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Third Committee

(New York, November 3, 2009)

Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, Item 41: Report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

 

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation welcomes the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and expresses its appreciation for the report on this matter submitted to the General Assembly. I would like to highlight, in particular, the scope of the programmes and the challenges identified by the Office in relation to the mandate in the field of protection to refugees, as well as in the activities of cooperation offered to States in the area of humanitarian assistance to IDPs.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Colombia has assumed its primary responsibility for providing comprehensive assistance to displaced people. As indicated in the report, the national authorities have continued to improve the protection of IDPs, thanks to a solid legal and policy framework that has been strengthened in the country, including its different stages of prevention, assistance and social and economic stabilization.

The policy being implemented has also been examined in our Constitutional Court, which has adopted decisions on additional measures to address specific effects of displacement. The Court and the Government have defined indicators that allow assessing progress and challenges existing for the effective enjoyment of the rights of displaced people.

In compliance with recent decisions of the Court, the Government and indigenous communities have initiated a broad process of consultations to develop a national program of guarantees of rights of indigenous people affected by displacement. In addition to this, we started the consultations to elaborate safeguard plans for 34 indigenous peoples, aimed at strengthening their protection against violence and displacement.

A Guideline for the Gender Differential Approach in the policy for assistance to displaced population was also adopted by the Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Gender Equity, with the support of UNHCR.

Last August, the Presidential Agency for Social Action, which coordinates the policy of comprehensive assistance for the displaced, presented the annual report on its activities. Since 2006, the state invests in this policy an annual budget of $500 million. For 2010 a similar amount is guaranteed.

As a result of the strengthening of the various actions in this area, there are decisive increases in the coverage of health services and education. The health insurance subsidized by the State, that covered 30% of IDPs in 2002, has reached 83% of these people in 2009. In education, coverage reaches 77.8%. The capacity to provide emergency humanitarian assistance was also strengthened by an increased budget in this area, which went from USD 23 million in 2007, to USD 80 million in 2008.

Providing durable solutions is one of the priorities and challenges of our policy. In the return or in the resettlement, actions to empower affected communities are essential, in order to enable them for their social and economic stabilization.

In this field, the Presidential Agency supported 75 thousand new families with income generating programs and this number is expected to reach the goal of 100 thousand families at the end of 2009. In addition, 390 thousand displaced families have been included in the cash transfer program called Families in Action, which guarantees subsidies conditional on education and health requirements for children.

In terms of house acquisition, in the last year with the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, 23 thousand new subsidies were allocated to people in situation of displacement. To preserve the land ownership of displaced persons, the Government has intervened in order to provide special protection to more than 3.2 million hectares belonging to 87,500 people.

My delegation would also like to highlight the observed decline in Colombia in the annual number of new cases of displacement. That number is lower by 33% compared with that recorded in 2002. This is greatly a result of the decline in violence and crime, thanks to the Democratic Security Policy and the demobilization of more than 52 thousand members of illegal armed groups. This change in the phenomenon can not be seen in the UNHCR report, given that the figure presented there is an accumulated number for a period exceeding 11 years. The data in this report do not reflect either the returns that have been made possible with the accompaniment of the state and other entities, nor the numbers of people that have gradually been able to stabilize their situation.

Mr. Chairman,

In Colombia, the Office of UNHCR has provided significant cooperation to the Colombian State in the response to internal displacement. Its recent assistance has focused in areas related to strengthening the legal and policy framework, the support for enabling affected people to participate in policy formulation and to access state services, and the promotion of monitoring mechanisms to identify aspects to be improved in state programs. The contribution in the areas of prevention, assistance and durable solutions, has been widely recognized.

My delegation would also stress the importance of partnerships and coordination schemes of UNHCR with national governments, as an essential strategy to strengthen action to protect refugees, in line with the international obligations of States. It is, likewise, a particularly useful strategy to support national efforts aimed at preventing and responding to the challenges of internal displacement, whose primary attention lies with the States.

Building and strengthening national capacities for prevention, response and assistance in relation to populations of concern to UNHCR are a basic requirement for the effectiveness of actions taken. My delegation will continue to support all decisions of the General Assembly in that regard, because we understand that this would strengthen the action of the Office of the UNHCR at the global level and in the field, according to their core mandates.

Thank you very much.

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