Colombia and Its Internally Displaced

Colombia took a big step towards ending its 51-year-old civil war on Wednesday, the largest step in fact since peace negotiations between the government and FARC rebels began in Havana three years ago.

As Sibylla Brodzinsky reports for The Guardian:

In an unprecedented joint announcement in Havana, Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, and Farc’s chief, Rodrigo Londoño – known as Timochenko – said the two sides had agreed on a formula for transitional justice for conflict-related crimes such as kidnapping, murder, forced displacement, disappearance and torture, one of the most complex issues on the negotiations.

Wednesday’s joint announcement includes a March 23, 2016 deadline by which the agreement is to be finalized. The FARC agreed that it would then lay down their arms within 60 days.

The five-decade war has taken upwards of 250,000 lives since 1964, but that number pales in comparison to those displaced by the conflict. According to official government figures and those tallied by the UN, more that 5.7 million have been displaced, mostly internally. According to the 2015 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the figure is 6.04 million, accounting for about 12 percent of the total population. In sheer numbers, it’s currently second only to Syria.

About half of those (48 percent) are between the ages of six and 26 according to the IDMC report. Ninety-two percent live below the poverty line; 33 percent live in extreme poverty.

That transient population often manifests itself most strongly in urban areas. According to official figures, more than 50 percent of the IDPs, or internally displaced persons, live in “informal urban settlements”. Displacement has happened throughout the country, but is primarily concentrated along the border with Venezuela and the Pacific Coast, impacting Afro-Caribbean and indigenous communities most.

For the displaced, a lasting peace is only the beginning. Resettling and repatriating several million people will also require just land redistribution, something that’s never come easily anywhere in Latin America.

For more see pages 22-23 of the IDMC report; also check out the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) operations profile page for Colombia.

The photos above and below, taken this past August, are of a mural on the busy Calle 26 in central Bogota remembering the country’s displaced. It was painted in 2012, thus the slightly out-of-date figure of 4.15 million. Below, the mural’s letters in fuller detail.

And finally, if you’re interested in the displacement figures globally, the news isn’t good. From the UNHCR:

As of the end of 2014, a record-breaking 38 million people were forcibly displaced within their own country by violence, up from 33.3 million for 2013. A massive 11 million of these internally displaced people (IDPs) were newly uprooted during 2014, equal to 30,000 people a day, according to annual figures from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).


Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 3 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 4 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 5 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 6 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 7 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 8 Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 9

Memorial Mural for the Displaced Bogota 2

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  1. jacquelineobyikocha says

    Fantastic works of art!

  2. Paula says

    Thanks for sharing this information. I had seen the headlines this morning, but was unaware of the scale of the displacement. I long for a less violent, more just world. Maybe through sharing the stories we can step towards that world. Thank you.

    1. Bob R says

      You’re welcome and thank YOU. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says

    These are such beautiful and dramatic murals. Your photography of them really accentuates their message. Thank you for sharing them.

    1. Bob R says

      The murals and street art in Bogota just blew me away. More to come.

  4. Alli Farkas says

    Will be interesting to see how the agreement with the FARC plays out.

  5. Frankie Beane says

    We were just talking about El FARC–there haven’t been any big incidents recently. I hope the peace continues–that are is very poor. The murals are wonderful. Something so beautiful to speak out about something so grim.

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