The ten girls and ten 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 over forty years of constant armed conflict. During their 10-day stay in Switzerland, the young people will get to know popular sports such as ice hockey, tennis and football with the help of sportspersons and coaches from different parts of the country. The programme also includes introductions to other sports, such as badminton, climbing, gymnastics, Swiss wrestling, floorball and volleyball.
The trip is intended to show young people alternative life paths by encouraging them to take part regularly in sport, to keep them from being drawn into criminal gangs or illegal armed groups owing to a lack of alternatives or prospects for the future. The trip is part of the "Diplomacia Deportiva" (sport diplomacy) programme launched by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011. Since 2011, a total of 658 Colombian children and young people had taken part in similar visits, travelling to 30 countries. This is the second time that Switzerland has participated in the programme as a host country. In December 2013, it hosted 26 other young people from the same region, who returned home after ten days filled with sporting experience and adventure.
By inviting young Colombians, Switzerland is underlining its determination to work even harder in future to protect children in armed conflicts, and to combat the use of child soldiers. By supporting concrete projects locally, Switzerland wants to prevent children becoming involved in paramilitary forces or other armed groups. It also supports programmes for school and vocational education and training, as well as psycho-social rehabilitation.
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 ten municipalities in the department of Nariño, the SDC supports projects for victims of anti-personnel mines, 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. As part of its economic development aid programme in Colombia, in the department of Nariño, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) also supports the production and export of high-quality cocoa beans, with customers including leading Swiss chocolate producers. This project aims to provide alternatives to migration to the cities, to reduce poverty in local communities, and thereby contribute to the stabilisation of the region.
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