Serious displacement crisis continues in Colombia, UN official warns

14 November 2008

Colombia continues to endure a serious displacement crisis due to new illegal armed groups, new structures of organized crime and the ongoing 45-year-old conflict between the army and irregular armed groups, despite some recent progress, a senior United Nations humanitarian official warned today.

“The continuously high rate of new cases of forced displacement in certain parts of the country like the Pacific coast, is especially worrying,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Walter Kälin said, calling for comprehensive strategies on prevention and protection, as well as socio-economic stabilization.

“I am particularly worried about the serious human rights violations against IDP leaders and the lack of adequate protection of their physical safety,” he said, calling on the Government to increase its efforts to end impunity for the crime of forced displacement and to hold those responsible accountable.

Speaking at the end of a week-long visit to the Latin American country, where decades of conflict have uprooted some 3 million people overall, Mr. Kälin acknowledged that important developments had taken place since his last mission to in 2006, noting especially the constructive role of the Constitutional Court in shaping the national response to forced displacement.

Mr. Kälin, who met with high-level officials, IDPs and representatives of civil society and the international community, cited the Government’s significant increase in budgetary resources, as well as programming efforts that have resulted in better access to education and health care.

On prevention, he urged the Government to strengthen its sophisticated early warning system by allocating the necessary resources, stressing the importance of including prevention measures in military operations, including those carried out within the framework of the legitimate fight against drugs.

On protection, he acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the State and international community to protect the human rights of IDPs and to provide them with humanitarian aid, underlining that all human rights, including the right to reparation, must be respected for all victims regardless of the cause or agent of displacement.

Socio-economic stabilization depends on IDPs being able to rebuild a normal life, with full enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to adequate housing and decent standards of living through income-generating activities. While Mr. Kälin visited some successful projects in Barranquilla on the Atlantic coast, most IDPs are not yet able to benefit from such initiatives.

Implementation of such comprehensive strategies relies on close coordination between national and local authorities and previously he had noted a gap between national policy development and lack of capacity to implement them locally. “I am pleased to note that there is now an increased awareness and commitment of the municipalities on the issue of internal displacement,” he concluded during a workshop with local authorities today.


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