WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
16 Aug 2011 | | News

Against All Odds: Experiences of IDP Self-Protection Measures in Colombia

This paper by Ms. Gimena Sanchez, Senior Associate for the Andes, presented at the Brooking Institution's "Exploring Civilian Protection" seminar series examines the experiences of internally displaced peoples' (IDPs) self-protection measures and civilian-led efforts to prevent displacement in Colombia.

Since 1985, more than four million Colombians have been displaced from their homes and most have remained displaced. Colombia has developed some of the most comprehensive laws and policies for addressing the protection and assistance needs of the displaced and the international community has set up innovative internally displaced person (IDP) programs. Despite such efforts, including improved IDP access to humanitarian aid, most IDP needs and rights are far from being met or respected.  

The Colombian state has not adequately protected internally displaced communities, and the Colombian Constitutional Court even declared that the state of affairs for IDPs was unconstitutional in 2004 through Ruling T-025. As such, many of these communities were forced to come up with their own ways to shield themselves from violent armed groups and drug traffickers. Colombian internally displaced communities, returnees and communities at high risk of displacement have developed models of self-protection in order to prevent displacement and guarantee respect for civilians residing in the midst of internal armed conflict.

The paper provides case studies of the experiences of IDPs in the San José de Apartadó Peace community, the humanitarian and biodiversity zones in the Chocó, the Afro-Colombian Yurumanguí River Mingas, and the civilian rural campesino zones and self-protection efforts by urban Afro-Colombian IDP groups. The paper also describes the security challenges faced by such efforts and offers steps that can be taken by international and national entities in order to support these protection efforts.