Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace

February 25, 2009

The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement announces the publication of Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace. This new report examines the relationship between displacement and peacebuilding in Colombia, arguing that sustainable peace requires durable solutions for the internally displaced.

Complete report also available in Spanish »

Colombia has one of the world’s largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated between 2.6 and 4.3 million people. Although Colombia’s government has implemented political reconciliation and socioeconomic stabilization measures in recent years, long-term solutions for millions of displaced Colombians continue to be elusive.

Currently, no peace process exists in Colombia. Those displaced continue to face discrimination in the cities and localities to which they have been displaced. Although the Colombian government has substantially increased its budget for IDP assistance, solutions remain elusive. Moreover, as the report finds, governmental processes of reconciliation and policies to support IDPs are being pursued on parallel tracks. IDPs, who consider themselves victims of the conflict, note that far more resources are being allocated to support the re-integration of former combatants on a per capita basis than to the displaced, raising questions of equity and justice.

Internal displacement in Colombia also presents a unique set of challenges due to its protracted and urban nature. Some Colombian IDPs have been displaced for decades, moving from rural areas to towns and from towns to larger cities. Many, perhaps most, IDPs are reluctant to return to their communities because of insecurity. The report argues that efforts to return land and property will be key to finding durable solutions for the displaced as will measures of transitional justice which recognize that IDPs have also been victims of Colombia’s long conflict. As the background study by Prof. Roberto Vidal Lopez of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana notes, one of the difficulties in finding durable solutions is the lack of consensus on what constitutes a durable solution.

“The presence of IDP populations complicates the already difficult process of peacebuilding,” Co-Director Elizabeth Ferris claims. “Yet finding solutions for IDPs – solutions which can be sustained and which are based on full participation by IDPs – can contribute to peacebuilding processes.”

The participation of IDPs themselves in decisions about their future is essential. As representatives of civil society and IDP groups pointed out during the seminar on which the report is based, opportunities for IDP participation are limited. Furthermore, protection needs to be extended to leaders of IDP associations, who continue to face threats and assassinations. Providing security, not only for IDP leaders but also for the larger IDP community, will be critical in advancing both peacebuilding activities and finding durable solutions for their displacement.

To request a hard copy of the report, please contact the Project at [email protected] or +1 (202) 797-2477.

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