June 14, 2011 The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance // Feinstein International Center
Since 1985, between 3,300,000 and 4,900,000 Colombians have become internally displaced due to conflict. Displacement has caused the abandonment of an estimated 5.5 million hectares or roughly 5% of Colombian territory. President Juan Manuel Santos has pledged to redress this situation through the approval of a land restoration bill that is currently being debated in the legislature. Even if finally approved, effectively implementing the bill is bound to be an arduous task. As this paper will argue, fulfilling President Santos’ promise will necessarily face an array of hurdles, most notably the existence of an unresolved conflict. Indeed, the fact that violence in Colombia has not ceased and that irreconcilable interests still exist around the use of land may result in the non-viability of restoration policies. Restoration, in turn, could contribute to breaking the stalemate that Colombia has found itself in for decades through the consolidation of state power in areas traditionally under the control of the armed groups....
June 13, 2011 Prism // Center for Complex Operations (National Defense University)
Transnational criminal organizations, networks, and terrorist groups are increasingly helping each other move products, money, weapons, personnel, and goods. They accomplish this through an informal network or series of overlapping pipelines. These pipelines can be best understood as recombinant chains with links that can couple and decouple as necessary to meet the interests of the networks involved. Many operate in “alternatively governed” spaces outside of direct state control or within criminal state enterprises. A criminal state counts on the integration of the state's leadership into the criminal enterprise and the use of public services—such as licensing, issuance of official documents, regulatory regimes, border control—for illicit purposes. A further variation of the criminal state occurs when a state franchises part of its territory to nonstate groups, with the protection of the central government or a regional power sharing the profits. The author shows that understanding and addressing these threats requires capacity-building in human intelligence collection and prosecuting transnational criminal organizations....
November 4, 2010 Households in Conflict Network // Institute of Development Studies // University of Sussex
Many Colombians are confronted with the ongoing conflict which influences their
decision making in everyday life, including their behaviour on labour markets. This study
focuses on the impact of violent conflict on self-employment, enlarging the usual
determinants by a set of conflict variables. In order to estimate the effect of conflict on selfemployment,
we employ fixed effects estimation. Three datasets are combined for estimation:
the Familias en Acción dataset delivers information about individuals, a second dataset
contains different indicators of the Colombian conflict on the municipality level and the third
dataset includes taxes to measure a municipality’s economic situation. Our results show that
high homicide and displacement rates at the community of origin reduces self-employment
while a high influx of displaced increases the probability of self-employment at the
municipality of destination....
September 9, 2010 Prism // National Defense University
Current emphasis in irregular warfare highlights whole-of-government response and the imperative for "learning institutions." Only by being the latter can the former engage in the timely, flexible mastery of constantly changing circumstances imperative for successful implementation of the "ends-ways-means" methodology. Few countries have worked harder or made greater steps in this direction than Colombia.
Though Colombian progress toward an acceptable steady-state has been much remarked upon, especially several of the more spectacular Colombian special operations that have in recent years seriously damaged the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), there is much more that can be learned from Bogota's experience....
August 24, 2010 Global Consortium on Security Transformation
Medellin, the second biggest city in Colombia, experienced an impressive transformation after
2002 when a combination of national and local initiatives succeeded in dramatically reducing
acute levels of violence. After being the most violent city in the world, Medellin became a
successful case of urban security transformation. The aim of this research was to explore the role
played by civil society in that process. However, not long before this project began, the security
situation started to deteriorate in the poor communities of Medellin. The vacuum of power created
by the extradition of a demobilized paramilitary leader had triggered wars between gangs and
criminal groups. This made it necessary to explore not only the limitations of the recent security
transformation, which is now in question, but also the way this outbreak of violence is aecting
communities and the role that civil society can play in this context. In the first
section this document presents an overview of the insecurity context of Medellin prior to the
transformation started in 2002. The second section discusses the problems with the role that civil society is asked to play
within current frameworks for security transformation, such as Security Sector Reform (SSR) and
current models of democratic security governance in Latin America....
September 30, 2009 International Center for Transitional Justice // National Public Radio
Over the past year, top warlords from Colombia's once-fearsome paramilitary movement have been extradited to the United States. U.S. law enforcement officials consider the men notorious cocaine traffickers.
But some in Colombia say the paramilitary commanders should instead be in their country, testifying about the atrocities they committed in a long, murky war. And now, Colombia's Supreme Court has agreed - blocking extraditions and leaving the Obama administration scrambling to find a way to restart them.
