Topic Submissions

Colombian Development-Induced Displacement: Considering the Impact of International Law on Domestic Policy

  • Beatriz Eugenia Sánchez
  • René Urueña


It is well known that Colombia is the country with the highest number of internally displaced people (IDP) in the world. Almost 7.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes for reasons related to the internal armed conflict, which lasted for over fifty years. In order to meet the level of assistance required and protect the population, the Colombian State has developed a complex public policy, structured around the Deng Principles. Now, along with the involuntary displacement caused by the armed conflict, which is well known and studied, there is also another process of displacement that has remained completely hidden and is linked to the implementation of the development model. To this day the only forced displacement whose existence has been officially recognized in Colombia is that linked to the internal armed conflict. Exoduses caused by mining, the production of biofuels or any other kind of development project, face not only the absence of programmes to repair their rights and meet their basic needs, but also the denial of their status as IDPs. Indeed, authorities responsible for designing and implementing plans and projects on these industries have not recognized even the faintest possibility of them triggering an involuntary exodus. What prevents Colombian policy makers from expanding the definition of IDP in order to include those displaced by development projects? Domestic factors, such as multinational companies’ and Colombian government’s interests in protecting an economic model based on the exploitation of natural resources, provide just part of the answer. It is needed to look into the interaction among the Colombian public policy on internal displacement and the global regimes of forced displacement and foreign investment to understand the complete picture.