by Sebastián Albuja
IDMC has just published a report on land restitution for IDPs in Colombia, entitled ‘Building momentum for land restoration: Towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia.’ The report examines progress towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia, placing a restitution bill recently introduced by the Government in the context of previous initiatives, analyzing its contents and potential obstacles, and offering recommendations to guarantee victims’ rights in the process. We are glad to introduce the report here and we invite TN readers to download it at our website.
Protracted internal armed conflict and massive human rights abuses by illegal armed groups in Colombia have resulted in extensive loss of land by internally displaced people (IDPs) over the last decades. The number of IDPs is estimated to be between 3.3 and 4.9 million, most of them peasants, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians. Roughly half of all internally displaced families owned or occupied land before their displacement, and virtually all of them have lost it as a result.
Displacement and land loss have also meant loss of livelihoods—around half of Colombia’s IDPs were above the poverty threshold before displacement, compared with only three per cent afterwards. Giving IDPs back their land is therefore an urgent task as it is a hugely complex one.
There have been several attempts to start a restitution process in the last five years, but none of them have been successful, mostly because the government’s will to return land to IDPs has been shown lacking. The Constitutional Court has taken steps to encourage restitution. In January 2009, it ordered the government to take comprehensive steps to redress the land rights of IDPs and to put in place mechanisms to prevent future violations.
The newly-installed Santos administration pledged during the election campaign to restitute land to Colombia’s IDPs and has now taken steps to fulfill its promise by bringing a bill for land restitution to Congress in September 2010. The bill offers a realistic opportunity to provide restitution, based on government support that previous attempts lacked.