Colombia has been gripped by a drug-fueled conflict for years. Marxist rebels tried to take power. Right-wing paramilitary groups - illegal militias with close links to Colombia's army - fought to stop them.
The war raged until 2006, when the paramilitaries finished laying down their arms in government demobilization ceremonies....
Almost one in ten Colombians has been displaced by violence and terror. Refugees International interviewed displaced Colombians and walked amidst various settlements of displaced communities to learn what is needed to help these Colombians rebuild their lives.
President Bush visited Guatemala Monday, after pledging Sunday on a stopover in Colombia to seek more aid for the country to fight drug traffickers. Experts discuss the growing drug trade and the administration's efforts to curtail it.
Crisis Watch summarises briefly developments during the previous month in some 70 situations of current or potential conflict, listed alphabetically by region, providing references and links to more detailed information sources (all references mentioned are hyperlinked in the electronic version of this bulletin); assesses whether the overall situation in each case has, during the previous month, significantly deteriorated, significantly improved, or on balance remained more or less unchanged; alerts readers to situations where, in the coming month, there is a particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict, or a particular conflict resolution opportunity (noting that in some instances there may in fact be both); and summarises Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers that have been published in the last month.
Amid mounting tensions between North and South Sudan over the disputed border area of Abyei, clashes broke out between the two sides at the beginning of the month. Northern Sudanese forces invaded Abyei on 20 May and asserted control in breach of existing peace agreements. Tens of thousands are reported to have fled south. The attacks threaten renewed conflict and weaken confidence between North and South as critical post-referendum arrangements remain unresolved.
Tensions also increased over military control and the presence of armed forces in the transitional areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and CrisisWatch identifies a conflict risk alert for North Sudan for the coming month.
Violence escalated further in Yemen, where military forces loyal to President Saleh battled on several fronts, renewing fears that the continued political stalemate could erupt into civil war.
President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria continued to use troops and tanks to violently suppress the ongoing revolt, with hundreds of protesters feared killed, thousands detained, and widespread reports of torture.
In Pakistan, the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad at the beginning of the month again raised questions about the military's possible involvement with jihadist groups.
Local elections in Albania on 8 May proved even more troubled than anticipated as the race for the Tirana mayor's seat ended deep within the margin of error.
In Guatemala, the Mexican Los Zetas cartel killed and decapitated 27 farm workers in the northern Petén department.
In Serbia, war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader accused of commanding the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, was arrested after 16 years on the run. He was extradited to The Hague, where he will stand trial for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity....
February 16, 2010 Forced Migration Review // University of Oxford // Refugee Studies Centre
The striking fact that for the first time in human history there are now more people living in towns and cities than outside them is not in itself a reason for FMR to be covering urban displacement. Behind that fact, however, lies the multiplicity of reasons why people have been moving into urban environments and the reality that for many of them it is not a matter of choice.
In their introductory articles in this issue of FMR, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka emphasise the complexity of the challenges faced by those displaced into urban areas and by those seeking to protect and assist them, and argue for the need for a radical rethinking of approaches. The articles that follow address some of the practical and policy issues that urban displaced people face and that affect providers too. They also reflect the diversity of analysis and geography that is to be expected given the global nature of urbanisation....
September 22, 2008 International Center for Transitional Justice
This factsheet presents the background of the generations-long conflict in Colombia involving the state, the guerilla group FARC and paramilitiaries. The shifting boundaries between drug trafficking and political crime remain a serious obstacle to efforts to promote accountability and respect for human rights in the region.
March 30, 2007 George Washington University // National Security Archive
These documents published by the National Security Archive shed light on recent revelations about the links between bananas and terror in Colombia and the Colombian government's own ties to the country's illegal paramilitary forces.
December 18, 2006 Inventory of Conflict and Environment
This case study demonstrates how the Colombian Civil War has impacted neighboring countries. It specifically focuses on the effect the conflict has on the Darién Province in the south of Panama, which is comprised of mainly dense tropical forest. Since the mid-1990s Colombian paramilitaries have crossed the border into Panama in pursuit of FARC guerillas. As a result, the region is now recognized as one of the most dangerous places in the world due to the increase in violent conflict and threat of possible kidnappings. As violence has increased, conservationists have been kept from doing their job in the region, which holds a national park (named a Biosphere Reserve in 1981), and RAMSAR protected wetlands. Now, excessive deforestation, poaching and overuse of land threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Darién....
April 1, 2009 Relief Web // United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
This map represents displacement in Colombia as of March 28th, 2009. 600 people displaced from El Charco are on their way to Palbusa due to combats between the Army and the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces, FARC.
