Failure to address conflict in Colombia leaves millions in despair
Caritas says that the ongoing civil war between rebels, the Government of Colombia, and paramilitary groups has left millions without homes and vulnerable to injustices and violations of their most basic human rights.
Homes constructed largely from corrugated iron in a displaced community
Colombia, however, is not a crisis on the UN Security Council’s agenda. Caritas says Colombia needs to be urgently addressed by the international community.
Colombia has an internally displaced people (IDPs) population of four million people, with a further 500,000 refugees living in border countries. This is the second highest population of internally displaced people in the world after Sudan.
Caritas says that no resolution is possible without sustained regional and international attention. Caritas members from Europe, North America and Latin America met in New York last month to lobby members of the Security Council and other UN leaders.
Caritas Internationalis Permanent Delegate to the UN Joseph Donnelly said, “Numerous UN agencies are helping the Colombian people, however, much more global funding is required to address the vast humanitarian needs and hidden gaps of desperation in remote areas.
“Even more urgent is political will from the Security Council members, neighboring countries and the government of Colombia to address the root causes of the conflict.”
Caritas calls on the Government of Colombia to live up to its international obligations to provide minimum standards for those who have lost their homes and remain within the country.
The Colombian government must also ensure that the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, and indigenous populations are protected. Caritas says failure to do that must be met with censure from such UN bodies as the Commission on Human Rights.
Caritas says widespread violations committed within Colombia such as extrajudicial killings must be thoroughly investigated, judicial independence must be ensured and freedom of speech must be protected. Although Colombia has been on the International Criminal Court's agenda for years it must receive heightened priority attention immediately.
New alternative UN mechanisms must include Colombia. The Peacebuilding Commission with its Peacebuilding Trust Fund can bring significant international engagement to alleviate this enduring costly conflict. The Alliance of Civilizations must include Colombia on its agenda as these millions of Colombians are separated from normal relationships within their own country and beyond their borders.
Caritas will now bring the Colombian conflict to the attention of the participants at the forthcoming UNHCR-Annual consultations in Geneva. A particular attention is given to the suffering of women and children, both among the internally displaced and the refugee population.
Women and children face sexual abuse, forced recruitment and exploitation as cheap laborers. Women and children represent almost half of the IDP and refugee population.
According to the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, the “typical” victim of the conflict in Colombia is a poor woman, single-head of household, she earns minimum wage, only has minimum primary school level education and has been displaced by violence.
Meanwhile, Caritas members in the UK and Ireland have also joined forces with other aid agencies to urge the British and Irish governments to make their Colombia policy more effective. As part of the ABColombia group advocacy project, Cafod, Sciaf and Trócaire are asking their governments to make military assistance to Colombia more transparent. Read the report in Spanish and English.