The 10 girls and 16 boys aged 14 to 17 come from the department of Nariño, a region in the south-west of Colombia that has been particularly shaken by the forty-plus years of armed conflict. During their 10-day visit to Switzerland, the young people will get to know popular sports such as football, ice hockey and basketball with the help of elite teams and sports coaches from different parts of the country. Introductions to other sports such as badminton, climbing, schwingen (Swiss wrestling), floorball and volleyball are also on the programme.
The trip is intended to give young people lifeperspectives by encouraging them to regularly take part in sports, to keep them from being drawn into criminal gangs or illegal armed groups by a lack of alternatives or prospects for the future. The trip is taking place as part of the "Diplomacia Deportiva" (sport diplomacy) programme launched by the Colombian government in 2011. In total 325 Colombian children and young people had taken part in similar visits by summer 2013, travelling to 17 countries on three continents.
By inviting the young Colombians, Switzerland is underlining its determination to work even harder in future to protect children in armed conflicts and against the use of child soldiers. Today over 250,000 children worldwide fight in regular armies or armed groups. By supporting concrete projects locally, increasing its commitment at the multilateral and political levels and working more intensively with the UN organisations based in Geneva, Switzerland wants to make an effective contribution to preventing the use of child soldiers and to reintegrating those who have been drawn into armed conflict.
Switzerland's long-standing commitment in Colombia
Switzerland has long been committed to improving the living conditions of the Colombian population and in particular of those affected by the armed conflict, as well as to the country's sustainable economic development. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) concentrates its efforts in Colombia on emergency humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance, protecting civilian populations and on providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation. In 10 municipalities in the department of Nariño, the SDC is supporting projects for mine victims and projects to protect communities threatened by forced displacement. The FDFA Human Security Division (HSD) is active in Colombia in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights protection and dealing with the past. The production and export of high-quality cocoa beans is one of the areas supported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). This project aims to provide alternatives to migration to the cities and reduce poverty in local communities, thereby contributing to stability in the region.
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