Country Background

Over the last half-century, civil conflict in Colombia has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and has displaced millions.  After a decade of political violence known as La Violencia (1948–58), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) were established in the 1960s. These two insurgent groups have opposed the Colombian government and primarily seek to change the country’s economic model. Fifty years of bloody armed conflict was halted in November 2016 when, after four years of formal peace negotiations, the Colombian Government signed a final peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The accord calls for members of the FARC to demobilize, disarm, and reincorporate into society and politics. While the violence has officially halted, the peace process still faces many challenges today. Colombia is also still afflicted by narcoterrorism and drug-trafficking.

What Nonprofits Need to Know

Below in the blue is an overview of the humanitarian and peacebuilding needs in Colombia. In the red are the primary sanctioned groups presently operating there. Because U.S. law prohibits the provision of “material support” to listed terrorists individuals and groups as well as engaging in trade with sanctioned persons and entities, the presence of these groups and sanctions programs can impact the delivery of aid and peacebuilding programs. The list below is non-exhaustive and changes frequently, so it is important for nonprofits to check all partners and those with whom they engage in transactions against, at a minimum, the U.S. Specially Designated National (SDN) and the United Nations Security Council Consolidated lists. Below the charts is information on OFAC licenses, where applicable, and links to our research and advocacy, and other relevant information.  

Humanitarian &
Peacebuilding Needs

According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overviewmore than 5.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Colombia.

Food Security and Nutrition: Indigenous communities, children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the elderly in rural areas, experience higher levels of food insecurity. Contamination of water supplies due to mining, illicit crop fumigation, and frequent oil spills have worsened humanitarian emergencies. 

Displacement: After decades of armed conflict, 7.7 million Colombians remain internally displaced

Crisis Spillover from Venezuela: Population influx from Venezuela to Colombia is straining the capacity of services food, health care services, nutrition assistance, and WASH support are among the most urgent humanitarian needs. USAID is providing humanitarian assistance in Colombia for vulnerable Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their country.

Ongoing Hostilities: Although the FARC has officially become a political party, some ex-guerrilla members have refused to demobilize and have continued militant and drug trafficking activities. Since the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, over 439 human rights workers have been killed in the country by reemerging right-wing militias and left-wing guerrillas that fought during the civil war.

Gender-based violence (GBV): Young girls between ages 10 and 14 are at a higher risk of sexual abuse.   


Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC)This Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group was originally founded in 1964. In September 2017, the FARC entered the political arena as the “Revolutionary Alternative Common Force,” and aims to change Colombia’s economic model. The group operates throughout the country and is still designated as an FTO by the U.S. More information here.

National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN): Formed in the 1960s, this insurgent group primarily seeks to represent the rural poor against the nation’s wealthy and block the privatization of national resources. The group mainly operates in the rural and mountainous areas in the northeast and is designated as an FTO by the U.S. More information here.

Primary Terrorist Presence &
Other Sanctioned Groups

Find a full list of entities and individuals sanctioned in Colombia by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control here. Access overview of Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions here.

“The humanitarian situation has deteriorated for civilians. Over the last year, our teams noted 987 violations of international humanitarian law and other humanitarian rules”

Christoph Harnisch, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegation in Colombia, March 2020

Licenses offered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces sanctions programs. It has a licensing process that allows transactions with sanctioned entities, including listed terrorist groups, that would otherwise be unlawful. Nonprofits that operate in areas affected by sanctions often apply for licenses from OFAC so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law, engage in peacebuilding activities and more. Find more information here.

Policy Reform

The Charity & Security Network advocates for change in national security measures to better support nonprofits working around the world. In fragile contexts, counterterrorism measures often impede humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations from accessing finance for their programs and serving populations in need. Find out more on our key issues below:

  • Find more information on Material Support here.
  • Find more information on Financial Access here.

Useful Links

last updated: May 6, 2020