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Located at the northern tip of South America, Colombia is the only country on that continent with a coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Four decades of internal armed conflict fuelled by the drug trade has taken its toll on the country, causing the deaths of at least 200,000 people and giving rise to the world’s second highest internally displaced population. Many of the most serious children’s rights violations relate to the armed conflict, including the recruitment of children to act as soldiers, extrajudicial executions and the enforced disappearance of children.
Colombia is located at the northern tip of South America, near the equator. It is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Its neighbours are Ecuador to the south and Panama to the north; it also shares borders with Peru, Brazil and Venezuela. The country's capital is Bogota; other major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena. Colombian territory also includes several Caribbean and Pacific islands.
Colombia is one of the world's 17 'mega-diverse' countries with coastline, savanna, rainforest and, along its spine, the Andes mountain range.
People and Language
The population is 45 million, making it the third largest in South America after Brazil and Mexico.
Ethnic groups include mestizo (50 per cent), white (22 per cent), afro-colombian (26 per cent) and Amerindian (two per cent). Colombia has 82 indigenous groups, the largest of which include: the wayuus, the nasa-páez, the pastos, the emberas y the senús, and has 710 reservations, spread throughout the country.
Spanish is the dominant language, but more than 180 indigenous languages are also spoken.
History and Politics
Colombia is a presidential representative democratic republic. The current president is Juan Manuel Santos who was elected to office in 2010.
The internal armed conflict spanning four decades (the longest in Latin America) involving the government, guerrilla groups (mainly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC) and paramilitaries has taken its toll on the rule of law, economy and development in general. Many of those involved, from left-wing rebels to right-wing paramilitaries are in the pay of drug cartels and landowners who have oftentimes received support from police or army.
Violence has waned since around 2002 during the tenure of Alvaro Uribe, with more than 50,000 paramilitaries and insurgents surrendering their arms since that time. But insurgents and paramilitaries retain strongholds in parts of the countryside and attacks against civilians and human rights workers continue.
Colombia has the fourth largest economy in Latin America. Improvements in the security situation in recent years have created a sense of confidence in the economy and attracted growing foreign direct investment.
However, it is the sixth most unequal country in the world, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The country has an abundance of natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron, gold and emeralds. Industries include mining, textiles, hydrocarbons, apparel and agribusiness (cut flowers and coffee), among others. Its principal trading partners are the United States and China, as well as Venezuela until a recent border dispute.
Colombia remains a leading producer of coca leaf, poppy and marijuana plants, and is a major exporter of cocaine and inputs for cocaine and heroine . The US has financed the fight against the drug trade - 'Plan Colombia' - which critics dismiss as failing to tackle the root causes of the drug trade and say has had little impact on supply.
Media and Civil Society
Colombia's global press freedom ranking has dropped 19 places over the last year, with attacks on journalists and allegations of journalists being wire-tapped by officials on the rise. It currently sits at 145 out of 178 in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index, with one being the most free.
Colombia is also a dangerous place for human rights defenders and trade union leaders who have been persecuted, killed or stigmatised as guerrilla members.
Human Rights and Children's Rights
Concerns have been raised about a spectrum of human rights violations by UN human rights monitors in relation to Colombia. Particularly egregious have been the sweeping evictions of indigenous peoples from their land by all parties to the conflict in which many have been killed as well as the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
- Proyecto Latinamérica Wikispaces Colombia: Grupos étnicos
- Proyecto Latinamérica Wikispaces 
- Verdad Abierta.com, "Desmovilización y desarme"
- Crisis States Programme "Geografia de los Cultivos Ilicitos y Conflicto Armado en Colombia", Universidad de los Andes, 2004
- BBC Country Profile: Colombia
- El Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE)
- Crisis States Programme, "Geografia de los Cultivos Ilicitos y Conflicto Armado en Colombia", Universidad de los Andes-2004]
- Verdad Abierta.com, "Desmovilización y desarme"
- Proyecto Latinamérica Wikispaces