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United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - States Parties Reports

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Colombia - Fourteenth Periodic Report of States Parties due in 2008 (Addendum) - Report submitted by States Parties in Accordance with Article 9 of the Convention [2008] UNCERDSPR 10; CERD/C/COL/14 (27 May 2008)

  • C. Article 3

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All

    Forms of Racial Discrimination






    5 May 2008


    Original: SPANISH





    Fourteenth periodic report of States parties due in 2008


    COLOMBIA[*], [**]

    [29 February 2008]


    Paragraphs Page


    A. Political organization 2-7 3

    B. Territory 8 4

    C. Culture and religion 9-11 4

    D. Sociodemographic context 12-23 4

    E. Economic context 24-26 6

    F. Armed Violence 27-36 7

    G. Legal framework for the protection of human rights 37-45 8


    CONVENTION 46-454 10

    A. General information on ethnicity in Colombia 46-143 10

    B. Article 2 144-196 59

    C. Article 3 197 73

    D. Article 4 198-202 73

    E. Article 5 203-399 74

    F. Article 6 400-402 128

    G. Article 7 403-454 131


    A. Recommendations made by the Committee following the

    consideration of the ninth periodic report 457-473 145

    B. Recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the

    situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of

    indigenous people 474-492 149

    C. Insufficiency of resources to implement the Recommendations 493-494 154


    1. Colombia is a social State, governed by the law and organized as a unitary, democratic, participatory and pluralistic republic, decentralized with autonomous territorial units. It is founded upon respect for human dignity, the work and solidarity of the individuals constituting it and the primacy of the general interest.

    A. Political organization

    2. The 1991 Political Constitution establishes three branches of public power: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The President of the Republic is Head of State and Head of Government and is elected for a term of four years by popular vote. In accordance with Legislative Act No. 02 of 2004, amending the Political Constitution, the President may be reelected for a further term. After four years of government (2002-2006). Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez was re-elected President of the Colombians in May 2006 for a further presidential term which will end in 2010.

    3. Ministers and heads of administrative departments direct and control the public administration; their number and their titles are determined by law. The departmental governors and municipal mayors are elected by popular vote. Public institutions, supervisory bodies and State-owned and mixed and commercial enterprises also form part of the executive branch.

    4. The legislative branch consists of the bicameral Congress of the Republic, which amends the Constitution, adopts legislation and exercises political control over the Government and the administration. The upper House, or Senate, comprises 100 senators who are elected by national constituency and two more who are elected in special constituencies for indigenous peoples. The lower House or House of Representatives is made up of 241 representatives elected by regional and special constituencies. Legislators are elected for a period of four years.

    5. The judicial authorities render independent and autonomous decisions. They consist of the Constitutional Court, which is responsible for maintaining the supremacy and integrity of the Constitution; the Supreme Court of Justice, which is the highest court of ordinary jurisdiction (with criminal, civil and labour divisions); the Council of State (the highest court for administrative disputes, and the Division of Consultation and the Civil Service); the Higher Council of the Judiciary (the highest administrative and disciplinary organ of the judiciary); the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Nation (the Prosecutor-General and deputy prosecutors) as the investigating body; the judicial district higher courts (usually located in departmental capitals and presided over by circuit or municipal court judges); and the Military Criminal Court, responsible for judging crimes committed by members of the forces of law and order on active service and connected with that service.

    6. The public supervisory bodies are made up of the Office of the Controller-General of the Republic and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The latter is the responsibility of the AttorneyGeneral of the Nation, who is elected by the Senate; its function is to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws, judicial rulings and administrative decisions, protect human rights and defend the collective interests of society and the environment and oversee the official behaviour of persons in public positions, including those held through popular vote, act as the preferred holder of disciplinary authority, and perform the required investigations and impose the appropriate sanctions.

    7. The People’s Advocate, under the direction of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, ensures the promotion, exercise, dissemination and defence of human rights, and is elected by the House of Representatives.

    B. Territory

    8. Colombia is a country of considerable geographical, ethnic and cultural diversity. It covers an area of 1,141,748 km2 and is divided into the following territorial units: departments, districts, municipalities and indigenous territories. The municipality is the basic unit of the State’s political and administrative structure. There are currently 32 departments, 4 districts and 1.098 municipalities.

