The group of young Colombians are aged between 11 and 16 and will be staying in Switzerland from 8 to 18 September. They come from the department of Nariño in the south-west of the country, a region particularly affected by the armed conflict that has torn Colombia apart for the last 50 years and where Switzerland has been active through its development cooperation efforts. The young Colombians are scheduled to meet Swiss sportsmen and women, and to learn about popular games such as basketball and tennis. They will also be introduced to other sports such as badminton, hiking, taekwando, floorball and handball. The programme is taking place in Macolin, Bienne, Fribourg and the region of Gruyère.
The aim of the visit is to use sport to give young people from a region plagued by armed conflict hope for a better life. The idea is to help them avoid being tempted to join an illegal or criminal group by giving them access to a world of culture and sport. They are selected on the basis of their school results and motivation in sport and sent abroad to meet other young sportsmen and women. The visits are organised as part of the Diplomacia Deportiva (sports diplomacy) programme, which was launched in 2011 by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are 40 countries taking part in the programme. Together with the Colombian foreign ministry, the FDFA organised the first edition of the Young Athletes Without Borders project at the end of 2013. A total of 66 young people have visited Switzerland between then and 2015.
By supporting this project, Switzerland is underlining its commitment to protecting young people in armed conflicts and combating the recruitment of child soldiers. During an evaluation of the three previous editions of the programme in Colombia, one of the mid-term results of the project was highlighted – the young people who had visited Switzerland were sharing their experiences and becoming leaders in their communities, sports clubs and schools. The study also demonstrated that the project had a positive impact on the academic careers of the participants, 90% of whom went on to continue their schooling.
This visit has been organised by the FDFA in cooperation with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Office of Sport, Presence Switzerland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Switzerland's long-standing commitment in Colombia
Switzerland has been working for many years to improve living conditions for people in Colombia, particularly victims of the armed conflict, and to support sustainable economic development in the country. The SDC's activities focus mainly on emergency aid, reconstruction assistance, protection of the civilian population, and access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. It also supports projects that aim to help victims of anti-personnel mines and local inhabitants threatened by forced eviction in ten of the municipalities in the department of Nariño. In addition, the FDFA's Human Security Division is engaged in peace promotion, human rights protection and dealing with the past in Colombia. As part of Switzerland's economic development cooperation activities, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) also supports the production and export of premium cocoa beans which are used by Swiss chocolatiers. This project aims to create alternatives to urban migration, to reduce rural poverty and to make an overall contribution to stabilising the region.
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