The level of violence and the number of people displaced was reduced during 2005, according to government reports, but the situation in Colombia was still characterised by internal armed conflict, with continuing attacks by the illegal armed groups against the civilian population, planting of antipersonnel mines and attacks on infrastructure. At the same time, the process of demobilizing paramilitary forces led to differing positions among members of the international and humanitarian community.
During 2005, the key humanitarian concerns focused on the situation of a large number of communities at risk as a result of violent conflict and 2,271 children officially demobilised by illegal armed groups or connected with urban militias. The government and humanitarian community made significant progress in addressing the basic needs of vulnerable populations, but greater efforts are needed to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Colombia, particularly in prevention and finding long lasting solutions to the violence.
In 2005, OCHA strengthened its presence in the country by extending its presence beyond Bogotá, establishing three regional sub-offices and three satellite antennas to offer enhanced humanitarian coordination throughout the country and support the protection of civilians through greater presence and engagement.
- Strengthen overall coordination within the UN system in support of humanitarian partners and increase the availability of humanitarian information through the Humanitarian Situation Room
- Ensure a more coordinated response by all partners to the humanitarian crisis, including preparedness for the possibility of a major natural disaster
- Improve the coordination capacity of the office of the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for a coordinated and adequate response to humanitarian crises and natural disasters
In 2005, OCHA played a central role in supporting the HC and the humanitarian community by providing information products and promoting information sharing through the Humanitarian Situation Room. The office also maintained and expanded a centralized WWW database on some 2,000 humanitarian projects and 2,500 organisations to support the overall coordination process and avoid duplications in the humanitarian response. The Humanitarian Situation Room also provided a mapping service on the changing status of affected populations, delivering 86 such maps to facilitate planning and preparedness process within humanitarian actors.
OCHA identified gaps and humanitarian needs through the coordination of 24 inter-institutional needs assessment missions (with local ombudsman offices, UN Agencies, NGOs and local authorities) in 20 areas directly affected by the conflict. These resulted in increased visibility of the Colombian conflict, as well as addressing protection issues and more efficient humanitarian response.
In 2005, in order to strengthen its counterparts’ coordination capacities, OCHA organised two workshops on Effective Mechanisms for Humanitarian Coordination and Individual Risk Reduction, in Quibdó and in Florencia, in association with UNDSS and AECI and with the participation of UNIFEM. A total of 60 organisations participated.
The office assisted in the elaboration of contingency plans destined to increase local capacities in mitigating natural disasters. OCHA also collaborated with local authorities and the Colombian Red Cross on the elaboration of a contingency plan for local action supporting approximately 8,000 people in Pasto, Nariño and neighbouring communities in light of volcanic activity at Galeras Volcano. The plan will be used in the event of a major emergency, such as a massive eruption of the volcano.
OCHA also designed a strategy to provide its local counterparts with effective tools for coordination (in relation to preparedness, needs assessments and rights-base community planning) through thematic training modules among its key partners in the field.
The office carried out substantive coordination work, particularly focused on promoting the rights of IDPs and vulnerable populations, strengthening existing coordination mechanisms, and encouraging cooperation between the different humanitarian actors in Colombia - UN Agencies, national and local government entities, national and international NGOs, and civil society.
After floods in Girón, Santander, OCHA played an important role in the identification of critical needs (shelter, water and sanitation) of some 12,000 affected people and worked with local authorities to find sustainable and durable solutions such as the diffusion of the WHO basic module for health and shelter.
The office strove to improve the working conditions of its staff by fully equipping its office in Bogotá and the regional sub-offices, including with communications equipment, with support from OCHA’s Information and Communications Technology project. The expanded presence of OCHA in seven of the most important cities in Colombia allowed the opening of multi-agency regional coordination spaces among the humanitarian community and the strengthening of alliances with different state bodies.
OCHA presence in the field facilitated needs assessments for 24 communities and approximately 120,000 beneficiaries at risk and, through local advocacy activities, the implementation of an integrated response in line with the Colombian legal framework.
OCHA regional sub-offices supported the establishment of four contingency plans to address protection issues targeting approximately 200,000 beneficiaries from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
OCHA made an increased amount of humanitarian information available through the Humanitarian Situation Room (HSR), increased advocacy for vulnerable populations and improved humanitarian coordination mechanisms through the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC). Pertinent humanitarian information was disseminated among humanitarian partners mainly through a local web page (www.colombiassh.org), increasing the visibility of the humanitarian crisis in Colombia, supporting the identification of gaps and providing the basis for an enhanced humanitarian response.
OCHA’s coordination and risk reduction training provided counterparts with practical tools which allowed a better understanding of the overall coordination process, including planning and preparedness, within a gender- and community rights-based approach. The participants considered training activity as fundamental to their efforts to better focus their humanitarian activities in Colombia.
The office supported the reactivation of the thematic working group on IDPs led by UNHCR, which held two meetings at the end of the year, as well as a more efficient coordination structure at the department (local) level.
Through the adoption of the Humanitarian Action Plan II, after two years of negotiations facilitated and coordinated by OCHA Colombia, the government started implementing approximately 80 projects for approximately one million beneficiaries in critical areas of the country.