    C. Culture and religion

    9. The people of Colombia are predominantly of mixed race. There are four main ethnic and social groups that stand apart from the majority of the population both geographically and culturally: the Afro-Colombian communities and the native islanders (Raizales) – accounting for 10.62 per cent of the population, the indigenous peoples – accounting for 3.3 per cent of the population – and the Roma or Gypsies.

    10. Spanish is recognized as the national language, although it has marked dialectal and regional characteristics. There is also great linguistic wealth among the country’s indigenous communities; 64 languages, from 22 families of indigenous language, have been identified. The Raizales of San Andrés and Providencia form part of the Afro-West Indian culture: they use English as their official language and San Andrés Creole in the home. In the Caribbean area of mainland Colombia, the inhabitants of San Basilio de Palenque speak Palenquero (the other Afro-Colombian Creole language). The Roma or Gypsy groups. Of Eastern European origin, speak their own language, Romany. Article 10 of the Political Constitution recognizes the languages and dialects of ethnic groups as official in their territories and stipulates that the education provided in communities with their own linguistic traditions will be bilingual.

    11. The 1991 Political Constitution established freedom of worship; thus everyone has the right to profess their religion freely and to disseminate it individually or collectively. According to the Register of Religious Groups, there are at present nearly 1,000 such groups in Colombia; however, the predominant form of worship is Christianity and the majority denomination is Roman Catholicism.

    D. Sociodemographic context

    1. Population

    12. According to the latest general census (2005), the country has 42,090,502 permanent inhabitants, making it the third most populated country in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico, and the twenty-eighth in the world. Of the total population, 51.2 per cent is female and 48.8 per cent male; 75 per cent lives in urban areas and a mere 25 per cent in rural areas.

    2. Fertility

    13. The demographic pattern of the Colombian population shows a drop in its fertility rates. This can be seen in a reduction of 4.2 children per woman in the fertility rates of the past 50 years. This is a consequence of Colombia’s participation in a growing trend towards the ability to exercise sexual and reproductive rights. In effect, the country belongs to the group of Latin American countries with the lowest unsatisfied demand for planning (approximately 6 per cent).

    3. Life expectancy

    14. Life expectancy at birth has increased owing to the population’s improved health conditions, which has led to a reduction in both overall and infant mortality rates: the former has fallen by 68 per cent in the past 50 years while the latter has dropped by 80 per cent. The fall in the infant mortality rate resulted from the reduction in the number of deaths from infectious, parasitic and respiratory diseases, which led to longer life expectancy at birth, an indicator that rose from 50.6 to 72.2 years between 1950 and 2005 and contributed to the demographic transition process.

    15. There has been an evident demographic trend of ageing of the population. The findings of the census (2005) show an increase in the middle-aged population. In point of fact, the population projections of the National Administrative Department for Statistics (DANE) show that by 2050 this pyramid will be transformed into a rectangle and the middle-aged and elderly population will be of the same size as that of children.

    4. Quality of life

    16. The National Government, as part of its social policy, has studied ways of reducing the vulnerability of population groups historically affected by conditions of inequality. This, together with the economic growth experienced between 2002 and 2005, produced significant progress where poverty and indigence are concerned, posting the lowest levels since comparative statistics were introduced.

    5. Poverty

    17. During the period 2002-2005 the poverty rate fell by 7.8 percentage points to 49.2 per cent, equivalent to a reduction of 2.3 million in the number of poor as a result of growth in per capita income and improved income distribution.

    18. By the same token, the indigence rate fell from 20.7 per cent to 14.7 per cent, which means that 2.2 million Colombians escaped from indigence. The number of persons living in indigence dropped from 8.8 million to 6.6 million between 2002 and 2005.

    19. The indicators continued to improve during 2006. The policy for eradicating poverty and inequality (MERD), to which we shall refer later, showed that the reduction of poverty at the national level was evident in urban and rural areas alike. In the former Colombia moved from 50.4 per cent in 2002 to 39.1 per cent in June 2006, while the indicator fell from 70.1 per cent to 62.1 per cent in rural areas.

    20. As regards extreme poverty, estimates show that the national aggregate fell by 10 points from 22 per cent in 2002 to 12 per cent in the second quarter of 2006. The reduction in rural areas was of the order of 13 points, falling from 34.7 per cent to 21.5 per cent, while the drop in urban areas was 8 points, moving from 16.7 per cent to 8.7 per cent.

