Development environment


Mid-year update 2017 (January - June)

New displacements (Conflict and violence) IDMC (1 January - 30 June 2017)
New displacements (Disasters) IDMC (1 January - 30 June 2017)

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Country Information

Population UN Population Division (as of 2017)
Total number of IDPs (Conflict and violence) IDMC (as of 31 December 2017)
New displacements (Conflict and violence) IDMC (1 January - 31 December 2017)
New displacements (Disasters) IDMC (1 January - 31 December 2016)
Refugees UNHCR (as of 2016)

Conflict and violence displacement figures

Latest GRID confidence assessment

Displacement type IDPs (Stock) New Displacement (Flow) Returnees (Stock)
Reporting units People
Methodology Registration
Geographical disaggregation Country/territory - admin 0 Country/territory - admin 0 Country/territory - admin 0
Geographical coverage No No No
Frequency of reporting Upon request Upon request Every 6 months
Disaggregation on sex No No No
Disaggregation on age No No No
Data triangulation No Triangulation Good triangulation No Triangulation
Data on settlement elsewhere Partial No Partial
Data on returns Partial No Partial
Data on local integration Partial No Partial
Data on deaths Yes No Yes
Data on births No No No

Latest GRID figures analysis

IDMC's estimates for Colombia are based on the Victim's Registry (RUV), which keeps record of all victims of the decades-long civil war. Since the RUV only counts the total amount of IDPS since 1985, IDMC has partnered with them to obtain a Stock figure by discounting people who have died, and people who have moved towards a durable solution. The latter (Returns and Provisional Solutions) are approximated based on some of the RUV's social and economic indicators. The New Displacement Figure is a projection by the UN's Colombia Information Management and Analysis Unit based on RUV data.

Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 57 KB)

Latest GRID stock figure by year of data update

Disaster displacement figures

New displacements

Events timeline


For decades, Colombia has faced one of the world’s most severe internal displacement situations caused by conflict. While the 2016 peace agreement was a significant achievement, displacement has continued. Obstacles to return and a lack of durable solutions also persist, as some armed groups continue to be activeviolate a wide range of human rights and victim’s comprehensive compensation and land issues remain unresolved. The illegal drug tradetrafficking, sudden-onset disasters and large-scale land acquisitions for development projects have added to the complexity of displacement in the country.

Drivers of displacement

Discontent arising from economic and political exclusion, unresolved land issues, the unequal distribution of resources and poor governance led to fighting in Colombia in the mid-1960s. Over the course of fivesix decades, the conflict has been further fuelled by the impacts of illegal drug trade as well as major economic interests and parties to the conflict trying to gain control over land. Fighting has involved government security forces, left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and organised crime syndicates. The conflict has mostly been fought in rural areas, but over time it has spread throughout the country.

People have fled their homes for numerous reasons, including extortion, anti-personnel mines, threats and pressure to collaborate with armed groups, forced recruitment of children by armed groups, and sexual and gender-based violence. The conflict has been marked by gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture.

Displacing civilians allows the parties to the conflict to gain territorial control, weaken civilian support for the enemyorganisations, seize valuable land and transport illegal drugs. Displacement is therefore both a result of armed conflict and a strategy of the parties to clear land and extend their control and economic gain. More than eight million hectares3.5 million hectares of land have been abandoned or seized during the conflict. A weak state presence, corruption, informal land rights, and high levels of poverty and vulnerability have also contributed to land dispossession and displacement.

The growth of the drug trade and the resulting “war on drugs” between the government, cartels and other armed groups has been a driver of violence and displacement since the early 1970s. Fumigations to eradicate coca plantations, coupled with counterinsurgency operations and a failure to prevent wider environmental damage or provide meaningful economic alternatives, have further increased displacement. In addition, people have been displaced by fighting over strategic drug corridors.

Between 2004 and 2013, the World Bank financed 11 projects with confirmed or possible displacement in Colombia. Six of those projects displaced 10,446 people. The three projects that displaced the most people focused on disaster vulnerability reduction, urban transit and mass transit. Colombia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of palm oil, and much of it is produced on land seized from civilians during the conflict.