January 4, 2011 Foreign Policy Magazine // International Crisis Group
Across the globe today, you'll find almost three dozen raging conflicts, from the valleys of Afghanistan to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the streets of Kashmir. But what are the next crises that might erupt in 2011? Here are a few worrisome spots that make our list. [Captions provided by International Crisis Group]
Up and down the rivers of western Colombia, a new breed of criminal armies is pressing deeper into this isolated jungle, fighting with guerrillas for control of the cocaine trade and forcing thousands of Indians to flee. It is the kind of nightmarish ordeal that is an all-too-common feature of Colombia’s long war: peasants being terrorized by gunmen seeking dominance in the backlands.
But as Colombia’s war for control of the drug trade intensifies in frontiers like this one, with new combatants vying for smuggling routes and coca-growing areas where Indians eke out a meager existence, it is adding to the already grave toll on the nation’s indigenous groups. At least 27 of the groups are at risk of being eliminated because of the country’s four-decade conflict, according to the United Nations, and human rights organizations worry that the new violence is pushing even deeper into the Indians’ ancient lands.
Here in the Chocó region’s jungle, gunmen arrived as Jhonny Caisamo was harvesting plantains. More than 100 strong, the men beat him with the flat part of their machetes, then threatened to drown him in the brown waters of the Cedro River. The battles are unfolding far from largely pacified cities like the capital, Bogotá, where a newly confident government acclaims recent military advances against leftist rebels and the demobilization of thousands of paramilitary fighters. In another region, officials recently helped one indigenous group, the Arhuacos, reclaim land from paramilitary fighters....
When Ishmael Beah was 12, the Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels backed by Liberian warlord Charles Taylor attacked his village and killed his family. He spent a year running from the war before joining up with the army in order to survive.
Empowered by the rifles they carried, and often high on marijuana or cocaine, many of the thousands of children who took part in Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war visited unspeakable atrocities on the civilian population. Child soldiers were known to have cut open the bellies of pregnant women just to see what sex the child was.
Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone on several charges, including the recruitment of children under the age of 15 years into armed forces in violation of international humanitarian law.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) defines child soldiers as "any child—boy or girl—under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity." This age limit was established in 2002 by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
February 12, 2009, also known as ‘Red Hand Day’, marks the seventh anniversary of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol.
The Optional Protocol entered into force in 2002 and requires States Parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces. States must prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers by non-state armed groups and must adoption the necessary legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices within their State. It also enjoins States to provide assistance for the physical and psychological recovery of child soldiers and to facilitate their social reintegration....
Colombia has as much experience with terrorism as any country in the world. Since 1964, armed groups of both the left and right have been brutalizing farmers and union leaders, kidnapping and executing officials, setting off bombs in urban areas, shelling towns and trafficking in cocaine.
But today, Colombia is succeeding against terrorism, and, against all odds, it has become an international model. Since Alvaro Uribe became president in 2002, homicides have dropped 40 percent; kidnappings, 83 percent; and terrorist attacks, 76 percent.
Part of this success is owed to the nation's military, which has driven terrorists of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, out of strongholds like Vista Hermosa, a farming town I recently visited about 100 miles from Bogota.
But the big story is that Colombia is relying not just on bullets and defoliants, but also on ideas. Colombia has developed an anti-terror model in our own hemisphere that has powerful applications in North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East....
The administration of President George W. Bush likes to boast of its commitment to promoting democracy around the globe, and has employed the same sort of rhetoric to defend US policy toward Colombia. On a trip to BogotÃ¡ in January last year, US General Peter Pace, at the time the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that he had discussed with his Colombian colleagues “how to continue the very good partnership, to strengthen the democracy here in Colombia, which in turn strengthens the democracy in the United States.â€ However, and notwithstanding the pretensions of General Pace and other US officials, the reality is that democracy promotion has barely featured in the Bush administration’s Colombia policy. This is evident from the administration’s stance on paramilitarism and free trade....
African Studies - AS - is part of the Centre for Research and Special Projects - CIPE - of the Faculty of Finance, Government and International Relations of the University Externado de Colombia.
Since its creation in May 2000, AS became the only group researching and promoting African Studies in Colombia. Its activities include the publication of articles and books, the organisation and participation in academic events, and the establishment of links with government agencies, international organisations and universities, amongst others. Therefore, with its graduate and undergraduate courses at the Universidad Externado de Colombia, African Studies contributes to the study and analysis of African dynamics in Colombia.
