Colombia: Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs
IDPs in workshop, Norte de Santander. (Photo: NRC Colombia)
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31 December 2012
Internal armed conflict and human rights abuses have caused massive internal displacement in Colombia over the past five decades. Two armed opposition groups, FARC and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional or ELN); armed groups which have emerged since the demobilisation of paramilitary organisations between 2003 and 2006; and the Colombian security forces all continued to cause displacements during 2012.
The launch of a peace process between the government and FARC in October created an invaluable opportunity for peace. Talks have taken place, however, amid ongoing hostilities and both parties have reportedly used violence to consolidate their negotiating positions. Leaders of groups representing IDPs have also emphasised that a peace agreement with FARC would not end displacement, given the number of other armed groups at large in Colombia.
The implementation of the 2011 Victims’ Law has had a significant impact on the registration of IDPs and total figures on the government registry. The law allows for possible reparations and restitution, and has created an incentive for people displaced over the years to request inclusion on the registry. As a result, neither the cumulative total nor the figure for new displacements in 2012 were definitive, because registration requests increased significantly and there was a backlog in processing them.
As of the end of the year, there were 4.9 million IDPs on the government registry. The figure is a million higher than in 2011, but includes both new displacements and those that took place in previous years. As it is cumulative, it does not account for the fact that some IDPs may have returned, integrated locally or settled elsewhere in the country. The registry does not include people displaced by post-demobilisation armed groups, which are responsible for a significant proportion of displacements. CODHES, the main civil society organisation monitoring displacement in Colombia, had yet to publish its figures for 2012.
As in previous years, most people were displaced from rural to urban areas. An increase in violence and human rights abuses within urban areas, however, led to a significant rise in intra-urban displacements, with more than 8,800 people reportedly forced to flee, particularly in Buenaventura, Medellín, Soacha and Tumaco. Other small and medium-sized towns have also been affected. The coastal departments of Antioquia, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Córdoba produced the highest numbers of IDPs in 2012.
Mass displacements were widespread. Causes included the Peru activities of post-demobilisation armed groups, clashes between insurgent and government forces, threats against leaders and whole communities, fighting between armed groups for control of urban areas, pressure on communities to take part in illegal mining, and forced recruitment. UNHCR estimates that at least 9,690 families fled their homes in around 137 mass displacements during 2012, twice as many as in the previous year. As in 2011, post-demobilisation armed groups caused the highest number of mass displacements.
Ethnic minority groups, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian people, continue to make up a significant proportion of IDPs. Their territories are in rural areas where most of the confrontations between armed opposition groups and government forces take place. A disproportionate number of women and people under the age of 25 have also been displaced.
IDPs continue to have only limited access to basic necessities, particularly housing and livelihood opportunities. They also have less access to basic services than the general population. Ninety-four per cent live below the poverty line, and 77 per cent in extreme poverty.
The Victims’ Law includes a number of measures covering humanitarian assistance for IDPs and the restitution of land, but implementation has been hampered by a lack of financial resources and delays in the appointment of essential staff such as judges. It was reported that more than 116,000 victims’ claims went unprocessed in 2012, effectively excluding the claimants from humanitarian assistance. The land restitution process also faced violent resistance, and more than 700 leaders claiming their land rights received death threats.
After declaring in 2004 that the government’s inadequate response to internal displacement was unconstitutional, the Constitutional Court continued its oversight during 2012. In an important ruling in September, it held that the killings of human rights activists and land restitution claimants were to be treated as crimes against humanity.
International humanitarian organisations continued to coordinate their activities through six clusters covering all phases of the displacement cycle.
Colombia: Critical milestone in FARC peace process signals joint commitment on land restitution to IDPs (31 May 2013)
On 26 May the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement on land issues, marking a critical milestone in the on-going peace process. A joint press release highlighted that the accord promotes the return of stolen land to IDPs. While the government has already undertaken land restitution processes, such as those stated in the 2011 Victims’ Law, they have faced numerous challenges.
Land reform is one of five agenda items that the negotiating parties agreed to address, alongside political participation, illicit drugs, decommissioning weapons and victims’ rights. The government of Colombia reiterated that the entry into force of the agreement on land issues is conditional; its implementation depends on reaching agreements on the remaining four issues.
Land restitution is particularly important for displaced indigenous people and Afro-Colombians, who have a special attachment to their land. According to OCHA, they represented 37 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively, of victims of mass displacement episodes in 2012, and further make up three and ten per cent of the country’s population.
