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Colombia not improving rights for internally displaced

posted by Tim Hinchliffe

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The Colombian government under President Juan Manuel Santos has not been effective in protecting the rights of its internally displaced people (IDPs), the internal displacement monitoring center reported Thursday.

The Colombian Constitutional Court stated in October that “despite progress made in the enjoyment [by IDPs] of certain rights, overall data on the enjoyment of rights and on the effectiveness of changes made [by the government] to improve institutional, coordination and budgeting capacities do not show that systematic progress has been made towards the enjoyment of all rights by IDPs and towards the overcoming of the conditions that prompted the ruling [of 2004].”

According to the court, only 10% of IDPs have been granted access to certain rights such as housing, income and emergency assistance.

Colombia’s rate of displacement has remained steady compared to previous years because of numerous factors. Guerrillas and neo-paramilitaries along with drug trafficking gangs and government military operations have all attributed to Colombia’s armed conflict, which is a main cause of displacement.

So-called illegal groups such as “Los Rastrojos” or “Los Urabeños” were responsible for the highest number of mass displacements in 2011. Despite their impact and presence in the country, the government will not label them as “paramilitary.” Instead they are referred to as “criminal gangs,” therefore IDPs that were victims of clashes between these “illegal groups” and the government will not receive benefits from protection schemes under the current law. The law only protects victims of paramilitary and guerrilla violence.

The Victims and Land Restitution Law was signed in June and is to be implemented January 1, 2012. The purpose of this law will be to compensate an estimated four million victims of Colombia’s armed conflict over the next decade.

According to a government monitoring committee, the Victims Law has a number of flaws including the fact that it does not mention all the institutions involved and it lacks specific mechanisms to provide the $26 billion worth of assistance.

Another area where the government is lacking with regards to IDPs is emergency response and relief to victims of natural disasters.

The National System for Disaster Prevention and Response listed over 400,000 people as having been affected between September and November of this year alone while some 100,000 were left homeless due to landslides and flooding. As of December 17, 159 people have been killed due to this year’s rainy season.

The government reportedly invested $500 million in relief funds for the 2011 rainy season; however, its inability to cope with the needs of the people has been devastating. Only 10% of funded relief projects have been completed while nearly 150,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Red Cross.

CODHES, the leading NGO monitoring displacement in Colombia, revealed that 89,000 citizens were displaced during the first six months of 2011; however, according to the government, less than half – 44,000 – were registered as being displaced during the same period.

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