Insight on Conflict provides information on local peacebuilding organisations in areas of conflict. Local peacebuilders already make a real impact in conflict areas. They work to prevent violent conflicts before they start, to reduce the impact of violence, and to bring divided communities together in the aftermath of violence. However, their work is often ignored – either because people aren’t aware of the existence and importance of local peacebuilders in general, or because they simply haven’t had access to information and contacts for local peacebuilders. We hope that Insight on Conflict can help redress the balance by drawing attention to important work of local peacebuilders. On this site, you’ll be able to find out who the local peacebuilders are, what they do, and how you might get in touch with them. Over half the organisations featured on Insight on Conflict do not have their own website. Insight on Conflict is a project launched by Peace Direct, the UK-based charity that finds, funds and promotes local peacebuilders in conflict areas around the world. Peace Direct wants to change the balance of power and resources between local people and outsiders so that local peacebuilding is central to all strategies for managing conflict....
June 14, 2007 Fédération Internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme // International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
The so-called "war on terrorism" has seen democratic governments resort to torture and ill treatment of persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities and has reignited the age-old debate about whether torture can be justified if the purpose is to save innocent lives. In this context, prominent opinion and decision-makers as well as members of the general public in leading democratic countries have argued that new forms of transnational terrorism necessitate a revision of existing legal and moral norms related to torture and ill treatment. At the same time, authoritarian rulers around the world have exploited this climate to step up their oppression of political opposition groups.
In February 2007, with funding from the European Commission, the Fédération International des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) in partnership with the #IRCT launched the three-year project, "Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism". The overall objective is to contribute to re-establish international respect for the absolute prohibition against torture and ill treatment embedded in international law. The project will do this through a wide range of complementary activities covering research, awareness raising, advocacy and capacity building....
The Violent Intranational Conflict Data Project (VICDP) was created by Will H. Moore in 1992 to produce events data for the study of violent intranational conflict. The project produced data for five cases: Colombia, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, covering the years 1955-1991. In addition, some data were collected for both Lebanon and the Phillipines.
Building strong socio-economic foundations and promoting economic development is one of the major elements of strategic peacebuilding. Since 1999 International Alert has been working with business people from both conflict zones and multinational corporations to help them contribute to the creation of a stable political climate.
The Center for International Policy offers a comprehensive source of information and analysis about Colombia's conflict, peaceful efforts to end it, and the United States' increasing military involvement.
August 10, 2011 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
A new law passed by the Colombian government to make reparation to victims of the
armed conflict has implications for the approximately 455,000 Colombians who live
as refugees, asylum-seekers, or in a refugee-like situation outside the country.
Although these vulnerable individuals may be entitled to reparation for human rights
violations suffered in Colombia, the ongoing armed conflict impedes their access to
this offer. This paper investigates the legal and practical implications of offering such
‘transnational’ reparations to externally-displaced victims in circumstances of
protracted armed conflict.
The new Victims’ Law in Colombia provides for wide-ranging reparation measures to
persons who have suffered damages directly as a result of human rights violations or
infractions of international humanitarian law.
Although refugees and other
EDVs do not figure prominently in its provisions, this new legal framework generates
a range of wider questions about the positioning of such persons vis-à-vis the offer of
reparation from their home country, including:
- To what extent does international law require the home state to address the
specific needs of EDVs when designing reparation measures and
- What are the international law implications of home country reparation to
EDVs for third states?
- What is the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – as the international agency mandated with refugee protection
in such processes?
- What does ‘reparation’ mean for refugees and other EDVs, and what are
their needs in this regard?
- What are the political consequences of the often tense border dynamics
that accompany refugee outflows for the implementation of any reparation
measures for EDVs?
By addressing these questions through a Colombian case study, this paper constitutes a
first step towards understanding what the provision of reparation may mean for
refugees and other displaced persons where the circumstances giving rise to their
In 2001, Pax Christi Netherlands published a report
about the kidnapping industry in Colombia. Seven years on, and the number of kidnappings
worldwide has risen even more. The crime has lost
nothing of its potency as a cause of human tragedy.
Kidnapping is a serious violation of the most
elementary right of mankind: the right to a dignified
existence. We set out in this report to provide a brief
summary of the kidnapping issue on a global level, in
particular of kidnapping in conflict regions and fragile
states. The questions to be answered are concerned with
the financial and political requirements that the
kidnappers set, and with the impacts of these practices
on the conflict and its perpetuation, and on the
performance of the state.
