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Cablegate: Colombia: Government Shows Decline in New Displacements,

VZCZCXYZ0005
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3267/01 3002145
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 272145Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0526
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0122
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0452
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV LIMA 0478
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003267

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PGOV PTER CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA: GOVERNMENT SHOWS DECLINE IN NEW DISPLACEMENTS,
LAUNCHES NEW ASSISTANCE STRATEGY

REF: BOGOTA 1552

SUMMARY

-------

1. (U) The Colombian Government's (GOC) national registry of
internally displaced persons (IDPs) shows a 10% decline in
displacements in 2008. Social Action (Accion Social), the GOC's
development agency charged with IDP assistance coordination, has
registered only 86,397 new displacements through September of this
year, refusing nearly 40% of displacement declarations as
illegitimate. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)
reported similar trends in its assistance programs. However, the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a local human rights
group point out that the GOC's figures are preliminary and will
continue to climb due to the lag in persons coming forward to
register. To address a court decision determining that the GOC's
response to IDPs remains unconstitutional, the government has
launched a new strategy based on distributing cash during the
initial emergency assistance phase, contracting directly with local
operators to implement activities, and channeling IDPs into other
government assistance programs. The GOC budgeted a hefty $500
million for IDP programs in 2010, but it is not certain that it can
actually spend that much money this year. END SUMMARY.

NEW DISPLACEMENTS ON THE DECLINE

--------------------------------

2. (U) The GOC's national IDP registry shows a 10% decline in
displacements with 294,138 new IDPs in 2008 compared with 325,031
persons displaced in 2007. Armando Escobar, a senior policy
adviser for Accion Social, told the Embassy's Refugee Coordinator
and USAID IDP Office Director on August 27 that the government has
refused nearly 40% of IDP declarations in 2009, many cases due to
fraud. For example, many refused applicants are deemed to be
economic migrants or unqualified individuals looking to take
advantage of the government assistance. Additionally, the
government announced in April that it had detected a "mafia" of
lawyers and others charging individuals $20-$130 to help them file
bogus displacement claims to access assistance.

3. (SBU) Escobar added that the growth in cumulative IDP
registrations in the past year (404,152 registrations in 2008 for a
total of 3.2 million IDPs included in the GOC's national registry)
was a result of a 2008 Administrative Court (Consejo de Estado)
order requiring the government to include displacements from all
previous years. Under the previous system, an IDP only had one
calendar year from displacement to register with the government.
According to Accion Social, only 86,397 of the 223,962 (40%) IDPs
registered from January to September 2009 were actually displaced
in this year and 40,552 (21%) were from displacements that occurred
in 2000 and earlier.

4. (U) Martin Bissig, the humanitarian assistance coordinator for
ICRC Colombia, told us on September 16 that ICRC has refused
approximately half of IDP applicants seeking assistance in 2009 for
reasons similar to those cited by Accion Social (para 2). Bissig
attributed this to improved verification procedures, but added that
the amount of displacement in the country remains a concern with an
average of nearly 300,000 new displacements included in the
government's registry in each of the past four years. As a result,
ICRC will likely assist fewer than the planned 70,000 beneficiaries


based on current trends in 2009.

NOT THE FINAL NUMBERS

---------------------

5. (U) Roberto Mignone, the deputy representative for UNHCR
Colombia, told us on August 26 that the GOC's statistics showing
declining displacements are premature. IDPs from 2008 continue to
register and there have been significant displacement events in
recent months, so 2008 and 2009 figures will continue to climb. He
added that under-registration remains a problem given many IDPs
cannot or do not register with the government due to fear of
retaliation from illegal armed actors or lack of access to the
registration system.

6. (U) In an October 13 press release, a local human rights group,
the Observatory for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES),
reported that at least 3,000 persons had been displaced in the
previous five days. CODHES also noted that approximately 900
persons in the Pacific Coast area of the department of Narino had
fled confrontations between the Colombian Military and the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) since September 3.
Marco Romero, the president of CODHES, told us on August 27 that
the government's registry does not accurately reflect the true
scope of the displacement problem, and that Accion Social
arbitrarily refuses many cases. He estimated the GOC
under-registers approximately 30% of displacements.

7. (U) CODHES issued a report in April that said displacements had
risen nearly 25% in 2008 with an estimated 380,863 new IDPs, which
was comparable to the peak of displacement in 2002 (reftel).
However, CODHES has a broader definition of displacement than the
GOC that includes IDPs who have migrated in response to drug
eradication efforts, as well as IDPs who may have already
registered with the GOC and have been displaced a second or more
times. CODHES estimates displacements based on information
obtained from the Catholic Church, ICRC, the media, civil society,
and some field work.

AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL STATE OF AFFAIRS

------------------------------------

8. (U) Despite the decline in its statistics, the GOC continues to
face challenges in providing effective assistance to IDPs. In
January 2009, the Constitutional Court found that the
"unconstitutional state of affairs" in the government's response --
originally declared in 2004 -- persisted and ordered the government
to reformulate its programs and policies. The Court also ordered
the government to implement specific protection and assistance
programs for displaced indigenous, Afro-Colombians, and disabled
persons (a previous 2008 order provided this right for displaced
women and children). To lift the unconstitutional state, the
government must demonstrate that assistance programs guarantee the
effective "enjoyment of rights" of IDPs as measured against 40
Court-mandated rights across the categories of minimal existence,
socio-economic stabilization, protection, and reparation.

ACCION SOCIAL'S NEW IDP STRATEGY


--------------------------------

9. (U) Accion Social's Escobar told us that the GOC started a new
strategy in July that will address the immense needs of IDPs and
the Court's concerns. The new IDP strategy distributes cash during
the 90-day emergency assistance phase, instead of providing food
aid, household kits, psychosocial attention, and income generation
assistance directly to IDPs in an integrated assistance package
according to the old strategy. An IDP family of three to five
persons in a large city (more than 1 million habitants) will
receive approximately $210 per month for 90 days to purchase food,
housing, household items, and other necessities. The amount is
slightly less for IDPs in rural areas and smaller cities and towns.
(Note: The national minimum wage is approximately $250 per month.)
Additional emergency assistance beyond 90 days may be provided
based on a needs assessment. The goal is to provide assistance in
a quicker, more cost effective manner, and to fully integrate IDP
assistance into the government's larger strategy to address poverty
and other vulnerable populations.

10. (U) Under the new strategy, the government has contracted
directly with local operators to provide assistance such as income
generation activities to IDPs. Accion Social allowed agreements
with its two primary international implementing partners,
International Organization for Migration (IOM) and CHF
International, to expire in February. Accion Social determined
that it could gain considerable savings by contracting directly
with local operators already implementing these activities. Since
July, Accion Social has awarded $50 million in contracts to local
operators, with plans for more awards later this year.

11. (U) Escobar explained that under the new strategy, once an IDP
is registered and receives emergency cash assistance, Accion Social
assesses the needs of the IDP and makes a referral to other
government programs for vulnerable populations, such as "Red
Juntos" (an extreme poverty reduction program), "Familias en
Accion" (a social assistance program for vulnerable families with
children), and job training with the national training service or
other providers. Accion Social also plans to develop a new program
targeting vulnerable women and to provide other "differentiated"
assistance programs targeting other vulnerable groups, such as
indigenous and Afro-Colombian IDPs. The new strategy provides
accompaniment to IDPs for five years.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE 3.2 MILLION DETAILS

---------------------------------------

12. (U) A major challenge for the new strategy is the size of the
GOC's IDP registry. More than 3.2 million IDPs have been
registered to date, including 294,138 new displacements in 2008.
Accion Social has to go back and assess their needs, while still
managing new registrations. Escobar estimates that approximately
700,000 family groups are in the government's registry, out of
which 400,000 households can actually be located. Escobar hopes to
have the 400,000 family units assessed by December, and to start
referring them into other GOC programs.

13. (SBU) Escobar estimates that, by the end of five years of
assistance, at least half of IDPs will be "enjoying their full
rights" as defined by the Court. A 2008 survey carried out by the


Commission for the Observation of Public Policy on Internal
Displacement (a Constitutional Court-mandated civil society group
formed to provide research and data on the IDP situation) found
that while 84% of IDPs were receiving some assistance, only 1% were
enjoying all of their rights. Accion Social and other government
agencies are due to provide an update on progress to the Court on
October 30, and then again in July 2010.

A BUDGET TO MATCH THE CHALLENGE

-------------------------------

14. (SBU) The GOC announced it will budget approximately $500
million for IDP programs in 2010. This is an eight-fold increase
over the IDP budget in 2003 -- and a tripling of the budget over
the past four years. However, now that that Accion Social has
ended the IDP emergency assistance and income generation contracts
with its two primary international implementing partners and
contracted directly with local operators, it is not certain they
will have the capacity to actually program all of the budget this
year.
BROWNFIELD

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