Colombia: Contested spaces briefing paper

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Colombia has one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world. This briefing paper draws on Oxfam
    OXFAM AMERICA BRIEFING PAPER | MARCH 2013 SUMMARY Colombia has one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world, as well as the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Oxfam research in the department (province) of Nariño and in the Montes de María area in the department of Bolivar found that the Colombian governme nt‟s stabilization program (the National Consolidation Plan, or NCP) has not promoted peace, good governance, or sustainable development, as intended. The United States is one of the leading donors to NCP, along with Spain and the Netherlands. We found tha t NCP‟s “civil - military” approach tends to be more military than civilian, which forces beneficiaries to take sides in the conflict. In addition, Colombian military forces have taken over civilian tasks. NCP investments have propped up corrupt, unaccountable, and repressive local governments, some of which include leaders of illegal armed groups. Stabilization has also failed to recognize that women are often treated as spoils of war and that conflict increases gender-based violence. Colombia is one of the world‟s largest producers of cocaine, and reduced drug crop production is an important goal of NCP. But anti-drug efforts have failed to halt trafficking and have put communities at risk. Farmers who have participated in crop substitution charge that herbicide spraying destroyed their legal   crops, which in any event generate much less income than coca. Community leaders who support substitution say they feel betrayed by aid agencies, have lost credibility with their constituents, and face violent reprisals from drug lords and armed groups. Colombia‟s constitution and laws require the government and all develop ment and humanitarian actors to consult beneficiaries before implementing programs. Donors have made some serious efforts to do this, but people whom we interviewed felt that most development projects are conceived in far-away donor-country capitals or in Bogotá. Without an understanding of local cultures, needs, and aspirations, or beneficiary buy-in, projects cannot support broad-based growth and sustainable development. Colombia Contested spaces briefing paper    Colombia Contested Spaces Briefing Paper 2   The return of IDPs to their farmland is a key government objective. Previous Oxfam research has found that land restitution faces impediments such as the presence of illegal armed actors, poorly defined property rights, and a lack of local implementation capacity. We learned that because poor farmers tend to have high debt burdens, when they receive title to the land, they often use it as collateral, and wind up losing their land when they cannot repay their loans. As a result, land restitution can actually pave the way for large-scale commercial farmers and agribusiness to acquire the land for cultivation of cash crops rather than food crops for local markets. This not only creates food insecurity but also disempowers women food producers. 1  Finally, restitution and titling activists often face violence. We also found that humanitarian and development efforts are not integrated. Humanitarian assistance and short-term early recovery programs have led to chronic dependence on aid resources that do little or nothing to support sustainable livelihoods. To improve both security and development in Nariño and Montes de María, the Colombian government, with the support of donors, should: 1. Ensure that humanitarian and development programs engage the intended beneficiaries in program design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. 2. Better integrate humanitarian and development programs in order to prevent further forced displacement, provide protection and assistance to IDPs and those at risk of displacement, and foster equitable and sustainable development. 3. Carry out appropriate pre-program vetting and ongoing monitoring so that stabilization does not inadvertently provide resources to armed groups, human rights abusers, or corrupt entities and individuals. 4. Ensure that government civilian agencies lead development efforts. 5. Verify that land restitution programs provide former IDPs and rural poor people, including women, with secure access to resources, and avoid contributing to further concentration of landownership. 6. Avoid harm to civilians and their livelihoods when carrying out anti-drug efforts, and ensure that these activities do not fuel conflict. 7. Carry out crop substitution programs that provide beneficiaries with a decent livelihood.    Colombia Contested Spaces Briefing Paper 3   8. Provide assistance to IDPs and other people affected by conflict in ways that promote secure and sustainable livelihoods and the full rights of citizenship, without fostering dependency. INTRODUCTION Colombia has one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world. As a direct consequence, it is also the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). 2  Between 2002 and 2010, armed violence uprooted an average of 269,000 people each year, and today, one in 10 Colombians remains displaced. Only about 10 percent of IDPs have access to the shelter, income, and emergency aid to which they are entitled under Colombian law. About half of all displaced people are women, and they face sexual and labor exploitation, in addition to the loss of their land. 3  The armed conflict has had a far-reaching effect on Colombian society, and poses serious challenges to donors in implementing humanitarian and development programs. Humanitarian aid must respond to a “chronic emergen cy”  centered on several million IDPs. Development assistance should take into account the context of ongoing violence, narcotics cultivation and trafficking, and unequal access to resources.  Oxfam‟s research focused on two regions of the department 4  of Nariño and on the Montes de María area in the department of Bolivar  5  (see accompanying map). 6  In Nariño, one part of the work took place in the capital, Pasto, in the Andes Mountains, near the border with Ecuador. The people of this area are predominantly indigenous and of Caucasian descent. We also carried out interviews in the port city of Tumaco in Nariño‟s Pacific region, where a majority of the residents are Afro- Colombian. Nariño‟s economy is mostly agricultural, with subsistence and commercial fishing also important on the coast. Conflict has long affected Nariño, with anti-government guerrillas, older paramilitary groups and new illegal armed groups (NIAGs), and armed groups related to narcotics trafficking all active in both rural and urban settings. Violent crime is rampant: locals call Tumaco Colombia‟s murder capital. Nariño faces a humanitarian crisis, with Tumaco hosting a large IDP population. The international aid donor community is very active in the department, and Tumaco is also considered the Colombian foreign aid capital. The departmental government has made efforts to align aid with local development plans, 7  has established an office for international aid coordination, and is often cited as a model for effective aid use.    Colombia Contested Spaces Briefing Paper 4   The Colombian government classifies Montes de Marí a on Colombia‟s Caribbean coast as a post-conflict zone, 8  although many armed groups continue to operate there. 9  The national government, with substantial donor support, has undertaken major “ stabilization ”  efforts, including resettlement and land restitution programs for IDPs. Stabilization is a complex process that links security and development in order to move a country or zone from war to peace. In addition to seeking an end to violent conflict, stabilization emphasizes conflict-sensitive development. This approach stems from the idea that broad-based economic growth and sustainable livelihoods give people a stake in enduring peace. 10  The prospects for stabilization in Montes de María are mixed. It has fertile land and abundant water supplies, but the area‟s people  have very unequal
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