Colombia commits US$2.2 billion for internally displaced
UNHCR welcomes this week's announcement that the Government of Colombia is committing an amount equivalent to US$ 2.2 billion for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs) for the period 2005-2010. This sum includes over $200 million that the government budgeted for this year, some $360 million for next year, and approximately $1.6 billion for the four years starting in 2007. In comparison, the government spent $350 million on IDPs in the four years between 2000 and 2004.
We consider that this substantial and gradual increase in funding is a step in the right direction and a sign of Colombia's commitment to fulfil its responsibilities towards IDPs, both in terms of finding durable solutions for those already displaced and of guaranteeing the protection of all its citizens in order to avoid new forced displacement.
There are over 2 million IDPs in Colombia. In the first nine months of this year alone, the authorities registered nearly 100,000 new cases of forced displacement. Non-governmental organizations give much higher estimates. The vast majority of displaced people have fled their regions of origin to escape the conflict between rival irregular armed groups, and their situation is often very precarious. According to several official studies - including studies by the Catholic Church and the government itself - more than 50 per cent of IDPs do not have access to the health system; up to 65 per cent have lost lands or properties; and only a fraction manage to be economically secure even after years of displacement.
Increased government funding could mean better access to work, housing and protection, including in the areas people were forced to abandon. Given the magnitude of the problem, and the fact that the crisis has been going on for more than four decades, the task is daunting and the government itself acknowledges that more funds will be required. Colombia's civil society, including organizations of displaced people, will play a decisive role in the implementation of the newly announced initiatives.
UNHCR will continue to cooperate with these organizations and to provide technical assistance to state institutions at the local and national levels, while implementing projects that directly benefit thousands of persons in the areas most severely affected by the armed conflict and humanitarian crisis.