After Sudan, Colombia has the second highest number of internally displaced people in the world. In the last 25 years, the armed conflict has forced more than four million people off their land.
Forced displacement in Colombia happens for political, economic and territorial control. In the last decade, the waves of displacement have targeted regions rich in natural resources.
The army, paramilitary groups and guerrillas have all been responsible for this displacement. Some of the tactics they use include: extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, recruitment of children, massacres and torture.
At risk for speaking out
Lawyers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, indigenous people, peasant farmers and journalists who dare to speak out about human rights violations, are stigmatised, threatened and killed.
Indigenous and afro-Colombian leaders have become the most vulnerable group of defenders because conflict has moved to their areas.
Similarly, church workers involved in human rights activities, and in particular those assisting the internally displaced to claim their lands, have been repeatedly harassed and threatened. As a result, church workers are often too scared to speak about human rights issues.
Christian Aid partners in Colombia (CAJAR, CCALCP, CREDHOS, Justicia y Paz, ONIC and PDPMM) work with leaders and communities - including farmers, indigenous people and afro-descendants - who have been displaced or are at risk of displacement by the conflict or the activities of extractive industries and palm oil companies.
These partners give visibility to human rights violations, provide legal advice to secure land titles and take human rights violations to the courts.
Our partner Peace Brigades International offers protection – international accompaniment - to lawyers and other human rights defenders to ensure they can continue their vital work.
Christian Aid also supports partners (ABColombia, OIDHACO and USOC) which lobby policy makers in the UK, Brussels and the US respectively for a more humane foreign policy on Colombia.
In 2009, Christian Aid along with other international organisations launched an international campaign for the right to defend human rights.
The aim of the campaign is to put pressure on the Colombian government in order to end the stigma and protect the work of human rights defenders.
You can support the campaign at: www.colombiadefenders.org