Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz of Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration today said Colombia makes impressive progress in responding to displacement of persons.
Mr. Schwartz reported reported that Colombia now has some of the most comprehensive and advanced IDP legislation in the world.
“Colombia’s judiciary and political system have based judgments and policy on the Principles and Colombia’s Constitutional Court has been in the forefront of shaping the national response toward IDPs.” -Mr. Schwartz
According to Mr. Schwartz, the Colombian Constitutional Court’s actions have compelled official support for improving IDP response, with a particular focus on support for vulnerable populations such as indigenous communities and Afro-Colombian citizens, and women, children, and the disabled.
“While the situation for many Colombian IDPs and refugees remains precarious, there has indeed been progress in responding to displacement.” -Mr. Schwartz
He reported that the Colombian government has registered more than 3.6 million IDPs since 1997 and its IDP budget has increased from approximately $67 million in 2003 to more than $750 million in 2011. He said officials have also made progress in improving security in cities and towns throughout Colombia, which has contributed to an overall decline in displacement. He added that the government’s IDP figures show approximately 120,000 persons displaced in 2010, compared with over 171,000 in 2009.
“While this level of new displacement is still a matter of deep concern, it is considerably lower than the estimated 400,000 and 450,000 persons displaced in 2001 and 2002, respectively.” -Mr. Schwartz
He stressed that the Colombian civil society, and in particular courageous IDP leaders and advocates, deserve credit for much of the progress that has occurred, as advocacy has clearly had an impact on policy.
He emphasized that the challenge is the further implementation of prior decisions, and of proposals to prevent further displacement, to protect and assist those already displaced and to find solutions for them – including the recovery of their land. He noted that new displacement continues – especially in border areas and other remote locations. Many people who have been displaced through the years are still in search of durable solutions – be it return, relocation, or local integration.
He stressed that IDPs are among the world’s most vulnerable groups; they often have higher poverty, malnutrition, and mortality rates than the general population, and they are exposed to greater dangers of sexual and gender-based violence, and racial or ethnic discrimination. Access to jobs, housing, and services like healthcare and education is limited for most IDPs – more often, these essential daily services are simply out of reach.
“During my visit to Colombia earlier this year, I was impressed by the commitment of the government, the Constitutional Court, and civil society to continue to focus on the impact of displacement and on finding practical, long-term solutions for those who have been forced to flee their homes.” -Mr. Schwartz
He underscored that the Government of the United States recognizes that the protection of a country’s most vulnerable citizens is ultimately the responsibility of the national government.