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Colombia

Field Reports  In-Depth Reports  Letters & Testimonies

Overview
Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict between paramilitaries, guerilla groups and the Colombian army has displaced massive numbers of people, with at least 4.1 million people forced from their homes, both within and across its borders, since 1985. As the Colombian government continues to pursue an aggressive counterinsurgent and counternarcotics policy, illegal groups assert control over territories and communities to conduct illicit activities and engage in acts of terror. Such acts include the use of selective assassinations, extortions and forced displacement. In addition, massive floods have inundated the country and affected more than 2.7 million people. Thousands of people still have not received basic assistance including food, water, sanitation, emergency shelter, and health care.

Current Humanitarian Situation
Conflict in Colombia has intensified along its border and as a result, between 370,000 and 500,000 refugees have left for Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and other countries in the region. In Ecuador and Venezuela, illegal armed groups from Colombia terrorize local populations and exercise social control over entire communities. Death threats, selective assassinations, kidnappings and extortion are on the rise and are now affecting communities that are hosting refugees. Reports of military personnel harassing Colombian refugees because of their lack of proper documentation are frequent as well.

Internally displaced Colombian women and girls continue to survive in the ongoing conflict. Nearly 50% of displaced households are headed by women, yet the humanitarian response still fails to address their specific needs. Armed groups use sexual violence and forced recruitment as military tactics. A 2007 study conducted by the Ombudsman Office in four Colombian cities found that 18% of displaced women identified sexual violence as a direct cause of displacement. Lack of dignified shelter, access to sustainable livelihoods and jobs, and recovery/compensation for lost lands are the major unmet needs of those displaced in Colombia.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has declared a state of emergency in response to massive floods in the country. Yet, as millions of dollars raised for flood relief, a humanitarian crisis still persists and the basic needs of thousands of people are still not being met. The severity of the emergency has overwhelmed the capacity of existing government aid agencies and non-government organizations. There is a lack of coordination among the confusing array of actors now involved in the response, as well as a lack of information on the specific needs of the people who have been affected by the floods.
Field Reports
  • 09/13/2012
    Colombia alberga el número más grande del mundo de personas en condición de desplazamiento interno (PsCDI), la mayoría de los cuales vive en zonas urbanas. El conflicto armado continúa desplazando más de 130 000 personas anualmente. Una vez desplazados, estos colombianos enfrentan con frecuencia pobreza extrema, viven en asentamientos inseguros y sufren exclusión económica y social. Ayudar a las PsCID urbano a pasar de una situación de sufrimiento y vulnerabilidad  permanente a una de independencia e inclusión social, transformará a Colombia en una nación más estable y próspera. La nueva Ley de Víctimas provee un marco organizativo para alcanzar este objetivo. Aunque el gobierno colombiano parece contar con la voluntad política necesaria para lograr un progreso real, problemas de coordinación, excesiva descentralización y una débil capacidad local, amenazan con desarticular la implementación de la nueva ley. El gobierno central de Colombia debe proveer recursos y activar la veeduría de los programas de integración local para las PsCDI urbano. El gobierno de los Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) y la Agencia de la Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) deben invertir los recursos necesarios para el diseño y pilotaje de las iniciativas de integración local para las PsCDI urbano, así como también profundizar su compromiso con las autoridades locales y asistir a las organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONGs) locales en su labor de cabildeo en favor de programas efectivos para dicha población.
  • 09/12/2012
    Colombia is home to the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, the majority of whom live in urban areas. Armed conflict continues to displace more than 130,000 people annually. Once displaced, these Colombians frequently endure extreme poverty, live in unsafe settlements, and suffer social and economic exclusion. Helping urban IDPs move from conditions of sustained suffering and vulnerability to self-reliance and social inclusion will transform Colombia into a more stable and prosperous nation. The new Victims Law provides an organizing framework for achieving this goal. Although the Colombian government appears to possess the political will necessary to make real progress, coordination problems, excessive decentralization, and weak local capacity threaten to derail the implementation of the new law. Colombia’s central government must provide resources and active oversight of local integration programs for urban IDPs. The U.S. government and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) must invest the resources necessary to design and pilot local integration initiatives for urban IDPs, as well as deepen their engagement with local authorities and assist local NGOs to advocate for effective IDP programs.
In Depth Reports
Successes
Thanks in part to RI’s advocacy on Colombia’s new Victims Law – designed to assist millions of internally displaced people – the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it will dedicate $50 million over the next three years to support the law’s implementation.