    21. This positive step notwithstanding, a review of poverty and indigence rates in the long term demonstrate scant progress in the past few years, given that the backward step recorded at the end of the 1990s, when Colombia’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted for the first time in 30 years, had a marked influence on the results achieved.

    22. Sex-disaggregated data on poverty and indigence show that there are no significant differences at the national and urban levels. However, in rural areas there has been a sustained divide regarding poverty and indigence, with a higher of percentage of women experiencing both phenomena. The divide has been maintained at between three and four percentage points, a trend that continued in 2006.

    23. The results obtained during the period 2002-2006 reveal a Colombia with a growth rate of 6.8 per cent in 2006 and an average growth rate of 5 per cent for the period 2003-2006, far higher than the figure for the period 1996-2001 and in the decade of the 1990s. This growth went hand in hand with a reduction in inflation to levels to below five per cent. Income inequality also fell by four points during the same period.

    E. Economic context

    24. During the period 1996-2001 the Colombian economy barely grew at a rate of one per cent per annum, and 1999 witnessed the first decrease, of 4.3 per cent, in almost a century. The confidence of Colombians and private investment and consumption steadily declined during those years, reaching historically low levels in 2000. The social impact of the crisis was enormous: urban unemployment of over 20 per cent and drops in household incomes, especially among the poorest of the poor.

    25. As of 2002 the greater confidence generated by the achievements in security, accompanied by a policy for boosting economic development and a favourable international market environment, consolidated economic growth. The sustained increase in GDP as of 2002 led to annual growth in excess of five per cent in 2005, the highest in the past 10 years, a trend that was maintained in 2006. This enhanced outlook was reflected in the spreads, indicators of foreign investors’ perception of the Colombian market. Having reached a level of 1,096 basis points in September 2002, the last four years witnessed a considerable drop to 197 points on 7 August 2006. This reduction has generated greater confidence on the part of investors in relation to the other countries of Latin America.

    26. Progress relating to confidence, growth, better perception of the markets, together with increased liquidity and relatively low interest rates served as an engine of increased investment. Between 2002 and 2006 private investment increased by 8.5 percentage points of GDP from 8.6 per cent to 17.1 per cent. Public investment increased by 1.3 percentage points. At the same time total exports posted an average annual growth of 15.2 per cent between 2002 and 2005 and attained the historic figure of US$ 21.185 billion in 2005, representing an overall growth of 76.9 per cent as against the US$ 11.975 billion recorded in 2002. Between January and July 2006 total exports reached the US$ 13.65 billion mark, an increase of 15.2 per cent over the same period in 2005. Although this growth was mainly driven by traditional exports, which have grown by 95.2 per cent since 2002, it is important to underscore the growth of non-traditional exports, which grew by 62.3 per cent from US$ 6.666 billion in 2002 to US$ 10.819 billion in 2005.

    F. Armed Violence

    27. Unlawfully organized armed groups represent a threat to the stability of Colombian society, consisting as they do of agents that generate violence, owing to the structure of a war economy, based on abductions, extortion and drug production and trafficking. This situation has generated huge social, economic and political costs for the nation.

    28. In point of fact, the persistence of unlawful acts during 2006 reveals practices alien or contrary to recognition of and respect for the principles and values that are the basis of the guarantee and exercise of human rights, as well as a lack of any concrete commitment on the subject, especially on the part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC-EP).

    29. In effect, according to data from the DIJIN-PONAL (Criminal Investigation Office of the Colombian National Police), during 2006 the FARC-EP were responsible for 16.2 per cent of cases of massacres, 62.9 per cent of accidents caused by anti-personnel mines, 27 per cent of kidnappings with extortion and 72.4 per cent of terrorist attacks. In addition, 16 cases of attacks against villages in 2006 were attributed to this insurgent group.

    30. The National Liberation Army (ELN), for its part, entered a period of military weakening which has diminished its capacity to carry out violent assaults against the civilian population. However, it continues to infringe international humanitarian law; according to the National Fund for the Protection of Personal Freedom (Fondelibertad) and the Anti-Personnel Mines Observatory, in 2006 they were responsible for 15.6 per cent of abductions for purposes of extortion and 3.9 per cent of accidents involving anti-personnel mines.

    31. In addition, the Farsi and ELN continued with a campaign of forced displacement, generating in the period 2002-2006, according to the National Registry of Displaced Population (RUPD), a total of 1,245,378 persons in a situation of forced displacement, equivalent to an average of 682 persons per day.

