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Colombia

Highlights

  • Strong advocacy in partnership with the HC for the respect of humanitarian principles and engagement with the Government on access and civil-military cooperation.
  • Increased international attention to and understanding of the conditions faced by Colombians exposed to conflict and natural disasters.
  • Emergence as critical humanitarian information provider, producing in-depth analysis of key issues through its website and other services.
ochaonline.un.org/colombia

With continued fighting between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2009, Colombia still faced huge humanitarian problems. Official figures indicated that 7 per cent of the population was displaced within the country. 2009 also saw several incidents of flooding and landslides. Among the worst affected regions was the Pacific Coast, where violence and disasters have had a devastating impact on communities already facing serious long-term poverty.

OCHA and its partners encountered serious difficulties in gaining access to the most vulnerable sections of the population (notably Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples), particularly in priority areas, including the Pacific Coast and the south-east, where there have been high levels of displacement. The large numbers of IDPs and their rapid, uncontrolled movement to new areas frequently overstretched local authorities’ capacity. These problems highlighted the need for a stronger humanitarian presence at field level, particularly for needs analysis. But security and logistical complications made this difficult.

Against this background and working with a limited humanitarian presence, OCHA still oversaw some important improvements in coordination in 2009. OCHA and the humanitarian community remained committed to humanitarian reform and its emphasis on greater predictability, leadership, accountability and partnership.

The overall humanitarian coordination architecture is well implanted in Colombia. The IASC CT discussed and acted on key issues during 2009, which account for its consolidation. Concerns included the impact of the government’s civil-military “territorial consolidation” strategy on civilians as well as on humanitarian workers. The IASC assessed specific cases, mainly reported by the NGOs, on how such strategy affects their work on the ground. The HC established a specific dialogue mechanism at the highest level with the Government to reaffirm humanitarian principles as well as to offer authorities practical examples on how civil-military operations take place in other countries. OCHA organized two workshops supported by OCHA-CMCS Geneva, one of them open to government and civil society actors.

The IASC CT’s work was based on an annual work plan that laid out priorities and goals, whose progress was reviewed during the regular meetings. This work plan included the strengthening of sub-national coordination mechanisms, a stronger emphasis on protection of civilians, international presence on the ground in areas with insufficient coverage, humanitarian financing and greater advocacy.

Under the HC’s guidance, OCHA Colombia advocated the observance of humanitarian principles and full application of the Colombian legal framework on internal displacement. With OCHA’s support, the HC engaged the Government in dialogue on a number of sensitive issues, including civil-military coordination and the protection of humanitarian space. These issues were also raised during the visit of the ERC in February.

The HC and OCHA organized a humanitarian retreat in February to discus the implementation of humanitarian reform and outline priorities for the year. A paper was produced on impact criteria and indicators to better measure progress.

In the absence of a CAP, funding opportunities from the CERF Rapid Response Window remained crucial. A total of $5 million was also made available from the Under-Funded Emergencies Window to address protection and assistance needs along the Pacific Coast. OCHA managed an ERF under the HC’s supervision. Delegates from the thematic groups made up a review board that approved projects submitted to the fund.

OCHA Colombia is now the main in-country humanitarian information provider, ensuring an effective distribution of humanitarian products. Its online information database has more than 1,000 registered users, including the Colombian Government, universities and national NGOs.

OCHA Colombia worked with UNFPA, UNIFEM and UNHCR to promote the mainstreaming of a Gender Action Plan. The plan focused on stronger advocacy for the rights of women, girls, boys and men, including protection from gender-based violence. It also emphasized the increased use of sex- and age-disaggregated data and gender analysis in needs assessments and information products, and better internal mechanisms and capacity for gender equality programming. OCHA supported a comprehensive study of gender-based violence in Nariño department, highlighting key issues and strengthening response mechanisms at local level.