On the starting line: Colombia launches Run for Life campaign

News Stories, 28 July 2008

© UNHCR/B.Heger
Internally displaced families, like this one in the Altos de la Florida shanty town in Bogotá, often live in desperate conditions.

BOGOTA, Monday July 28 (UNHCR) UNHCR and 10 other partners have launched a nationwide campaign to help victims of forced displacement in Colombia.

The internet-based Corre por la Vida (Running for Life) campaign was launched in Bogota and Medellín, the country's second largest city, with a symbolic race by the campaign's organizers. The coalition brings together 11 partners working in the area of forced displacement, including the presidential agency Acción Social and the national association of displaced people, as well as some of the country's most influential media and UNHCR.

The campaign compares forced displacement to a long-distance race, which starts when people have no choice but to flee from conflict, violence or persecution.

The race has many hurdles along the way, from finding a new home and a reliable source of income to reaching long-term security and stability. The internal displacement crisis in Colombia is one of the largest and oldest in the world.

Stressing that displacement is always forced and that nobody chooses to "run for their life", Corre por la Vida seeks to galvanize the Colombian public and private sector to join in efforts to help. The message is that every Colombian can take action to contribute to a positive outcome.

By visiting www.correporlavida.org, the participants will get practical information on how to help, examples of successful local initiatives, and testimonies from displaced people. The site also includes a special section for private businesses aimed at encouraging corporate leaders and entrepreneurs to take an active role in addressing the crisis.

While offering basic information right from the start, Corre por la Vida has been designed to encourage visitors to participate in its construction by posting their own ideas and suggestions for improvements.

The campaign builds on the success of the 2007 Year of the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia campaign, which resulted in the adoption of a new law in favour of internally displaced people (IDPs). It addresses some identified weaknesses like the gap between legislation and effective implementation and low participation of the private sector in the national response.

Colombia enjoys some of the most sophisticated legislation on internal displacement in the world and the government has significantly increased its budget to assist and prevent forced displacement. However, challenges remain. There were some 250,000 registered new cases of forced displacement last year and more than half of all displaced people live below the poverty line. The private sector has a crucial role to play in providing socio-economic stability to this sector of the population.

The Corre por la Vida campaign was developed with the support of the European Commission in Colombia.

By Marie-Hélène Verney in Bogota, Colombia

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UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia: Assisting the Internally Displaced

Colombia is the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere. More than two million people have been internally displaced during the conflict, including 200,000 persons in 2002 alone. Tens of thousands of other Colombians have sought refuge abroad.

UNHCR provides legal assistance to these internally displaced persons (IDPs), supports their associations and on the national level has helped to strengthen government programmes and relevant legislation. Specialised agency programmes include education, psychological and social rehabilitation projects for children and their families and assistance to women who head households.

Colombia: Assisting the Internally Displaced

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

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