Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Colombia

Quick facts
Number of IDPs3,876,000-5,281,000
Percentage of total population8%-11.2%
Start of current displacement situation1960
Peak number of IDPs (Year)3,876,000-5,281,000 (2011)
New displacementUp to 103,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, human rights violations
Human development index87

Internal armed conflict and human rights abuses by armed groups have caused massive internal displacement in Colombia for over four decades. Parties to the conflict which continued to perpetrate displacement in 2011 included the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN); the new paramilitary groups which emerged following the demobilisation of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 2003 and 2006; and the Colombian security forces.

According to the independent Observatory on Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), 89,000 people were newly displaced in the first six months of 2011. According to the government, 103,000 people were displaced between January and September 2011, when the registry was last updated. These new figures show a significant increase in displacement in 2011 despite certain improvements in security.

Accordingly, in 2011, around 3.9 million people were internally displaced according to the government, and around 5.3 million according to CODHES. Both figures were cumulative and did not take into consideration that some IDPs may have found a durable solution. However, they used different counting methodologies: the government counted each registered individual, and CODHES estimated their number based on a wide array of sources. The government's registry was set up after the CODHES count began, and has since not registered all IDPs.

A disproportionate number of women and, in particular, young people under the age of 25 have been displaced: 65 per cent of IDPs are under this age, although this group only makes up 48 per cent of the Colombian population.

Likewise, minority ethnic groups, including indigenous people and Afro-Colombians, continue to make up a significant proportion of IDPs. Six per cent of IDPs are indigenous people and 23 per cent are Afro-Colombians. These groups make up three and seven per cent of the Colombian population, respectively. They are specifically targeted by criminal groups, and their territories are located in rural areas where most confrontations between armed opposition groups and government forces take place.

The Pacific coast departments of Antioquia, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Córdoba produced the highest numbers of IDPs in 2011. Antioquia was the department with the highest arrival rates, and its main city, Medellín, received some 15,000 IDPs, more than Bogotá, the capital, which received 11,000.

Mass displacements (affecting 40 or more people) continued to be widespread in 2011, they followed armed clashes between all parties to the conflict and threats and attacks against Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups. New paramilitary groups were in 2011, for the first time, responsible for the highest number of these displacements. The government, OCHA and CODHES between them estimated that between 13,000 and 18,000 people were displaced in between 36 and 54 mass displacements in 2011.

IDPs continued to have only limited enjoyment of the basic necessities of life and, overall, a more limited access to basic social services than the population as a whole. Their access to housing, income generation and emergency humanitarian support remained extremely low. Only 11 per cent of IDPs had access to adequate housing; fewer than five per cent had opportunities to generate income, fewer than five per cent received humanitarian assistance, and about half experienced food insecurity. Access to education and health care was better: some 87 per cent of internally displaced children could access public education, while 85 per cent of IDPs had access to the public health care system.

Despite improvements, government programmes for IDPs continued to be insufficient. In October 2011, the Constitutional Court upheld its 2004 ruling that the precarious situation of IDPs and the government's failure to address it amounted to a generalised violation of their human rights. The Court ordered the government to adopt a range of measures, including reporting on progress in IDPs' access to housing, income generation opportunities and emergency humanitarian support. The Court also ordered it to make public its spending on support to IDPs.

In 2011, the government took steps towards implementing the 2010 "Victim's Law", which includes a number of measures for the restitution of land to IDPs. In December, it adopted secondary legislation to implement the law and allocated $3.4 billion to its forthcoming implementation. However, attempts to restitute property to IDPs met with violent resistance, as no fewer than 21 proponents of land restitution were assassinated.

In 2011, international humanitarian actors continued to coordinate their activities through seven clusters in nine of the country's departments. In 2011, they made progress in developing shared frameworks for assessing needs and providing assistance to IDPs.


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