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Colombians Fight for the Rights of Displaced Persons

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The LAWG Education Fund (LAWGEF), Catholic Relief Services and other partners hosted a delegation from Colombia in the spring of this year that focused on the humanitarian crisis of internal displacement. With 3.8 million people internally displaced in the last two decades, Colombia’s ongoing crisis of displacement is second only to Sudan’s.

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LAWG staff with the delegation (left to right): Lisa Haugaard, Marco Romero, Lainie Scudder, Governor Eduardo Zúñiga, Jennifer Trowbridge and Father Maurizio Pontin.

Marco Romero is the president of CODHES, the nongovernmental Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement. Marco, also a political science professor with the National University of Colombia discussed with U.S. policy makers Colombia’s legal obligations, as mandated by the Constitutional Court, to provide adequate assistance to the internally displaced and discuss the need for reparations and return of land.

Eduardo Zúñiga is the Governor of Nariño, a province in southwestern Colombia that has been particularly hard hit by the armed conflict in recent years. Governor Zuñiga will described how his regional government is addressing the challenges of ongoing violence, drug production and U.S.-funded aerial spraying, and offered recommendations to improve counternarcotics policy and protect the poor rural communities so harshly affected by the conflict.

Father Maurizio Pontin coordinates programs and policy for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees carried out by the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Hailing originally from Italy, Father Maurizio has spent more than 30 years in South America.

 
 
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Left to right: Governor Zúñiga, Father Maurizio, Adam Isacson (CIP), Jennifer Trowbridge (LAWG) and Lisa Haugaard (LAWG).
The delegation meets in the LAWG office upon arrival for a strategy session.
 
 
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Father Maurizio, Jennifer Trowbridge and Marco Romero stand in front of the Capitol building after hosting a well-attended briefing on Colombia’s humanitarian crisis in the House of Representatives.
 
 
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Lisa Haugaard, Marco Romero and Governor Zúñiga sit with a statue of Albert Einstein outside the U.S. Department of State.
After giving their regards to Einstein, the group discussed in detail the challenges of displacement, prevention of violence and U.S. policy surrounding Colombia’s armed conflict with State Department officials.

“As long as I have any choice in the matter, I shall live only in a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail.”
– Albert Einstein, as quoted at this memorial

 
 
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Marco Romero speaks for a public audience at Provisions Library about the root causes of forced displacement in Colombia, its effect on Colombians and their communities, and what the United States can do to alleviate the current crisis.
The event was hosted by the Colombia Human Rights Committee.
 
 
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Governor Eduardo Zúñiga and Father Maurizio during their time in Washington, DC.
 
 
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Father Maurizio, Lisa Haugaard, Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli of the Washington Office on Latin America and Marco Romero in front of the Brookings Institution after a meeting to discuss displacement in Colombia.
The Brookings Institution is well known for its leadership in advocating for the rights of refugees and IDPs worldwide.
 
 
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Here, Governor Zúñiga speaks about the increasingly difficult situation of displaced persons in Nariño, some of whom have been forced to leave their homes and farms due to U.S.-funded aerial spraying.
Each of the members of the delegation was interviewed for the radio program Voice of America.
 
 
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The Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) is grateful for financial support by the Ford Foundation and Catholic Relief Services which made this delegation possible. Thanks also to our partner organizations in organizing the events, including the Washington Office on Latin America, Catholic Relief Services, Colombia Human Rights Committee, Center for International Policy and U.S. Office on Colombia.

To learn more about CODHES, you can visit their website at:
www.codhes.org.

To learn more about Pastoral Social, you can visit their website at:
www.pastoralsocialcolombia.org.

Both websites are in Spanish only.