    32. Civilians, particularly from ethnic groups, were affected by the practice of restrictions on the transport of food, medicines and people, sexual violence against women and girls, and recruitment of children. Lack of respect for medical missions became a recurrent practice in order to guarantee territorial control of strategic corridors and zones of influence.

    33. This situation poses an unequivocal challenge for the Colombian State and requires the provision of both human and economic resources for effectively confronting these illegal groups with a view to achieving peace and all citizens’ full enjoyment of rights. As evidence of the administration’s commitment to the subject of human rights, as part of State policy, 55 per cent of the resources allocated between 2002 and 2006 went on generating conditions of peace and development in depressed areas and among victims of violence, on the protection and promotion of human rights and international humanitarian law, on building up the machinery of justice and on strengthening coexistence and values and the executing agencies pursuing those objectives.

    34. Regarding the self-defence units, 2006 saw the culmination of the collective demobilization process, which involved the handover of weapons by 31,671 members of these organizations. This process entailed depriving the leaders of their liberty, prosecuting their collaborators and enforcing the Justice and Peace Act (Act 975 of 2005) as a framework for guaranteeing progress in the quest for truth, justice and reparation.

    35. Lastly, it should be pointed out that new criminal organizations or groups have been springing up in demobilized areas, in the form of gangs with completely criminal aims, and that links have been established with some ringleaders, middle ranks and demobilized members, in order to reinforce this new criminal apparatus that seeks to finance and fund itself exclusively from criminal acts.

    36. The emerging groups, a small proportion of whose members are demobilized members of self-defence units, have become an energizing force for organized crime, comprising as they do bodies devoted mainly to the cultivation, production, sale and distribution stages of drug trafficking; their cultivation zones are located in border areas in order to facilitate the transfer of drugs abroad. In 2006 the public security forces detained over 900 demobilized persons who had resumed criminal activities.

    G. Legal framework for the protection of human rights

    37. The Political Constitution of Colombia (CP) provides for a broad range of fundamental rights (Title II). In addition to first-generation civil and political rights, the Constitution also provides other economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, which have been especially developed through the laws of the Republic and other statutory norms and interpreted through the serious and important case law of the Constitutional Court.

    38. Implementation of these rights depends, in the first instance, on legal mechanisms approved by the legislature so that they can be developed by the executive branch through plans and programmes designed for their implementation at the national, regional and local levels.

    39. From the point of view of their binding force, the Constitution (CP, chap. 4, Title II) and the laws have established measures of various types whereby a citizen may have recourse to the judicial and administrative authorities in order to give effect to his or her rights.

    40. Remedy of protection (tutela). Article 86 of the Constitution establishes that every person has the right to bring an action of tutela before a judge, at any time or place, through a preferential and summary proceeding, himself/herself or through any person acting in his/her name, for the immediate protection of his/her fundamental constitutional rights when that person fears the latter may be violated by the action or omission of any public authority.

    41. Procedure of mandamus. The Political Constitution provides for the so-called procedure of mandamus (art. 87). Under this article any person may appear before the legal authority to demand the application of a law or fulfilment of an administrative act. In case of a successful action, the judicial ruling will order the delinquent authority to perform its mandated duty.

    42. However, attention should be drawn to the provisions of Act No. 393 of 1997, which governs the procedure of mandamus, to the effect that it is invalid: (a) when it is used to seek protection of rights that may be guaranteed under the tutela procedure (in which case the Court shall deal with the request under that procedure), and (b) in the event that the question is one of implementation of laws establishing costs.

    43. Popular actions. Provided for in the Political Constitution (art. 88), they enable citizens to seek the protection of collective rights and interests related to the homeland, space, public safety and health, administrative morality, the environment, free economic competition, and other matters of a similar nature defined by law (Act No. 472 of 1998).

    44. Right of petition. The right of petition (art. 23) is another constitutional mechanism which citizens may use in order to present petitions to the authorities for the general or private interest and to obtain a prompt response.

    45. Petitions for unconstitutionality and invalidation on grounds of unconstitutionality. Any citizen may file such a petition before the competent judicial authority for the purpose of deciding on the executory force of laws and administrative acts, in relation to both their material content and procedural irregularities.


