Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement

Colombia Laws and Policies on Internal Displacement

Colombia Laws and Policies

For additional jurisprudence on IDPs in Colombia, see the Constitutional Court website: www.corteconstitucional.gov.co

Decree 976 of 1997 concerning the application of the National Disaster Fund to situations of mass displacement (1997)

Purpose: To make available the funds necessary to promote development in areas affected by mass displacement, including areas from which the displaced have fled and those in which they have settled.

Responsibilities: The Sociedad Fiduciaria La Previsora S.A. is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Decree in accordance with the determinations of the Consultative Board of the National Disaster Fund (Art. 3).

Content: The Decree identifies ‘mass displacement’ as a disaster for the purposes of the National Disaster Fund as established by Decree 1547 of 1984 and amended by Article 70 of Decree 919 of 1989 (Art. 1). As a result, funds are to be made available to address the loss of lives, livelihoods, cultivated lands, and basic infrastructure. The funds may be provided to support economic recovery, prevention of epidemics, reconstruction and development of a sanitary environment, and information systems and equipment.

Agreement No. 59 of 1997 of the National Council for Social Security and Health declaring mass displacement as a result of violence a catastrophic event (1997)

Purpose: To ensure that the internally displaced receive necessary health care (Art. 2).

Responsibilities: Enforcement of the Agreement is the responsibility of the Health Ministry (Art. 3).

Content: Article 1 defines ‘mass displacement’ for the purposes of the Agreement and identifies as reasons for ‘mass displacement’: internal armed conflict; mass violations of human rights; and violations of international humanitarian law. According to Article 2, $10,000,000,000 pesos (approx. USD$5,100m.) are to be set aside for the purposes of financing the implementation of the Agreement.

Agreement No. 85 of 1997 amending Agreement No. 59 of 1997 (1997)

Purpose: To guarantee that displaced populations in remote areas and communities with large displaced populations still receive necessary health care.

Responsibilities: Enforcement of the Agreement No. 59 is the responsibility of the Health Ministry.

Content: The Agreement provides for the national authorities to contract with national and territorial entities as well as public institutions for the provision of health services in areas hosting displaced populations (Art. 1).

Law 387 on internal displacement (1997)

Purpose: To adopt measures for the prevention of forced displacement, and for assistance, protection, socioeconomic consolidation and stabilization of persons internally displaced by violence.

Responsibilities: The National Council for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence, comprised of relevant Ministries, is created as an advisory and planning body responsible for formulating policy and ensuring budget allocation (Art. 6). The Ministry of the Interior is the technical secretariat of the Council (Art. 6(2)). The national government shall promote the creation of departmental, district, and municipal committees for providing support to the internally displaced (Art. 7). The national government shall design a National Plan for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence for approval by the National Council (Art. 9).

Other relevant governmental entities with specific responsibilities according to the Law include: the Presidential Advisory Board for the Displaced and the Office of the Special Administrative Unit for Human Rights (Arts. 6, 12, 14, 24), the National Police (Arts. 7), the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (Art. 19(1)), the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (Art. 19(2)), the Social Security System (Art. 19(4)), the Social Solidarity Network (Arts. 19(5), 32), the National Office for Equality for Women (Art. 19(6)), the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (Art. 19(7)), the National Ministry of Education (Art. 19(10), the National Television Commission (Art. 19(13)), the National Institute of Urban Reform (Art. 19(14)), the office of the Public Prosecutor (Art. 20), the Ombudsman (Arts. 6, 12, 32) and Colombian Red Cross (Arts. 7, 12).

Content: The Law details the institutional framework for addressing internal displacement, the sources and management of funding for programs to assist the internally displaced (Ch. III) and the principles and objectives guiding the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons including the areas of health, family welfare, employment and training.

Provisions of note include:

  • Definition of ‘displaced persons’, recognition of displaced ‘status’ (Arts. 1, 32);
  • Rights to non-discrimination, family reunification, consent to definitive solutions, not to be forcibly displaced, freedom of movement (Art. 2);
  • Primary responsibility of the state (Art. 3);
  • Right to voluntary return or resettlement (Arts. 4(1), 10(6), 17)
  • Participation of the internally displaced in relevant committees (Art. 7);
  • Identification of activities to prevent displacement (Art. 8);
  • Guarantee of free passage of humanitarian aid (Art. 15);
  • Right to emergency humanitarian assistance for 3 months, with possible extension (Art. 15);
  • Registry of abandoned property (Art. 19(1)), rules concerning disruption of possession (Art. 27);
  • Special educational programs, including expedited courses (Art. 19(10)).

Agreement No. 77 of 1997 concerning the Subsidized Regime of the General System of Social Security in Health (1997)

Purpose: To define the form and conditions of operation of the subsidized regime of the General System of Social Security in Health.

Responsibilities: Responsibility for management of the system rests with the Ministry of Health and the National Council for Social Security in Health.

