Colombia: Campaign for the Rights of Displaced People launched
The 2007 Campaign for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia was launched on Friday with the support of more than 130 national and international organisations - including UNHCR - and the Colombian government.
The campaign aims to focus attention and lobby for the rights of Colombia's three million people displaced by the armed conflict. Colombia's displaced make up about eight percent of the country's total population and represent the largest single group of concern to UNHCR anywhere in the world.
While the government has stepped up its efforts on behalf of displaced people, many still face daily problems with housing, education, health and access to work. They are also at high risk of insecurity and violence. This year's campaign starts amid our growing concerns over attacks on displaced people and their organisations. In recent weeks, several leaders of the displaced have been killed - including two in the Atlantic Coast region in the past two weeks.
Last month in Cartagena in the same region, an arson attack partially destroyed the premises of the League of Displaced Women - Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas. The League is one of our oldest partners in Colombia and we will continue to support its work for thousands of displaced women and children. We will also rebuild the community centre, whose construction we originally financed in 2004.
In a strong gesture of international solidarity, the ambassadors to Colombia of Canada, Argentina, Austria and the Netherlands - as well as representatives of the Swedish embassy - visited the League s "City of Women" on Saturday with UNHCR.
We are extremely concerned at this series of recent attacks on displaced people and their organisations and are calling on all armed groups in the country to respect international humanitarian law and leave civilians out of the conflict. We also request the Colombian government to continue to increase its efforts to protect displaced people.
More than 170,000 people were forcibly displaced last year, according to government
The Campaign for the Rights of Displaced People in Colombia was launched with the participation of the government during a conference of the G24, an informal group of countries supporting peace and development in Colombia. A draft law in support of its objectives was introduced to Congress by a cross-party group of parliamentarians last November.