Humanitarian action in Colombia
by Humanitarian Practice Network December 2009

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange, commissioned in collaboration with the Humanitarian Studies Institute (Instituto de Estudios Humanitarios), focuses on the humanitarian situation in Colombia. Although the Colombian government has been keen to demonstrate progress in defeating and demobilising the country’s various armed groups, and to depict Colombia as having entered a post-conflict phase, pressing humanitarian concerns remain, related to mass internal displacement and continuing human rights violations.

Although the government uses ‘post-conflict’ discourse, articles in this issue highlight continued obstacles to returning the internally displaced, delivering relief and providing protection to those in need. These challenges largely stem from ongoing conflict, including the use of landmines. The government’s decision to redefine the conflict as a war against terrorism has further constrained the space for neutral and impartial humanitarian action.

The policy and practice section of this issue contains a trio of articles focused on humanitarian reform, including a summary of a recent report on NGO engagement with the humanitarian reform process in five countries, the findings from the Global WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene promotion) Cluster’s learning initiative, and an analysis of how institutionalising inclusive and consultative attitudes and behaviour leaders can improve cluster performance. Other articles examine the importance of NGOs doing less talking and more active listening when trying to gain acceptance at local level, the challenges of tackling Sleeping Sickness during conflict, addressing the impact of urban growth and displacement in Kabul, how effective NGO collaboration can enhance humanitarian response and a new tool designed to help humanitarian agencies better analyse market-systems in emergencies.