Content: Article 46 establishes the administrative and financial procedures necessary to ensure that persons protected by the subsidized system continue to receive assistance in their places of displacement.

Decree 173 of 1998 adopting the National Plan for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence (1998)

Purpose: To give substance to the principles and objectives defined in Law 387 in relation to national and territorial action regarding internal displacement.

Responsibilities: The Plan details the responsibilities of several national authorities in the design, coordination, management and funding of programs relating to internal displacement, key among these are the National Council for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence (Art. 2.2), the Office of the Special Administrative Unit for Human Rights of the Ministry of the Interior (Arts. 2.1) the Social Solidarity Network (Art. 2.2) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Art. 2.3.1).

Content: The Plan establishes specific strategies for addressing internal displacement, with specific reference to prevention (Art. 2.1), humanitarian assistance (Art. 2.2), and socio-economic consolidation and stabilization in both rural and urban areas (Art. 2.3). The Plan details the information systems that are to be used in determining the needs of the displaced populations (Arts. 3, 4), and sources of finance (Art. 5).

Provisions of note include:

  • Community participation in programs (Arts. 1, 2.2.2, 2.3);
  • Participation of women in programs (Arts. 2.1.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.3.1.4);
  • Special needs of women, mothers, youth, children (Arts. 2.2, 2.3.1.1);
  • Right to emergency humanitarian assistance for 3 months, with possible extension (Art. 2.2);
  • Voluntary return or resettlement with expressed preference for return (Art. 2.3);
  • Provision of land for displaced communities (Art. 2.3.1.1.1);
  • Promotion and strengthening of community and civil organizations of displaced persons (Arts. 2.3.1.3, 2.3.2.3)
  • Special protection of women heads of households (Arts. 2.3.1.1, 2.3.1.4, 2.3.2.4).

Decree No. 489 of 1999 concerning the primary authority responsible for overseeing governmental policies for the internally displaced (1999)

Purpose: Following the abolition of the Presidential Council for the Attention to the Population Displaced by Violence, in accordance with Decree 387 of 1997, the decree identifies the national authority responsible for overseeing governmental policies for the internally displaced.

Responsibilities: The President of the Republic assigns the Social Solidarity Network as the authority with primary responsibility for overseeing governmental policies for the internally displaced.

Content: The Social Solidarity Network is assigned the same functions as had been the Presidential Council for the Attention to the Population Displaced by Violence (Art. 2)

Decree No. 2007 of 2001 regulating Articles 7, 17 and 19 of Law 387 relating to the return or resettlement of displaced rural communities (2001)

Purpose: To regulate land and land transfers in areas of imminent or actual displacement and to provide for the temporary provision of land to displaced persons who demonstrate an interest in continuing their agricultural activities.

Responsibilities: It is the responsibility of the Municipal, District or Departmental Committee for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence to declare an area subject to imminent or actual displacement (Art. 1). The Colombian Institute for Agricultural Reform is responsible to managing the temporary transfer and use of land by displaced persons (Art. 5).

Content: The Decree establishes mechanisms for protecting land in areas of imminent or actual displacement. Following a declaration by the Municipal, District or Departmental Committee for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence, a report is to be compiled of the land in the area affected, a description of the legal titles and basic characteristics of the land (Art. 1(1)). The Office of the Registrar of Public Instruments is to be informed of the declaration (Art. 1(2)) and transfers of property in the area affected are not to take place (Art. 1(3)) unless certain requirements are met (Art. 4).

The procedure for providing displaced persons with temporary access to rural lands is provided in Article 5 and the transfer of land to those who have permanently abandoned their lands is provided in Article 6.

Provisions of note include:

  • Provision of land is temporary, for maximum 3 years (Art. 5 (2));
  • Plots of land smaller than a ‘Family Agricultural Unit’ will be provided to the elderly and mothers heads of family (Art. 6(2)).

Decree No. 2569 of 2000 regulating Law 387 on internal displacement (2000)

Purpose: To give further substance to the provisions of Law 387, particularly with regard to the benefits of those who are registered as having ‘displaced’ status.

Responsibilities: The Social Solidarity Network is responsible for coordinating the National System of Information and Comprehensive Attention to the Displaced Population and, therefore, for coordinating the activities outlined in the Decree (Art. 1).

Content: The Decree gives practical direction for how to implement the issues addressed in Law 387, with particular reference to the Social Solidarity Network (Ch. I), the status of being ‘displaced’, registration as a displaced persons and the benefits linked to registration (Chs. II, III, IV), the National Information Network for the Attention of Populations Displaced by Violence (Ch. V), emergency humanitarian assistance (Ch. VI), socioeconomic stabilization (Ch. VII), and municipal, district and departmental Committees for Comprehensive Attention for the Populations Displaced by Violence (Ch. VIII).

