• Colombia's route to peace
  • for children in Colombia
    Protection and education
  • Empower vulnerable youth
Show thumbnails Hide thumbnails

Colombia

Enabling children to build resilience and fulfil their potential free from trauma and violence.

National context

Significant steps have been taken in recent years to finally bring Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict to an end. The 2016 formation of a peace accord between the government and revolutionary armed group the FARC was the most significant of these steps.
 
A public rejection of the amnesty terms offered to FARC members meant that the deal had to be redrafted - but a peace accord was eventually ratified by the country’s congress in November 2016. The FARC has now begun the process of putting down its arms. The
National Liberation Army (ELN) - the country’s second-largest guerrilla group - also moved to the negotiating table but these peace talks broke down after several breaches of its ceasefire. 
 
Yet - despite these welcome developments - Colombia remains a long way from being at peace. Right wing paramilitaries remain active in many parts of the country and FARC dissidents continue to battle government armed forces. Criminal groups have also moved to occupy territory vacated by the FARC - further fuelling the country’s war against illegal economies, including drugs, human trafficking and illegal mining. 
 
Colombia remains the country with the largest population of internally displaced people in the world - 7.4 million people are still forced from their homes, according to figures from UNHCR.
 

Situation of children

Despite the various peace initiatives of recent years, children and youth in Colombia continue to face a number of significant threats to their safety. 

The risk of recruitment into the various armed groups still active in the country persists. Although it is impossible to know how many children are forced to participate in armed conflict, official figures estimate that the FARC alone recruited at least 11,000 children and young people into its ranks between 1972 and 2014. These children are recruited for purposes including information gathering, surveillance and direct involvement in hostilities.

Sexual and gender-based violence is another critical danger to youth. Armed groups and criminal gangs in Colombia use sexual exploitation and the threat of abuse as a means of exercising social control in their areas of influence. The majority of victims are female - including an increasing number of girls between the ages of ten and 14.
 
The production of illegal drugs and illegal gold mining operations sees many children forced into difficult and dangerous forms of labour. Children and youth involved in the drugs trade typically work as plantation workers or drug couriers - posing a threat to their physical safety.
 
 

What we do

War Child Holland works inside Colombia to improve children’s psychosocial wellbeing and strengthen their capacity to cope with the violence they experience. Together with parents and caregivers, teachers and children taking part in our programmes, we work to boost protection mechanisms and prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed groups. 
 
We also work with schools in the country to ensure vulnerable children have a protective and safe learning environment. Psychosocial support, education and measures to boost children’s participation in local decision-making processes are frequently combined to ensure our interventions are as effective as possible.
 
 

Our projects

Learning in Peace

This project is designed to enable ‘at risk’ children and young people to enjoy improved protection and education opportunities.

Building a Better Future Together

Project designed to facilitate the reintegration of former child soldiers and establish community-based child protection structures.
 

The Peace Circus

A peace building collaboration program oriented toward the sustainability and transfer of skills to the communities. To create change one has to be creative, innovative and think outside the box.
 

Connectivity and e-Learning Hubs 

Initiative to empower vulnerable youth through the use of ICT for life-skills training, vocational education and employment skills development.
 

Peace Bicycles Youth Centre

Facility where youth can strengthen their resilience against the recruitment tactics of gangs and acquire peaceful conflict resolution skills.
 

Voices of children

 

A Second Chance

 
Jorge is just one of the millions of young people in Colombia who are forced to deal with the effects of violence and intimidation on a daily basis. 
 
Jorge believes he is lucky to be alive following his recruitment into an armed group when he was just 13. “If the group that I was with hadn’t held me back, I would probably have been killed,” he remembers.
 
“They killed my best friend in front of me. I’ll never be able to forget it.” 
 
Jorge was eventually free from the armed group - and soon joined War Child’s activities. He learned to reject violence and aggression and begin to deal with his emotions. 
 
“I have personally made a lot of changes,” Jorge says. “One of them is that I have learned to live together with others and be together without fighting.” 
 

“It is a very big opportunity that I have been given. I am very grateful and will be for the rest of my life.”