    A. General information on ethnicity in Colombia

    46. This section of the report will deals with Colombia‘s specific ethnic characteristics. It includes information on the population’s ethnic characteristics and the problems relating thereto, on the legal framework for protecting ethnicity in the country, on the national policy enshrined in national development plans and on special situations of women and children belonging to ethnic minorities. This is followed by an explanation of specific measures taken by the Colombian State under articles 2 to 7 of the Convention.

    1. Ethnic characteristics of the population

    47. According to the latest general census (2005), the country has 42,090,502 permanent inhabitants. Of the total population, 51.2 per cent is female and 48.8 per cent male. Children and adolescents make up 40.22 per cent of the total population. Elderly men – aged 65 and over – number 1,187,165 and women in the same age group number 1,432,554, representing 6.31 per cent of the total population. Seventy-five per cent of the population lives in urban areas and a mere 25 per cent in rural areas, while some 14 per cent of individuals consider themselves to belong to one of the ethnic minorities (indigenous, Afro-Colombian and Roma).

    48. The census revealed the following results regarding ethnicity:


    The country has 84 ethnic or indigenous groups accounting for a population of 1,378,884 inhabitants and representing 3.3 per cent of the national population. Most of the indigenous population lives in rural areas (78 per cent).

    Indigenous populations are found in the country’s 32 departments; in 25 of them there is a clear presence of indigenous communities that live for the most part in resguardos (707) in 214 municipalities and in 12 departmental jurisdictions. The indigenous population is concentrated mainly in the departments of La Guajira, Cauca, Nariño and Córdoba; these account for 60 per cent of Colombia’s indigenous inhabitants. The departments in which indigenous inhabitants account for a high percentage of the total population are Guainía, (61.5 per cent), Vaupés (58.1 per cent), La Guajira (42.4 per cent), Amazonas (39.8 per cent) and Vichada (39.6 per cent). Data relating to the indigenous population broken down by department may be found in diagram 7.1 and table 7.1.

    These peoples possess different cultural traits regarding their linguistic characteristics, social and political organization, economic and productive relations, and management of and interaction with the environment. The indigenous communities speak 64 different languages belonging to 14 linguistic families; there are diverse forms of social organization based on kinship and community relations, with a multiplicity of structures that determine specific conditions such as the nature of alliances, residence, descent and filiation; varied forms of government with traditional ancestral authorities, and others adapted to the processes of interaction with national society: methods of production, family and community labour, predominantly devoted to subsistence crops or small-scale trade with generally balanced transactions regarding the use and appropriation of natural resources.”


    According to the 2005 census, the proportion of the population that considered itself to be Black or Afro-Colombian, including the Palenquero and Raizal population, is 4,261,996, equivalent to 10.6 per cent of the country’s total population. It should be pointed out that this figure refers to the population that considers itself to be Afro-Colombian.

    The Afro-Colombian population has a presence throughout the country. However, there are certain regions where it is in the majority or extremely numerous. Thus, 26 per cent of the country’s total Afro-Colombian population is concentrated in the municipalities of Cali, Cartagena and Buenaventura (13 per cent, 7 per cent and 6 per cent respectively). In the other municipalities their presence accounts for less than 3 per cent. It should be noted that 72 per cent of the total Afro-Colombian population is located in municipal capitals.

    At the same time, 76 of the country’s municipalities have a majority Afro-Colombian population (over 50 per cent). Of these, 92 per cent form part of the Pacific and Caribbean regions (64 per cent and 28 per cent respectively). The remainder are to be found in the departments of Caldas, Boyacá and Santander.

    Chocó is the department with a majority Afro-Colombian population. In actual fact, 74 per cent (286, 289) of its 388,476 inhabitants consider themselves to be Afro-Colombian. This department‘s Afro-Colombian population, together with that of Cauca, Nariño and Valle, accounts for 1,905,263 inhabitants.

    Diagram 1: Percentage of Afro-Colombian population by Department


    [*] This document contains the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th periodic reports of Colombia, due on 2 October 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, respectively. For the 8th and 9th periodic reports of Colombia (consolidated document) and the summary records of the meetings at which the Committee considered those reports, see documents CERD/C/332/Add.1 and CERD/C/SR.1356, 1357 and 1362.

    [**] In accordance with the information transmitted to the States parties regarding the processing of their reports, the present document was not formally edited before being sent to the United Nations translation services.

    GE.08-42184 (EXT)

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