Academic journal article Refuge

Responses to Internal Displacement in Colombia: Guided by What Principles?

Academic journal article Refuge

Responses to Internal Displacement in Colombia: Guided by What Principles?

Article excerpt


This article aims to explain the gap between IDP law and practice in Colombia. Colombia's IDP legislation is considered one of the world's most advanced legal systems as it puts in practice the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. However, the reality of life for IDPs in Colombia does not match their legal rights. Especially the sections of the law related to preventing displacement and providing durable solutions for IDPs are poorly implemented. Following Ferguson's work on depoliticization, we argue that displacement in Colombia is treated as a technical rather than political problem, detaching it from root causes like landownership and structural class inequalities. This article provides an overview of the root causes and analyzes the different methods through which internal displacement is "depoliticized" in Colombia. In conclusion, we will discuss the wider implications of the Colombian case for understanding implementation challenges of the Guiding Principles.


Cet article tente d'expliquer l'ecart en tre le droit des personnes deplaces internes et sa mise en application en Colombie. Le droit colombien en matiere de deplacement interne est considere comme l'un des systemes juridiques les plus avances au monde en ce qu'il met en pratique les Principes directeurs relatifs au deplacement de personnes a l'interieur de leur propre pays des Nations Unies. Cependant, la realite des personnes deplacees en Colombie ne correspond pas a leurs droits. En particulier, les sections de la foi relatives a la prevention des deplacements et a la mise en place de solutions durables pour les deplaces internes sont mal mises en ceuvre. Suivant les travaux de Ferguson sur la depolitisation, nous soutenons que le deplacement en Colombie est considere comine un probleme technique plutot que politique, le detachant de ses causes premieres telles la propriete fonciere et les inegalites structurelles de classe. Nous donnons un apercu des causes premieres du deplacement et analysons les differentes methodes par lesquelles le deplacement interne est << depolitise >> en Colombie. En conclusion, nous discutons des implications plus larges du cas colombien pour la comprehension des defis de mise en oeuvre des Principes directeurs.


In this article, we will analyze displacement in Colombia to illustrate some of the challenges faced in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. In the case of Colombia, one main concern is that the response to internal displacement has effectively depoliticized the causes and consequences of the displacement. Forced internal displacement in Colombia has been going on for decades, causing millions of Colombians to abandon their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring towns or large cities. (1) Today, Colombia hosts one of the world's largest IDP populations, and the UNhas identified the situation in the country to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere. (2) Yet the phenomenon only received attention after the mid-1990s, when the Colombian government officially acknowledged their responsibility and first steps towards the formulation of IDP rights were taken. The framework for IDP-related policies is provided by Law 387, which was passed in Congress in 1997. Currently, displacement-related laws in Colombia are heralded as the most progressive and comprehensive attempt to implement the Guiding Principles. (3)

Forced displacement in Colombia has commonly been explained by the severe and extensive political violence involving a number of armed actors, including paramilitaries, guerrillas, and the national army. Various guerrilla groups emerged in the 1960s as a reaction to systematic oppression and marginalization of the rural and poor population throughout centuries, with the most important being the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, or the National Liberation Army). …

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