Colombia: Armed violence leads to mass displacement in Chocó (23 August 2012)
Armed violence has caused the mass displacement of people in a remote area of Chocó in Colombia’s Pacific Coast. An area with a long history of violence, the indigenous Embera people have been particularly targeted in this latest event with indigenous leaders claiming that as many as 2,000 people have been displaced. Further reports suggest that the movements of 800 families are restricted because of the violence.
The UN humanitarian team reported that some of the IDPs were sheltered in host communities while many found refuge in a school, where they suffered from a lack of access to basic services. Four cases of cholera were reported because of lack of water and overcrowding.
While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organizations provided aid, food insecurity remained high because crops have been lost because IDPs can not access their land.
Meanwhile, humanitarian funding for Colombia has declined in recent years, from 75 million dollars in 2010 to 64 million in 2011.
Colombia’s government, led since 2010 by President Juan Manuel Santos, has changed its discourse in favour of those who have suffered human rights violations due the conflict and violence within the country. However, it is yet to translate this into effective action to protect the rights of Colombia’s internally displaced people (IDPs) and other victims of conflict. Displacement has continued in 2011 at the same rate as in previous years, as have attacks on IDPs and human rights activists. IDPs continue to have only limited access to the basic necessities of life.
CORRECTION: The government allocated COP 6.1 trillion ($3.4 billion) in its 2012 budget to support the implementation of the 2011 “Victims’ Law”. It also reportedly set aside COP 1.65 trillion ($910 million) to prevent or reduce the risk of disasters during the 2011 rainy season. (...)
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Mejoras en la respuesta gubernamental aún no surten efecto en los desplazados internos
El gobierno colombiano, dirigido desde 2010 por el Presidente Juan Manuel Santos, ha modificado su discurso en favor de aquellos que han sido víctimas de violaciones de los derechos humanos debido al conflicto y la violencia dentro del país. Sin embargo, todavía no se han aplicado medidas eficaces para proteger los derechos de los desplazados internos y otras víctimas del conflicto en Colombia. El desplazamiento ha continuado en 2011 al mismo ritmo que en años anteriores, así como los ataques contra los desplazados internos y los defensores de los derechos humanos. Los desplazados internos siguen teniendo solamente acceso limitado a las necesidades básicas para vivir. (...)
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Resumen del Informe en español","Resumen del Informe en Español"
"Background and Causes of Displacement","Causes of Displacement"
"IDP Population Figures","IDP Population Figures"
"IDP Population Movements and Patterns","IDP Population Movements and Patterns"
"Physical Security and Integrity","Physical Security and Integrity"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","Property","Livelihoods","Education and Other Economic","Social and Cultural Rights"
"Basic Necessities of Life","Basic necessities of life"
"Family Life, Participation, Access to Justice and Other Civil and Political Rights","Family Life","Participation","Access to Justice and Other Civil and Political Rights"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity)","Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age","Gender","Diversity)"
"Durable Solutions (Return, Local Integration, Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)","Durable Solutions (Return","Local Integration","Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)"
"National and International Response","National and International Response"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Auto 219, October 2011, Government response to IDPs, Constitutional Court of Colombia, 13 October 2011
- Colombia Victims' Law, Congress of Colombia, 10 June 2011
- Informe del Gobierno Nacional a la Corte Constitucional, July 2010, Government of Colombia, 31 July 2010
- Comentarios al informe del Gobierno Nacional, Comisión de Seguimiento a la Política Pública sobre el Desplazamiento Forzado, 31 July 2010
- Urban displacement and migration in Colombia, Forced Migration Review (FMR), 15 February 2010
- Salto Estratégico o Salto al Vacío?, Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), 27 January 2010
- IDMC submission to the Human Rights Committee, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 15 August 2009
- IDMC submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), June 2009
- IDMC submission to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), May 2009
- Víctimas emergentes, Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), 22 April 2009
- Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia, United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC), 9 January 2009
- Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia, 2008, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN HCHR), 31 December 2008
- Séptimo informe a la corte constitucional, Comision de Seguimiento a la Politica de Publica sobre el Desplazamiento Forzado, 30 October 2008
- Primer informe a la corte constitucional, Comision de Seguimiento a la Politica de Publica sobre el Desplazamiento Forzado, 31 January 2008
- Sentencia T-025, 2004, Constitutional Court of Colombia, 22 January 2004
, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, May 2012
The neglected generation: the impact of displacement on older people, June 2012
( En )
Building momentum for land restoration: Towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia, November 2010
( En | Sp )
Tufts-IDMC study on Santa Marta, September 2008
( En | Sp )
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