Despite the start of peace talks in October, Colombia faced the consequences of armed conflict between non-State armed groups—mainly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—and the Colombian armed forces throughout the year. Natural hazards, such as floods and landslides, added to the vulnerability of thousands of impoverished communities.
Although there are no official IDP figures for 2012, Colombia is estimated to host 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), which would make it the world's second largest IDP population. According to OCHA estimates, large group displacements (involving groups of more than 50 people) increased by 40 per cent in 2012, affecting 46,128 people. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, who make up nearly a quarter of the population, were particularly affected.
The fragmentation and reconfiguration of post-demobilization armed groups (PDAGs), which emerged following the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2003-2006, has led to a proliferation of small groups and criminal networks. Their competition for the control of illicit economies has contributed to increasing armed violence. These groups were responsible for a quarter of all large displacements in rural and urban areas, and they represented a main challenge for humanitarian access. With a peace deal between the government and the guerrillas in the works, it is expected that the violence and humanitarian impacts of these groups will increase. Since the announcement of the peace talks in August 2012, there was a 16 per cent increase in hostilities and attacks against infrastructure in 2012 compared with 2011.
The number of civilian victims of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance increased by 11 per cent in 2012. The number of underage victims (under 18 years) increased by 37 per cent in 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. The use of explosive devices is a major cause of humanitarian access constraints and mobility restrictions.
From January to November 2012, over 925,000 people were affected by floods, windstorms and landslides. Massive losses of crops, livelihoods, community assets and houses increased the vulnerability of remote communities already exposed to armed conflict, such as those in Putumayo and Córdoba departments.
The Government’s capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance has been hampered due to institutional changes, the process of implementing new administrative procedures that are part of the Victims and Land Restitution Law (Law 1448), and lack of resources at local administrative levels. At the national level, the transition to a new Victims Registry negatively affected the revision of victims’ declarations. Backlogs and delays in the release of official figures have been common in previous years, but there has never been a period of 12 consecutive months without official IDP figures being available. It is estimated that only 30 per cent of new declarations were processed in 2012. Moreover, new Government criteria mean that victims of PDAGs, (categorized as criminal groups and not party to the conflict by the government) are excluded from the official registry which is the entry point to access State emergency assistance and reparation measures. As a result, a large number of IDPs’ needs have been ignored. In this context, humanitarian partners have advocated for the end of current discriminatory practices that exclude victims of PDAG from State emergency assistance.
Despite institutional reforms, OCHA maintained effective engagement with Government bodies that focus on humanitarian assistance. The newly created National Unit for Disaster Risk Management and the National Unit for Integral Victims’ Assistance and Reparation recognized OCHA’s key role in coordination and it being the entry point to the HCT. OCHA continued to be a point of reference for information management, leadership of local HCTs and humanitarian analysis. OCHA’s field presence was expanded to better support humanitarian partners’ operations in areas difficult to access in Arauca, Córdoba and Putumayo departments.
In 2011 and 2012, the OCHA-led CHF was developed to serve as a planning guide for coordinating the international humanitarian assistance, focusing on impact and targeting gaps, and advocating with donors, the Government and relevant partners. Donors identified the CHF as being a useful tool to highlight humanitarian needs that were often overshadowed by the focus on development assistance. Despite several attempts to officially present the CHF to the Government, the HCT could not use it as an advocacy tool.
In 2012, OCHA strengthened humanitarian coordination mechanisms in line with priorities set in the IASC Transformative Agenda. The HCT prioritized five areas: i) rationalizing coordination structures; ii) strengthening accountability; iii) information management and communication; iv) strengthened leadership of the HC and the HCT in relation to the Government; and v) an improved common resource mobilization strategy.
The year saw humanitarian funding drop by 16 per cent to US$ 20,2 million compared with 2011. Gaps were noted in the Health, Food Security and Nutrition, Education in Emergencies and WASH clusters. The OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund allocated $1,182,000 for seven projects to help the HCT and local humanitarian teams respond to emergencies in Arauca, Putumayo, Nariño and Cauca. OCHA also helped the HCT to mobilize $4.1 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to address the most urgent needs of about 76,000 people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters. They included people in Putumayo, Cauca, N. de Santander, Chocó, Cordoba and Nariño. CERF-funded assistance (including carry-over from 2011) reached almost 140,000 people in Colombia in 2012.
Activities of non-state and PDAG’s and presence of mines and improvised explosive devices (mainly along the Pacific coast, northern areas and along the Venezuelan border) restricted mobility and constrained access. Although the duration of these limitations could vary from a few days to several weeks, they prevented effective access to medical care and education, raised concerns over food insecurity, increased the risk of displacement and constraining civilian access to their livelihoods.
For the first time in many years, the Government did not release displacement figures for 2012. The efforts of OCHA and the international community to monitor humanitarian indicators and provide visibility to the needs of the most affected people are challenged by the current context of peace talks which diverted the media spotlight from growing humanitarian needs. Both factors have hidden the ongoing humanitarian needs of thousands of people affected by conflict and armed violence and contributed to the perception that Colombia is moving from a phase of transition to development.
These include: indigenous people; afro-descendant communities; displaced women and children and victims of forced recruitment; landmines; sexual violence and containment resulting from the conflict involving the Government of Colombia; guerilla movements; and post-demobilization armed groups.