Following on from the previous report, the emphasis of
this investigation is on kidnapping and extortion in
Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Firstly, we wished to
ascertain how the kidnapping issue has developed in
these countries in the past ten years. This raised the
question of whether there was any relationship between
the kidnapping practices in Colombia, and trends in
this crime in the neighbouring countries. Another
primary question regarding Colombia was concerned
with the role of the kidnapping theme in peace talks
and other dialogue between illegal armed groups and
the Colombian government, and with the possible role
of the theme in any future peace talks.
The final chapter investigates the kidnapping-related
policies of the EU member states, and as far as possible
we compare their policies with their actions in practice
in recent years. The main question is whether there is
any European consensus on how to deal with
kidnapping, and how to suppress the phenomenon.
What obstacles are there to a joint approach to the
Deeply entrenched connections between criminal and political actors are a major obstacle to conflict resolution in Colombia. Illegal armed groups seek to consolidate and expand their holds over local governments in the October 2011 governorship, mayoral, departmental assembly and municipal council elections. The national government appears more willing and better prepared than in the past to curb the influence of illegal actors on the elections, but the challenges remain huge. The high number of killed prospective candidates bodes ill for the campaign, suggesting that the decade-old trend of decreasing electoral violence could be reversed. There are substantial risks that a variety of additional means, including intimidation and illegal money, will be used to influence outcomes. The government must rigorously implement additional measures to protect candidates and shield the electoral process against criminal infiltration, corruption and fraud. Failure to mitigate these risks would mean in many places four more years of poor local governance, high levels of corruption and enduring violence.
Decentralisation in the 1980s and 1990s greatly increased the tasks and the resources of local government, but in many municipalities, capabilities failed to keep pace. This mismatch made local governments increasingly attractive targets for both guerrillas and paramilitaries. Violence against candidates, local office holders and political and social activists soared. With a largely hostile attitude to local governments, guerrillas have mainly concentrated on sabotaging and disturbing the electoral process. By contrast, paramilitary groups, particularly after the formation of a national structure under the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), used their links with economic and political elites to infiltrate local governments and capture public resources. That peaked in the 2003 local elections. Since then, and particularly after the official demobilisation of these groups in 2006, the influence politicians linked to paramilitaries enjoyed has weakened but not disappeared....
This paper seeks to do three things. First, it provides an analysis of the
current economic dynamics of the armed conflict in Colombia, with a
special focus on the drug trade and extractive industries. Secondly, it
examines theories of political economies of war and free trade, and
considers the implications of the new economic dynamics of the armed
conflict in Colombia for peacebuilding initiatives. Thirdly, the paper
makes some preliminary recommendations for further Canadian
involvement in Colombia and relates them to Canadian foreign policy
objectives in the region, particularly the advancement of human rights and
greater economic engagement through bilateral trade agreements.
Ultimately, this paper argues that an unbalanced agenda favouring trade
and economic development over human and social development
initiatives will not create the conditions for peacebuilding in Colombia.
Four prominent aspects of the Colombian context inform the
recommendations of this paper:
• The Colombian armed conflict is changing, it is not necessarily
• The drug economy is fuelling a significant portion of the violence
that ravages the country today, although it is not the only element
prolonging the armed conflict. Licit economic activities also play an
important role in direct and indirect participation in the violence;
• Without directed investment in social infrastructure greater trade
liberalizationand lack of market protection may drive more small-scale
farmers towards coca production or participation in armed groups, which
enables and fuels armed violence.
• Human security is currently one of the greatest challenges facing
Colombia, given the continuing armed conflict, the humanitarian crisis of
internal displacement, and ongoing structural violence....
June 30, 2011 MiningWatch Canada // CENSAT-Agua Viva for Inter Pares
Canadian foreign direct investment in Colombia has
grown consistently since the 1990s, particularly in
telecommunications, mining, and fossil fuel extraction.
Canadian mining and oil companies are major players in
Despite a concerted public relations campaign by
the Colombian government, Colombia continues to suffer
widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial
executions, disappearances, extortion, and threats.
Control over land, labour, and natural resources are
integral to the war and violence in Colombia, and the
past few decades have seen massive displacement and
murder for political and economic ends. Striking correlations
have been observed between where investment –
both domestic and foreign – takes place and rights abuses,
ranging from murder and massacres and related massive
land and property theft to violations of the rights to
freedom of movement and to a healthy environment.
Human rights violations are linked to efforts by
those behind Colombia’s murderous paramilitaries to
create conditions for investment from which they are
positioned to benefit. There are also ongoing relations
between the paramilitary forces and all levels of government
and the armed forces, up to the highest officials,
and there are clear indications that political cover for
such human rights abuses and crimes will continue....