Bridging the Gaps in Africa. The Americas. Asia. Europe.
In recent decades in Latin America and the Caribbean, and especially in the countries in which RET works, there have been profound changes in several aspects of the political and economic order. All of these processes have had an immediate impact upon the youth population in particular.
With almost 3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Colombia has the highest number of IDPs in the Western Hemisphere, second after Sudan. The displacement has occurred as a result of the four-decade long internal armed conflict, which is fought mainly between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and the government’s armed forces, other contributing factors being the illegal production of coca and illegal drug trafficking. In 2006, UNHCR estimated that only one in eight students had returned to school after having been displaced. Teenage and young girls are regularly subjected to sexual exploitation or rape, and this factors largely into their unwillingness or inability to attend school. The provision of protection to IDPs is increasingly difficult, as many are targeted by the government and other actors, and they are constantly threatened or intimidated, with regular IDP leaders being attacked and killed, and a general lack of security in most areas of both return and refuge.
Indigenous populations are often directly targeted by both paramilitaries and guerrillas, and there are occasional occurrences of forced recruitment of youth into these groups. A limited response capacity to address the needs of displaced women and girls, the lack of security in some provinces and border areas, difficulties in accessing land, and limited opportunities for work or other economic options, hamper possibilities for durable solutions.
The RET has been active in Colombia since 2003, providing a multitude of programmes to ease the transition of displaced youth and to ensure the creation of sustainable livelihoods through education, training and psychosocial assistance. The provision of formal secondary education, vocational training, life skills courses, technical support for teachers, and psychosocial support for teachers and students, all combine to give the displaced youth in Colombia a better chance at fostering relationships and integrating within their new communities, and assist in preventing the recruitment of children and youth into forms of child labour, gangs or armed groups.