Approximately one-quarter of Colombia’s 45 million citizens are of African descent. In many regions, Afro-Colombian communities maintain their own languages and distinct cultural traditions. Throughout history, they have profoundly contributed to Colombia’s economic, cultural and institutional growth. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the violence manifested in Colombia's forty year civil war has taken its greatest toll on Colombians living in poverty–a significant number of whom are Afro-Colombians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) notes that an estimated 80% of Afro-Colombians live in conditions of extreme poverty while nationwide less than 59% of the total populations lives below the poverty line.
The majority of Afro-Colombian civilians reside in some of the most neglected and conflictive regions of the country where they are caught in combat among state, guerrilla and paramilitary forces. As a result, over a third of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are Afro-Colombian. Consequently, the conflict reinforces discriminatory structures and policies as it disproportionately affects the Afro-Colombian community and deepens the poverty and inequality in which that community lives. Therefore, this marginalized community requires economic development alternatives and social support from state and international actors in order to protect the community's human rights and to create viable options for the future.
Afro-Colombian children in the Urabá region gather around the gravesite of a fellow community member. The violence that forced communities to flee, left many dead. Upon return to their land, communities often clear brush from the cemeteries and build new grave markers to honor the dead.
The U.S. Office on Colombia is an independent non-profit organization, not affiliated with any political party, that seeks to educate U.S. policymakers, the media and the U.S. public about the impact of U.S. policy on Colombia.