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Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

(New York, December 4, 2006)

Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia 



Mr. President,

My delegation would like to congratulate you on your work as President of the Security Council during the month of December. We thank Mr. Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, for his illustrative presentation. We also express our recognition for his contribution on this important issue.

Mr. President,

The Government of Colombia reaffirms its commitment with international humanitarian law and, in particular, with the norms related to the protection of civilians. We underline the importance that international assistance in this field adheres to the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence enshrined in General Assembly resolution 46/182. Following these principles, while adequately channeling the collective efforts in support of national authorities, acquires a greater significance when this cooperation is aimed at countries that enjoy democratic institutions and legitimately constituted governments.

My delegation also wishes in this occasion to reiterate the importance that United Nations agencies are fully aware of the work being carried out by national governments in the area of protection of civilians, when establishing the priorities of their work and informing the Organization on the respective situations. Objective, balanced and impartial information, includes, the identification of shortcomings and challenges, but also the recognition of the progress in each country.

In the case of Colombia, it is necessary that the reality of our situation and the efforts made by the National Government to face the problems that affect the civilian population, are properly reflected in the reports on humanitarian affairs being distributed in the United Nations. That would contribute to defining an appropriate and effective support from the international community.

Colombia has had to face the actions of violent groups that attempt against the civilian population. Those groups, financed by the transnational drug trafficking business, have caused internal displacement, kidnappings, recruiting of children and other forms of violence against civilians.

The National Government has been acting decisively to face the violent actions of these groups, recover security and thus, create the conditions for the proper protection of Colombians. Our population has responded to violence from those criminal organizations with solid civic support for the Government's democratic security policy and for its consolidation during the second mandate recently started by President Alvaro Uribe Vélez.

As a result of this Policy, the security situation in the country has improved noticeably. Today in Colombia, the national police and civilian authorities are permanently present in all of the country's municipalities, a situation that four years ago was not guaranteed in 157 communities. Today the State has a greater capacity for action of the armed forces to face criminal groups. Coca crops have been reduced by nearly 50% since 2000. Demobilization processes of violent groups are being carried out, in which nearly 43,000 former members of guerrilla and self-defense groups have given up their weapons.

As a consequence of these realities in the last four years, all crime indicators have been substantially reduced, including homicides, kidnappings and diverse attacks against the civilian population. So has number of new annual displacement cases, which reached 425,000 people in 2002, went down to 169,000 in 2005 and to 90,000 in the first ten months of this year.

A fundamental part of Government actions is related to looking after vulnerable groups. The State is implementing humanitarian attention policies for the civilian population victim of violence. The Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation coordinates the Comprehensive Attention Program for the Displaced Population. This program is carried out with an approach based on the restitution of the rights of displaced households and their social and economic reintegration into their places of origin, or into the families' places of voluntary relocation.

To this effect, national and international cooperation resources are allocated. Among the program's components, emergency care for the displaced population is included. Likewise, the promotion of the return of families, keeping in mind the humanitarian principles of voluntary return and security, has allowed the return of 120,000 people in recent years. On the other hand, the generation of conditions for social and economic stabilization is being sought through actions like credits for productive projects and technical training, complementary support in the acquisition of homes, subsidized access of these families to health services and guaranteed education coverage for their children.

Several recommendations that have been repeatedly presented in United Nations reports on the issue of displacement have been implemented in my country since several years ago. The problems are complex, but the Government has spared no effort to face them0.. decisively. Colombia hopes that this progress is recognized. The challenge in front of us is still great, but only with a realistic vision of our situation, free from prejudice, will it be possible to concentrate our efforts in an effective manner for the benefit of affected groups.

The protection of civilians also includes specific measures and actions for indigenous communities. The Defense Ministry has implemented a policy for the protection of ethnic minorities, agreed to with indigenous organizations, through instructions to State forces aimed at promoting the protection of communities, and guaranteeing the respect for their collective and individual rights in their operations.

Likewise, the government has elaborated, with indigenous organizations, a comprehensive plan of support for vulnerable communities, aimed at raising long-term social welfare and guaranteeing security conditions for the communities affected by poverty, violence or drug trafficking. The situation of those specific groups that have been the object of displacement or threats by violent groups, have deserved special priority and reaction from the State, in the framework of policies to attend the displaced.

Mr. President,

The Government of Colombia fully shares the objective of guaranteeing the protection of the civilian population and the enjoyment of their rights. Any action in this area, including international support, should be realized on the basis of cooperation and due coordination with national authorities, under an impartial approach and in strict observance of the principles that guide the activities of the United Nations in the area of humanitarian assistance.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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