Locals have also been threatened, displaced and killed by armed groups that have taken control of mines, which have become increasingly important sources of revenue. Private-sector coal mining has also displaced people in Colombia directly through land acquisition and indirectly through environmental contamination. Colombia has the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America and aims to double the country’s coal mining activities by 2019.

With a vast part of its territory covered by the Andean mountain range and areas of high seismic potential and volcanic activity, Colombia is highly prone to natural hazards. Cities, and especially the mountainous capital Bogotá, are at particularly high risk of earthquakes, flood and landslides. This is because of rapid and haphazard urbanisation, dense informal settlements on unstable land, and a significant amount of construction in violation of safety regulations.

Data on file with IDMC shows that between 2008 and 2016, sudden-onset disasters, mainly arising from floods and earthquakes, displaced an average of about 373,000 people per year. One of the most significant examples is the displacement of 1.5 million people in the 2010 floods. Some IDPs previously displaced by conflict have been displaced again by disasters.

Patterns of displacement

Displacement related to conflict affects the vast majority of Colombia’s territory, and IDPs are scattered throughout the country. Nearly 90 per cent of municipalities have had IDPs flee to or from their jurisdictions. IDPs’ patterns of movement appear to be guided primarily by their networks and not by an objective assessment of the security, economic or other conditions in potential destination areas.

By 2006, people were fleeing individually or in relatively small groups instead of massive waves as had previously been the case. They generally moved from rural areas to villages, small rural towns or larger urban areas. Displacement within and between urban areas started to grow around 2005 and included repeated displacement in urban areas as well as urban-to-rural displacement in response to attempts by paramilitary or criminal groups to control poor areas.

There are no displacement camps in Colombia. IDPs have mostly sought shelter in towns and cities, and they live scattered among the general population. Many IDPs move in with relatives or informal settlements on the periphery of cities. In 2016, the majority of IDPs were living in informal settlements in the country’s 27 largest cities. About a third of all people displaced by conflict in Colombia live in departments along the Pacific coast, including Valle del Cauca, Nariño, Antioquia, Cauca and Chocó. Some have been confined or endure restricted mobility due to hostilities, landmines and other threats.

Some IDPs have returned with very little toor no assistance, but their return is obstructed by several factors. Armed groups are fighting for control of areas previously held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym FARC), which signed the 2016 peace agreement with the government, and people fear the return of former FARC insurgents to their communities. Some IDPs’ land cannot be restituted because it is now being used for large-scale agriculture and mining, or it has been devastated by illegal mining.

The departments of La Guajira, Putumayo, Chocó, Antioquia and Bolivar had the largest number of people affected by natural disasters in 2016, and some were also affected by the conflict. There is a gap in information on the patterns of movement of people displaced by development projects and disasters following their initial displacement.

Priority needs and vulnerabilities

Information on IDPs’ needs is only compiled for people displaced by conflict in Colombia. The departments with people internally displaced by conflict and disasters who are most in need include Antioquia, Chocó, Cauca, Caquetá, Huila, Tolima, Meta, Guaviare, Arauca, Córdoba, Nariño, Putumayo, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander and La Guajira. The UN humanitarian country team reported in 2016 that their main needs are protection from armed groups and extortion, access to healthcare, adequate housing, water, sanitation and education. Progress on land restitution has also been extremely slow.

Internally displaced women, children, adolescents and African-Colombian and indigenous peoples are disproportionally impacted by displacement, and they are particularly vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation. African-Colombian and indigenous peoples are at particularly high risk because their land is often located in rural, resource-rich areas that are targeted by armed groups. Internally displaced women struggle to register in the victims’ registry and to access government assistance and livelihoods, and they are forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms.

Selected references

Republic of Colombia, Constitutional Court, Third Review Chamber, Decision T-025, 2004

Government of Colombia, Decree No. 250, National Action Plan for Integral Response to the Population Displaced Due to Violence, 2005

Government of Colombia, Decree 2569, Humanitarian Assistance and Attention, 2014

Final Accord with FARC, Victims section, pp.124-192, 2016

IDMC Law and Policies database