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WHEN: July 22-August 4
WHERE: Bogotá; Valle de Cauca, Meta, and Bolívar departments
RI TEAM: Marc Hanson, Government Relations Senior Advocate
RI’s recent mission to Colombia came at a critical time. In January of this year Colombia began to implement the Victims and Land Restitution Law, which was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos in June of 2011. The law seeks to rebuild confidence between the government and victims of country’s internal armed conflict, including nearly 4 million registered internally displaced persons (IDPs). The new law calls for replacing the main institutions that for years have conducted registration, provided humanitarian aid, and coordinated government services and benefits for IDPs. However, the transition to the new system has been slow, and recently displaced people and urban IDPs – who have long felt abandoned by the state – are especially at risk of slipping through the cracks.
At the national level, Colombian government officials managing the transition appear highly competent. They are aware of the law’s requirements, and seem to understand the magnitude of the forced displacement crisis across the country. They also acknowledge early coordination problems, and admit that the complexity and ambitious scale of the law present challenges. On multiple occasions, they explained that the Victims Law will be applied gradually and progressively, calling this first year of implementation a period of transition.
However, RI’s visits to cities with large urban IDP populations revealed potential gaps – particularly with respect to the government’s emergency humanitarian response plans and the local integration of IDPs.
In dozens of interviews with IDPs, aid workers, and local and national officials, RI identified the following areas of concern:
The full report from RI’s mission to Colombia will be released in early September.