarcá / Puerto Leguízamo Reservation (Putumayo)

Seismic PUT-13 2D

Consultation protocolized in 2017 and in follow-up.


Project not commenced.

Cabildo Embera Chami of Dachidrua / Puerto Parra (Santander)

Naphtha Exploratory Drilling Area

Consultation protocolized in 2014 and under follow-up.


Executed project. Consultation agreements in execution.

Reservations: Cofán Ukumari Kanhke and Santa Rosa; Pasto Rumiyaco ; Awá Ishu, and Nasa Uh. Liberación y Futuro / Ipiales Community Council (Nariño)

Modification of Churuyaco – South polygon EMP

Prior consultation in progress.


Meetings with the communities were suspended during 2020, given the contingency of the pandemic and the safeguarding of the groups.

Kichwa Calarcá /

Puerto Leguízamo Reservation (Putumayo)

Tantalú Exploration Drilling Area

Consultation protocolized in 2018 and in follow-up.


Project not commenced.

Sikuani Alto Unuma Meta Reservation /

Puerto Gaitán (Meta)

Polygon within Campo Rubiales: Consultation carried out in response to the ruling issued by the Council of State.

Consultation protocolized in 2019 and in the follow-up stage.


Consultation agreements in execution.

La Palma Afro-Colombian Community and Cocosar / Saravena Afro-Colombian Community (Arauca)

Beryl Exploratory Drilling Area: Consultation carried out in response to the injunctive proceeding ruling.

Prior consultation protocolized in 2019 and in follow-up.


Project not commenced.

Cocosar Afro-Colombian Community / Saravena (Arauca)

Llanos 38 seismic - Banadía 3D phase

Prior consultation protocolized in 2020.

Camentsá Biya Association and Pasto Orito Siberia Association (Orito, Putumayo)

Development of the West North area

Prior consultation in progress.


Meetings with the communities were suspended during 2020, given the contingency of the pandemic and the safeguarding of the groups.

Meetings with the communities were suspended during 2020, given the contingency of the pandemic and the safeguarding of the groups.

Source: Ecopetrol, Coordination of Environmental Feasibility

Intercultural dialogue and social investment

1. Dialogue with the U’wa People. The participation of Ecopetrol in the Dialogue Table established by the National Government with the U’wa people, allowed to strengthen communication between Ecopetrol and Asou’wa. This intercultural work space aims to strengthen trust, knowledge and mutual agreements. It was established in 2018, after several years of distancing in the relationship, and to this day there is still a stable and permanent communication with AsoU’wa. It is expected to expand the radius of action to the other organizations representing the U’wa Group.

AsoU´wa – Ecopetrol Intercultural Recognition Workspace.

2. Agreement for the promotion of Cultural Heritage Conservation for the Cofan People. An agreement was signed with the Permanent Committee of the Cofan People in 2020. The aforementioned agreement undertook to strengthen conservation and cultural promotion through the adaptation of 5 spaces for mythotheques, as well as the participatory diagnosis to update the Cofan People’s Life Plan.

Meetings with the Cofan Town Permanent Table to sign the agreement.

3. Agreement for the Sponsorship of artisans of ethnic groups within the framework of EXPOARTESANIAS. Expoartesanias is the main (internationally recognized) national space in which artisans from all regions converge. Ecopetrol maintains an initiative that supports the logistics and installation of an ethnic handicraft pavilion every year, with the participation of about 100 artisans in their respective stands. This exhibit is instrumental in the promotion and recovery of ancestral knowledge around the production of handicrafts. The supported the 2020 virtual edition of Expoartesanias; 102 artisans from different regions of the country participated.

Participation of members of the Arhuaco community in Expoartesanias, 2019.

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