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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 69
Año: 2000
Autor: Ramón López and Juan Carlos Jordán, Editors
Título: Sustainable Development in Latin America: Financing and Policies Working in Synergy

Box 6


FUNDEPUBLICO (the Foundation for the Defense of the Public Interest), established in 1989, is non-governmental organization in Colombia whose objective is to defend the public rights of society through judicial actions. Following the publication of a book on Popular Actions (civil lawsuits for damages) in 1989 by its president, Germán Sarmiento, FUNDEPUBLICO first focused on Popular Actions, and later also on Tutela Actions (a type of suit provided for in the Constitution for the protection of fundamental rights). Recently, FUNDEPUBLICO has established an Environmental Legal Fund to finance the judicial procedures and other actions aimed at defending the environment. The Fund is partly paid through the monetary compensations FUNDEPUBLICO receives from the Popular Actions (10% to 30% of the monetary damages).

The first Popular Action of FUNDEPUBLICO was brought against the state-owned chemical company Alcalis de Colombia. According to the local environmental authority, the company was the principal source of industrial contamination of the Bogotá River discharging pollutants in violation of the environmental norms and standards. The action resulted in a judicial order to discontinue any such discharges, and an agreement was reached on the eventual closing of the polluting plant. Other Popular Actions initiated by FUNDEPUBLICO are against a chemical industry for contamination of the Cartagena Bay and against a large logging company for illegal logging in the indigenous reserve of Chagerado in the Department of Antioquia. Another Popular Action, against Cementos Diamante, resulted in a court order to install a filter.

Tutela Actions are initiated by FUNDEPUBLICO against public authorities in cases where procedural requirements have been violated, such as failing to prepare an EIA or not submitting it to the affected community. Such omissions are violations of the fundamental right of due process, and are subject to a Tutela Action. Ongoing activities that lack the proper permits and licenses, or that fail to meet the conditions attached to the permits, may also violate the constitutional right to a healthy environment and are subject to a Tutela Action.