Provisions of note include:

  • Grounds for terminating displaced status (Art. 3);
  • Information required from person seeking displaced status (Art. 6);
  • Application for status to be made within a year of first displacement (Art. 8);
  • Grounds for refusing to enter a person on the displaced registry (Art. 14);
  • Confidentiality of the registry of displaced persons (Art. 15);
  • Right to emergency humanitarian assistance for 3 months, with possible extension (Art. 20);
  • Grounds for extending the duration of humanitarian assistance (Art. 21);
  • Guarantee of free passage of humanitarian aid (Art. 24).

Agreement No. 244 of 2003 concerning the Subsidized Regime of the General System of Social Security in Health (2003)

Purpose: To define the form and conditions of operation of the Subsidized Regime of the General System of Social Security in Health, in particular, to determine the criteria for identifying, selecting and prioritizing the potential beneficiaries (Art. 1).

Responsibilities: Responsibility for management of the system rests with the Ministry of Health and the National Council for Social Security in Health.

Content: Identification of the displaced population for purposes of identifying potential beneficiaries will be carried out in accordance with the United System of Registration of the Social Solidarity Network (Art. 4). Among priority groups, displaced populations are sixth in priority after other vulnerable groups including pregnant women, children under five, the disabled, women heads of households and the elderly (Art. 7). Special provision is made for persons registered under the Subsidized Regime and who are subsequently internally displaced (Art. 33). Finally, Article 63 provides for the continued provision of health care to internally displaced persons.

Resolution No. 5139 of 2005 creating the Technical Committee for Information Systems of the National System for Comprehensive Assistance to Populations Displaced by Violence (2005)

Purpose: To establish a Technical Committee for Information Systems to coordinate the activities for constructing, exchanging and consolidating data in relation to the territorial and population characteristics and beneficiaries identified in the law on internal displacement.

Responsibilities: The Social Solidarity Network is responsible for ensuring application of the Resolution and for coordinating the newly created Technical Committee (Preamble, Art. 3).

Content: The Resolution details the functions of the Technical Committee (Art. 1), the Ministries and other authorities that comprise the Technical Committee (Art. 2).

Decree No. 250 of 2005 concerning the adoption of a National Plan for Comprehensive Attention to the Population Displaced by Violence (2005)

Purpose: Following a Constitutional Court decision (T-025 of 2004) raising concerns about the implementation of the government’s policies towards the internally displaced, the government adopted a new National Plan with the purpose of addressing these concerns.

Responsibilities: Sections 6 to 8 detail the institutional mechanisms responsible for implementing, monitoring and reporting on the Plan. Primary responsibility for ensuring implementation of the National Plan rests with the Social Solidarity Network (s. 6). In addition, three National Committees are to be established to monitor the implementation of the Plan (s.6). The National Committees report to the National Council for Attention to the Displaced Population which is responsible for overall monitoring of the Plan (s. 8.1). Other national authorities with specific responsibilities identified in the Plan include the National Information Network (s. 8.3) and the National Department of Planning which is charged with standardizing indicators to monitor the achievement of goals set in accordance with the National Plan (s. 8.2).

Content: The Plan establishes the principles, objectives and specific activities to be undertaken in the protection and provision of assistance to internally displaced persons. The Plan is divided according to three phases: protection and prevention (s. 5.1), emergency humanitarian assistance (s. 5.2), and socio-economic stabilization (s. 5.3). Each phase is to be addressed, taking into consideration certain strategic areas: humanitarian action, local economic development, social management, and habitat (s. 3).

Provisions of note include:

  • Differential treatment based on need (s. 1.1);
  • Participation of displaced populations (ss. 1.2, 3.3, 5.1.2.2, 5.3.2.2(B)), 6);
  • Attention to the needs of particularly vulnerable groups (s. 1.2);
  • Protection of border communities from being displaced across the border (s. 5.1.1 (A));
  • Recognized role for the National Human Rights Institution (ss. 5.1.1(C), 5.3.1, 6);
  • Strengthening the Inter-Institutional Committee for Early Warnings (s. 5.1.1(E));
  • Protection or property and property rights, including collective right (ss. 5.1.1(F), 5.3.4.2);
  • Right to emergency humanitarian assistance for 3 months, with possible extension (s. 5.2);
  • Right to education, including quotas and flexible education models (s. 5.3.2.1(B));
  • Use of indicators to determine when ‘displaced’ status[1] has ended (s. 5.3.5).


[1] The description of an ‘internally displaced person’ contained in the Introduction to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement is intended to be descriptive based on the fact of displacement and is not a legal definition equivalent to that of ‘refugee status’. In some circumstances it may be useful to develop a procedure by which the internally displaced are identified and registered in order to ensure they have access to necessary assistance. Any such ‘status’ should not, by design or in practice, limit the benefits to which the internally displaced are entitled. Cessation of such ‘status’ should come about only when the conditions for voluntary durable solutions have been achieved.