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Colombia: draft law to declare 2007 the Year for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia

Briefing notes

Colombia: draft law to declare 2007 the Year for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia

24 November 2006

UNHCR welcomes this week's introduction in the Colombian Parliament of a draft law that would declare 2007 the Year for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia. The initiative sends a strong message of national solidarity and commitment to the millions of Colombians forcibly displaced as a result of the internal armed conflict.

The draft law, if adopted, would come into effect ten years after Colombia adopted pioneering legislation in 1997 to protect the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) - people forced to move within their own country to escape violence. It focuses on promotion, implementation and restitution and calls for a concrete plan of action to address the problems that in practice still deprive many IDPs of their rights.

For many of Colombia's 3 million displaced, life remains precarious. According to several official studies, about half of them do not have access to the health system and a large number encounter similar problems in housing, education and the workplace. Others find that their rights to a life free of persecution and further forced displacement do not materialise.

The new law calls for attention to such gaps in delivery. It aims to create greater accountability and stresses the importance of restitution and reparations for long-term solutions. The majority of displaced people lost lands and properties and few manage to regain the standards of living they once enjoyed before displacement.

The proposed law would mark the start of a year-long campaign to raise awareness of the rights of displaced people, who are often stigmatised within their own country and whose plight is largely unknown to the rest of the world. The estimated 3 million people displaced in Colombia are more than 5 percent of the total population and are one of the largest single IDP populations anywhere in the world.

The initiative comes in the same week as another draft law, put forward by a newly-formed cross-party group of women parliamentarians, to end violence against women. UNHCR also welcomes this initiative as a positive step to help protect displaced women and girls, who make up some 60 percent of the IDP population and who are especially vulnerable to certain forms of violence.