Cablegate: Prm's a/S Dewey Discusses Displacement, Peace

Published: Tue 20 Apr 2004 01:56 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
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1. (SBU) As part of his March 7-10 visit to Colombia, PRM
Bureau's Assistant Secretary Gene Dewey met with PRM partner
organizations that provide short- and medium-term assistance
to displaced persons. Most interlocutors agreed that there
has been a significant reduction in the number of internally
displaced persons since the Uribe Administration took office
18 months ago, but cautioned that this positive trend could
be reversed if paramilitary demobilization negotiations break
down or guerrillas launch major offensives. PRM partners
noted that a decrease in mass displacements has been largely
offset by an increase in individual displacements and
lamented a GOC reluctance to focus on long-term assistance.
PRM partners told A/S Dewey that they were generally
satisfied with GOC-provided security. End Summary.
PRM Partners Note Decline in Displacements
2. (SBU) A/S Dewey stressed to PRM partner organizations -
the Colombia representative of the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), the Colombia representative of the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
Community-Habitat-Finance (CHF), UNICEF, the Pan American
Health Organization, and the World Food Program (WFP) - the
need to resist complacency in the face of a nearly 50 percent
reduction in new displacements in 2003, and instead continue
securing international support until Colombia's security
situation permits the GOC to devote adequate resources to the
IDP problem. All concurred. According to UNHCR, the
reduction in displacements is the result of the paramilitary
peace process and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia's (FARC) shift to a defensive posture. UNHCR
cautioned that the IDP situation could change rapidly should
the peace process fail. The ICRC also feared that
paramilitary demobilization, unless accompanied by an
effective state presence, could lead the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN)
to provoke more mass displacements. CHF noted that conflict
between illegal armed groups in urban areas has produced an
increase in intra-urban displacement and a reluctance among
IDPs to settle in urban areas traditionally occupied by
displaced populations.
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Individual Displacements Overtake Mass Displacements
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3. (SBU) According to the WFP, the decrease in mass
displacements has been largely offset by an increase in less
visible individual displacements. Significant numbers of
displaced individuals do not register with authorities upon
their arrival in large cities (as a result, they do not
qualify for government assistance) for fear they will be
pressured to return to their places of origin. The CHF
agreed. The ICRC noted that individually displaced persons,
as opposed to victims of mass displacements, tend to not
return to their point of origin out of security concerns.
The ICRC added that GOC emphasis on returning individually
displaced persons to their homes is counterproductive. CHF
added that those who return to their homes regions are not
guaranteed access to land they previously occupied.
Need to Focus on Long-Term Assistance
4. (SBU) UNHCR and others agreed that assistance should not
be viewed as merely providing for material needs, but also as
ensuring that IDPs enjoy the rights and government
protections enjoyed by other Colombians. UNHCR stated that
the current system of assistance, with its focus on providing
emergency aid for the first three to six months of
displacement, leaves many IDPs at risk. UNHCR said GOC
agencies are not spending all the funds budgeted for
populations in the post-emergency phases of displacement.
The ICRC stated that GOC reluctance to focus on long-term
assistance precluded the ICRC from doing the same. ICRC
speculated that greater pressure from the international
community was needed to convince the GOC to focus on
long-term issues.
5. (SBU) UNICEF noted that the GOC's failure to gather
sufficient information on displaced populations had led it to
downplay the scope of the IDP problem and hobbled its ability
to provide government services and protections. The WFP
predicted that increased individual displacement would cause
greater financial costs in the long run, because it is harder
to attend to the needs of dispersed individuals than a
geographically concentrated group. Cautioning against
reliance on dogmatic distinctions between emergency and
recovery assistance and noting that responses and assistance
need to be tailored to specific situations, the WFP observed
that PRM funding mechanisms allow for greater flexibility
than those of other international donors.
PRM Partners' Security Concerns
6. (SBU) Those present said they were generally satisfied
with GOC-provided security and noted that they generally had
not been disturbed by illegal armed groups, although there
had been isolated problems in conflict zones. UNHCR and the
ICRC noted they have been fortunate, but worry that the
security situation might change as the FARC becomes more
desperate. UNICEF noted that the UN is not a military
objective of the FARC or ELN. UNICEF expressed concern that
the paramilitary peace process could result in a fragmented
command structure in which individual commanders may no
longer feel constrained to tolerate the presence of
international organizations in areas they control.
National Planning Needed
7. (SBU) Participants agreed that addressing the IDP problem
must become a national priority. UNHCR noted that the
national response must involve local governments in
developing local solutions. A/S Dewey agreed with the
group's assessment and pledged that the USG would remain
fully engaged.
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