"Preventing and mitigating the impact of humanitarian crises on minorities"
Paper by Erlendy Cuero
Title: Lessons from the organizational process of Afro-Colombian victims for the protection of ethnic
minorities in humanitarian crisis contexts.
Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in this Forum. I deeply appreciate that as a
direct victim of a conflict you have invited me to share you my experience in this important event.
My name is Erlendy Cuervo Bravo. I am the vice president of the National Association of Displaced
Afro-Colombians, AFRODES. AFRODES is a platform made up of 100 Afro-Colombian and
Afro-Colombian grassroots organizations that have been displaced as a result of the Colombian
This conflict has had very serious differential impacts on Afro-Colombian communities. Of the 8
million victims that have produced this conflict of more than 50 years, at least 2 million are
Afro-Colombians. Taking into account that the last national census showed that at least 10% of the
population is Afro-Colombian. This means that 50% of our communities have been expelled from
their territories and/or have been victims of other violations of their rights because of the conflict.
Personally, I have been a victim and survivor of this conflict. I was born and raised in a village in the
rural area of Buenaventura (Colombia's main seaport on the Pacific coast). In the late 1980s, the
Colombian armed conflict reached my region. Military confrontations to control that region, between
the Colombian army, leftist guerrillas, paramilitary forces and drug traffickers, began to produce a
deep humanitarian crisis: thousands of families were displaced and those who remained were
subjected to multiple violations of their human rights. During this dynamic, my father was killed by
armed people who had links with the guerrillas, who later became associated with drug dealers and
paramilitaries. Between 2000 and 2008 several members of my family were killed: two uncles, six
cousins and a nephew. In the year 2000, four women in my family and I were victims of sexual
violence perpetrated by armed people. I was forced to move to the urban area of Cali, and at the
end of 2000 I began to work with organizational processes that sought to support the
Afro-Colombian communities that remained displaced.
This leadership job has not been easy. Especially because my family and I have continued to be
victims of threats and attacks on our lives. And unfortunately, the Colombian government has not
given me the protection measures necessary to continue my leadership work. Nowadays, my
family’s and my own lives are still at risk. I have been invited to this panel to share with you my
thoughts on the steps that states and the United Nations should take to prevent or mitigate the
negative consequences of humanitarian crises on minorities. The experience of Afro-Colombian
organizational processes in dealing with the humanitarian crisis produced by the conflict undoubtedly
offers important lessons. I will share with you some:
Statistical and cultural invisibility of minorities is a significant risk factor in the face
of humanitarian crises. Colombia, cultural diversity finally began to be included as an
ethnic variable in population censuses after hundreds of years because of a constitutional
reform in 1991. Racial discrimination still characterizes our society and institutions, it has