International community must help Colombia recover from decades of conflict – UN official

A little girl enjoys bathroom facilities donated by UN agencies at a school in Guapi, Colombia. Photo: FAO/Nady Gonzalez

22 August 2013 – Calling on the international community to help Colombia build on the “huge progress” made in recent years, a senior United Nations official today urged providing continued support to ensure the Latin American country fully recovers from decades of conflict.

Wrapping up a two day joint visit with international representatives of on-governmental organizations, John Ging, Director of Operations of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stressed despite much progress, there are still challenges in the country, including extreme poverty and displacement.

“We as the international community must support the people of Colombia as they strive to recover from decades of conflict,” Mr. Ging said following a two-day visit to the country.

“While there has been recent progress in the peace talks, there are still hundreds of thousands of people waiting for the most basic improvements in healthcare, sanitation, food security, education and livelihoods.”

The Colombian Government estimates that 600,000 people have died since the conflict between the country’s authorities and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began in the 1960s. Recently, the two sides have been engaged in negotiations on various issues in an effort to put an end to the long-running conflict.

During his visit, Mr. Ging travelled to the town of Guapi and the remote village of Limones to witness first-hand the situation of people displaced by violence and their host communities. In Guapi, families who fled fighting in nearby villages are living in precarious conditions, while the 800 residents of Limones have been displaced two years in succession by clashes between Government forces and the FARC.

“People in places like Guapi and Limones have suffered too much for far too long,” said Mr. Ging, noting that the resources needed to support the national humanitarian response are modest in global terms – a total of $119 million in 2013 – but are having a very positive impact at a critically important time.

“We can not take progress for granted when so many people still live in such appalling conditions,” he said. “The Government has the commitment to solve the remaining challenges and the international community must be equally resolved to stay the course.”

While in Colombia, Mr. Ging met with local authorities and organizations assisting people in Guapi and Limones and with national authorities in the capital, Bogotá.

“I was deeply impressed by the capacity and commitment of both the local and national authorities I met in Colombia,” said Mr. Ging. “The remarkable progress achieved and the strength of partnership with the international humanitarian organizations gives us confidence that the challenges ahead will be successfully overcome.

“While economic development is the solution for Colombia, international humanitarian organizations are playing an indispensable stabilizing role, creating the conditions necessary for development and the restoration of dignity and hope for those who have been impoverished and insecure for decades,” he added.


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