As Colombia aims for economic growth and political stability, OCHA’s humanitarian strategy has focused on a versatile, creative and dynamic approach to coordination, preparedness, response and information management. In close cooperation with humanitarian partners, OCHA has tried to provide assistance and protection in areas out of the Government’s reach, and promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.
Protection of civilians remains a priority in Colombia. Civilians are still at risk from non-State armed groups that have a long record of killing, rape and abduction. Afro‐Colombian and indigenous people, who make up nearly a quarter of the population, are particularly affected. About 200,000 IDPs are included in the official IDP registry in Colombia. However, independent analysts have estimated that some 23 per cent of IDPs are not registered, often losing out on Government assistance because they are unaware of the State services available, or because they live in remote or inaccessible areas.
Colombia is also prone to natural disasters. In 2010 and 2011, the country experienced the most severe rainy season in decades. Flooding attributed to the La Niña phenomenon affected 3.9 million people. Although the Government pledged significant emergency response resources, it faced implementation challenges, particularly at the community level. The early 2011 rainy season aggravated flood-affected areas from 2010. This affected more than 900,000 people in 369 municipalities (33 per cent of the country) between September and December 2011.
OCHA played an important role in establishing the Common Humanitarian Framework (CHF), which outlines a humanitarian strategy for 18 months. It should improve HCT planning and advocacy, while helping OCHA and its partners complement the State’s humanitarian response by identifying response gaps and defining assistance-delivery priorities for the most vulnerable people. At sub-national level, the CHF is the basis for local humanitarian teams to prepare plans and promote humanitarian issues with newly elected governors and mayors. The CHF also aims to strengthen advocacy by including humanitarian issues on the national and international agenda.
OCHA’s development of a broader humanitarian strategy has enabled the organization and the HCT to highlight new themes. For example, efforts on civil-military coordination led to the adoption of new legislation on humanitarian demining by civilian organizations. OCHA has worked with the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on topics including humanitarian access in the context of the Government’s Consolidation Policy, the UN-CMCoord guidelines, humanitarian demining and national military forces’ role in disaster response. A workplan for 2012 has been agreed with the MoD to continue raising awareness on humanitarian issues within the military.
While focusing heavily on humanitarian access in the context of civilian protection, OCHA has raised awareness of the plight of communities confined due to insecurity, violence, land mines or physical constraints. The Government’s Department of Social Prosperity now acknowledges the need for specific responses to confined communities.
During 2011, Colombia suffered the worst flood emergency in the last 60 years. Between September 2010 and April 2011, floods affected over 3 million people. From late December 2010 to early 2011, an UNDAC mission provided technical support to the Ministry of Interior’s Directorate for Risk Management. OCHA established a Humanitarian Situation Room that included a focal point for each cluster. With Government authorities, the Colombian Red Cross and NGOs, OCHA helped to develop a crisis-mapping platform to monitor flood events.
OCHA also coordinated the mobilization of $6.6 million in CERF allocations and $1.6 million in ERF resources to help 211,000 people. Gender considerations have figured strongly in setting priorities for resource allocation. OCHA used the Gender Marker, a gender-mainstreaming approach, and prevention and response to SGVB.
The Secretary-General and OCHA’s Assistant Under-Secretary-General visited Colombia in November 2011. Following their visit, the Government agreed to finance a $5 million joint UN humanitarian programme, implemented through UNICEF, PAHO, FAO and IOM, and supported by OCHA and the RC’s Office. The programme covers about 60,000 people affected by floods and conflict in hard-to-reach areas. Working with the Humanitarian Studies Institute, OCHA organized workshops on issues including the quality of assistance, access and confinement, and analysis of conflict dynamics and the humanitarian situation in 13 regions.
OCHA will ensure that the information it compiles on issues such as access strengthen analysis and advocacy. In 2012, OCHA will continue to argue for stronger humanitarian financing to address needs associated with conflict and natural disasters, while also supporting recovery and stabilization efforts. It will prioritize strategic use of the ERF by local humanitarian teams and mobilize CERF funds to address key humanitarian gaps.
OCHA will promote the implementation of the global IASC Transformative Agenda based on global guidelines. It will prioritize the Rapid Needs Assessment Methodology through training workshops, and through an information system that combines secondary information with new field information, including GPS points. These efforts, combined with the HCT contingency plan, aim to improve the rapid response capacity of the inter-cluster mechanism and local humanitarian teams.