Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
(New York, November 20, 2007)
Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia
Allow me, in the first place, to congratulate you on your work as President of the Security Council for the month of November, and express our appreciation to you for convening this open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. I would like to thank the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his statement, as well as Mr. John Holmes, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, an Mr. Angelo Gnadinger, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross for their informative presentations.
Colombia has an unrestricted commitment to International Humanitarian Law. The current Government, through the democratic security policy, has achieved striking results in the fight against the scourges that threaten civilians and hinder the enjoyment of their rights, such as the activities of illegal armed groups, drug trafficking, and terrorism. We underline, vis-à-vis these scourges, that it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect civilians.
The citizens of my country are supported in the fact that ours is one of the oldest democracies in the continent, which in the last five years has strengthened and deepened in all its aspects. In this context, and in the understanding that the international humanitarian assistance must follow the principles of humanity, neutrality and independence, Colombia appreciates the work in support of national authorities by the competent United Nations organs, which must be conducted according to the priorities established by the national government.
I would like to reiterate the statement that my Delegation has made at other fora and in previous opportunities, concerning the importance that the information prepared by the United Nations organs reflect in an objective manner the reality of our situation and, in particular, concerning humanitarian issues, that the efforts and achievements of the Government in the protection of civilians be reflected adequately.
In that regard, I would like to refer to the sixth report of the Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians, which states that "Overall, there are 2.1 million registered internally displaced persons in Colombia, though some estimate the total at 3 million". While the first figure corresponds to the official records, the latter is ostensibly higher than the total of persons who have registered in the last ten years, according to the consolidated system of registration existing in Colombia since 1997. That figure is ten or seven times higher than the corresponding to the population who received assistance, contained in the 2006 Global Trends Report of UNHCR and in the budget request for 2007.
The referred figure seems to be a general estimated addition for a longer period of time, which does not take into account the number of families who have restored their life projects, or the returns that have taken place.
While this issue has been mentioned in the Secretary General's report, I would like to contextualize this information by referring to the achievements in Colombia in the area of prevention of displacement, assistance and protection to its victims and design of long term solutions for their social and economic stabilization.
Colombia has advanced legislation and a program of assistance to displaced persons that is administrated in a decentralized manner. The budget of this program, which is coordinated by a Presidential Agency, was increased from 40 million dollars to nearly 500 million dollars yearly. This sum will be maintained for the period 2008-2010, as provided by in the National Plan for Development.
Thanks to the Democratic Security policy and the mass demobilization of illegal armed groups, the new yearly cases of displacement have reduced a 44%, compared to the year 2002 data. About 82% of the total number of family households in the national registry of displaced persons, have received emergency humanitarian assistance. With regard to social services, in the year 2006, 232 thousand displaced children and young persons entered the school system with the support of the State. The National Service for Vocational Education provided training to 234 thousand displaced persons in technology related areas and offered occupational guidance to 201 thousand. Last June 670 thousand displaced persons were enrolled in the health security system. With the network established to overcome extreme poverty, 443 thousand displaced families will have access to state social services . By August 2007, 37 thousand displaced families had been able to return to their places of origin with the support of this program.
Colombia has built a benchmark system to measure the impact of the program in displaced households, in terms of fundamental rights. Likewise, restitution to displaced persons is a priority in the activity of the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation, which was created within the framework of the process of demobilization of illegal armed groups.
Also we have enhanced the capacity of action and the State presence , through the National Police and the civil authorities in all municipalities countrywide. Five years ago this situation was not guaranteed in 157 locations. About 46 thousand ex-members of illegal armed groups have demobilized from a total estimated at 60 thousand.
For Colombia, the concept of democratic security includes the obligation of the State to protect groups of special stand for democracy. We have strengthened the special program offering direct protection to more than 6 thousand persons.
The dissemination of objective information about the situation of countries contributes to the adequate analysis of their situation and the effective support of the international community. The consultation with countries before reports are published by the United Nations System can contribute in a positive manner to this end.
In the past, my Delegation has highlighted how important it is that the humanitarian system, in observing the principles of transparency and objectivity that must guide the humanitarian issues, maintains clear distance from political considerations. That is why, Mr. Chairman, we see with some concern some of the recommendations in the Secretary General's report, as they deepen into thematic issues beyond the competence assigned by the United Nations Charter to the Security Council. It is to be noted that under the present circumstances it is already very difficult to draw a precise line delimiting an area of action for the implementation of the "responsibility to protect".
While my Delegation shares the grave concern expressed by the Secretary General in his report about serious crimes such as sexual violence in armed conflict, we consider that the existing Resolutions and the support of the relevant existing United Nations bodies provide an adequate framework to tackle this issue. We also think that the consideration of issues, such as the right to housing, land and property, corresponds to the General Assembly and its specialized agencies.
Suggesting that these issues, per se, become part of the agenda of the Security Council will only crowd its program of work and divert its attention to issues beyond its competence.
In this context, my Delegation wishes to underscore the importance for the Security Council of adopting measures in a non-selective manner.
For the government of Colombia, the protection of civilians and the enjoyment of their rights is one of the highest priorities. We consider of the greatest importance that international support in this area comes in line with the sovereignty of States, and that it is coordinated with national authorities, according to the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. We trust that the decisions the Security Council may adopt will be guided by that course.