- Colombia is ranked 77 of 182 on the Human Development Index.
- The country remains locked in a 50-year old internal armed conflict. The conflict has a greater impact on ethnic minorities – afro-descendant and indigenous groups – living in areas difficult to access.
- Official figures indicate that seven percent of the Colombia population is composed of IDPs.
- There are more than 200,000 new IDPs each year – equivalent to 548 persons per day, of which 75% are women and children.
- IDPs settle in unsafe areas, where they become extremely vulnerable to diseases, violence, forced recruitment, sexual abuse and discrimination.
- Colombia is also becoming increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2008 alone, floods and volcanic eruptions affected 1.9 million (up 46% from the previous year) – with 243 dead, 506 injured, 46 missing, 7,059 houses destroyed and 142,069 severely damaged.
OCHA Colombia is working in a unique situation, with different contexts depending on the individual region. Humanitarian needs vary from conflict and post-conflict scenarios to sudden onset emergencies, including complex emergencies and natural disasters. Colombia thus requires versatile, creative and dynamic responses in the areas of coordination, preparedness, and response and information management.
The following are some of the main needs identified in Colombia:
- Strong coordination, as most of the assistance is provided by the government, and humanitarian actors only complement the effort.
- Speaking with one voice to advocate to government the need to address humanitarian response gaps or emerging humanitarian needs.
- Working on coordinated advocacy to increase the visibility of the situation; ensure humanitarian access and preservation of the humanitarian space in an increasingly militarized context.
- Expanding and organizing the presence outside of cities to implement “protection by presence” in the most affected provinces.
- Common fund raising for humanitarian programming, deemed difficult given an inherent lack of visibility.
OCHA engagement in Colombia is based on the following coordination expertise:
- Providing a strong IM system for in-depth analyses of specific issues. The analyses help support decision making; establishing new presences; and advocating and implementing preparedness and response measures.
- Providing leadership, guidance and support on policy issues; addressing specific challenges related to climate change and disaster risk reduction.
- Stepping up advocacy on issues such as internal displacement, protection of civilians, SGBV, civil military coordination, confined communities.
- Providing coordination to implement humanitarian reform; linking capital and local coordination mechanisms.
- Improving funding through increased access to local and international funding sources; engaging donors in humanitarian coordination and response.
In 2010, the OCHA Colombia action plan will contribute to a more enabling environment for humanitarian action by placing increased emphasis on partnerships, accountability, and working cohesively with government and the affected communities. OCHA will:
- Expand partnerships and humanitarian actor networks to highlight and advocate for current and emerging humanitarian needs.
- Support more collaborative and complimentary programming for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance at the national and local levels.
- Employ the ERF as a critical means of addressing emerging needs and urgent funding gaps for those affected simultaneously by natural disaster and the conflict.
- Solidify achievements with a particular focus on a review of the implementation of the humanitarian reform in Colombia, especially regarding accountability.
- Foster greater coordination with national partners to ensure complimentarily of assistance and maintain an open dialogue on needs and gaps; and improve mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues in the humanitarian response.
- Expand linkages between humanitarian and early recovery in transition areas.
Strengthening Relationships with a Wider Group of Operational Partners
In line with the new OCHA Strategic Framework 2010-2013, the CO in Colombia has actively promoted the establishment of the Humanitarian Studies Institute (HSI) that aims at strengthening relationships with a wider group of humanitarian actors to advance humanitarian action. This work is compatible with positioning OCHA as a knowledge broker in humanitarian issues. The goal of HSI is to close the gap between humanitarian practitioners and academics in the field. Not only is OCHA a promoter in this area, it functions as a technical secretariat for meetings. The creation of the HSI seeks to serve as a tool for the dissemination and analysis of existing and ongoing research in humanitarian topics throughout Colombia.
HSI now includes more than 50 institutions, mostly universities, which are increasingly entering the field of applied research to advance humanitarian action. The potential for improving humanitarian action is greatly improving. Not only are a variety of universities participating, but events and forums are playing a vital advocacy role on humanitarian issues throughout the country. While supporting and strengthening relationships, the Colombia experience with HSI will serve to guarantee that humanitarian response and response preparedness are consistently underpinned by integrated analysis and rigorous learning.