Colombia: Paza la Paz - A step towards peace

Background and Project Context

"Paz total", absolute peace - this is the goal the Colombian government wants to achieve in the near future. However, the reality is very different: Armed groups are on the lookout for new members, particularly in rural areas, and young people in specific are often forcibly recruited or join voluntarily due to a lack of perspectives. The bloodshed between rival gangs has increased and with it the mistrust in the government's plans.

"Paza la Paz", a step towards peace, on the other hand, sounds more realistic. The Horyzon project exists for 20 years and has become an important part of many young people's lives. 14 to 28-year-olds can take part in the one-year programme and choose between three different modules, which they attend in addition to school: "Civil Society Participation", "Professional Independence" and "Peaceful Coexistence & Conflict Resolution". Depending on their interests, the young people acquire knowledge and practical skills in the various areas and take part in the workshops. They are also taught valuable life skills that enable them to better deal with the everyday challenges of their lives.

Thanks to the project, the young men and women are given structure in their everyday lives, which are often characterised by conflicts within the family, experiences of violence, psychological problems or social isolation. By regularly taking part in the project, the young people can make good use of their free time, get to know other young people of the same age in a protected environment and receive support during the challenging period of their development from adolescents to young adults.

Locations

Activities & Effects

Project part 1: Promotion of life skills

Activities

  • Implementation of workshops to build life skills in the areas of communication, problem and conflict resolution, interpersonal relationships and leadership

Expected result for 2024 (output)

  • 1,200 young people attend at least 16 of 20 workshop hours to strengthen their life skills.

Long-term result (outcome)

  • At least 80% of young people state at the end of the project that their quality of life has improved thanks to the skills learned in the project.
Project part 2: Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution

Activities

  • Conducting workshops on peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution with 1,000 young people.
  • Implementation of peace campaigns in the communities.

Expected results for 2024 (outputs)

  • 800 young people have attended at least 32 out of a total of 40 hours of training on “Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution”
  • The young people will carry out 21 initiatives to promote peaceful coexistence in their communities, reaching at least 1,000 people.

Long-term result (outcome)

  • At least 80% of the young people state at the end of the project that they perceive their social environment as more peaceful thanks to the project.
Project part 3: Civil society participation

Activities

  • Implementation of workshops on civil society participation with 230 young people.
  • Participation in institutional networks, councils and working groups on relevant youth issues (public policy, nature conservation, minority rights)

Expected results for 2024 (outputs)

  • 180 young people have attended at least 32 out of 40 hours of training on civil society participation
  • The young people carry out seven campaigns in the socio-political field, reaching at least 800 people
  • At least 18 young people take a seat in a public office (e.g. school council, youth parliament, etc.).

Long-term result (outcome)

  • At least 80% of young people state at the end of the project that they participate more frequently in socio-political processes in their communities thanks to the project.
Project part 4: Professional independence

Activities

  • Implementation of workshops on the topic of self-employment with 300 young people.
  • Implementation of career counseling and strengthening of skills relevant to the labor market

Expected results for 2024 (outputs)

  • 240 young people have attended at least 32 of 40 hours of entrepreneurial training
  • At least 35 business ideas have been developed and tested. Of these, 21 business ideas will be selected to receive start-up capital and professional support.

Long-term result (outcome)

  • At the end of the project, at least 80% of the young people state that their economic situation has improved thanks to the project.

 

Results 2022

Life Skills
  • 1'628 young people completed the life skills module.
  • 87.4% of the young people said that the project had helped them develop personal and social skills to help solve social problems.
  • 88% of the young people think that their quality of life improved thanks to the project.
Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 639 young people completed the module "Peaceful Coexistence and Conflict Resolution".
  • 535 young people distinguished themselves through special commitment and were trained as peace promoters.
  • The young people carried out 36 peace initiatives in their communities on topics such as violence prevention, mental health, prevention of adolescent pregnancies and commemoration of the victims of the armed conflict. Through the initiatives, 6'880 people were reached.
  • 91% of the young people said that the peace initiatives they had carried out had led to an improvement in the peace situation in their communities.
Youth Organisation and Civil Society Participation
  • 308 young people completed the module "Youth Organisation and Participation".

  • 226 young people showed special commitment and were trained as civil society activists.

  • The young people conducted 26 campaigns in their communities to demand their rights, reaching 2'559 people.

  • At the end of the project, 55% of the young people said that they had regularly engaged in socio-political processes in the past three months.

  • 66 young people now occupy seats on local youth committees, youth round tables, youth councils or municipal youth platforms.

Professional independence
  • 337 young people completed the module on professional self-employment.
  • 64 business ideas were supported with start-up capital.
  • 235 young people gained access to technical training, university or employment through the project.
  • 76% of the young people said that the skills gained in the project will lead to an improvement in the economic situation of their family or community.

Results 2021

Life Skills
  • 1,443 young people completed the psychosocial competence module.
  • At the end of the project, 84% of the young people stated that they had acquired skills that helped them to better cope with the daily challenges of life.
  • 74% of the young people stated that through the project they had developed personal and social skills to participate in solving social problems.
  • 75% of the young people believe that their quality of life improved thanks to the project.
Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 948 young people completed the Peaceful Coexistence and Conflict Resolution module.
  • 323 young people distinguished themselves through special commitment and were trained as peace promoters.
  • The participants carried out 40 peace initiatives in their communities on topics such as violence prevention, mental health, adolescent pregnancy prevention and commemoration of victims of the armed conflict. Through these initiatives, 3,279 people were reached.
  • 90% of participants reported that the peace initiatives they implemented led to an improvement in the peace situation in their communities.
Youth Organisation and Civil Society Participation
  • 201 adolescents completed the Youth Organizing and Participation module.
  • 159 adolescents distinguished themselves through special commitment and were trained as civil society activists.
  • The participants conducted 18 campaigns in their communities to demand their rights, reaching a total of 2,246 people.
  • 43% of the participants stated at the end of the project that they had regularly engaged in socio-political processes in the past 3 months.
  • Numerous adolescents fill seats on local youth committees, youth roundtables, youth councils, or community youth platforms.
Professional independence
  • 159 adolescents stood out for their special commitment and were trained as leaders in social entrepreneurship.
  • 29 business ideas were supported with start-up capital.
  • 121 young people gained access to technical training, university or employment through the project.
  • 84% of the young people said that the skills acquired in the project had led to an improvement in the economic situation of their family or community.

Results 2020

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 1'115 young people (58% women) from the seven cities completed the training (30 hours) in "Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution". Through the training, the young people learned how to deal with conflicts without violence and strengthened their skills as mediators in conflict situations
  • 225 young people (62% women) were trained as youth leaders. They initiated 30 independent projects together with their groups in their quarters to foster peace and solidarity in society.
  • 631 adolescents participated in these activities.
  • 424 parents took part in the digital family meeting where the project was presented and the emotional and communicative bond between adolescents and their parents were strengthened. 
Youth organisation and participation in civil society
  • 819 young people (57% women) completed the training (30 hours) in youth organisation and participation. They now know their rights and duties as well as the democratic mechanisms. They have also been trained in social skills such as teamwork, communication, decision-making and group leadership. These skills enable them to participate actively in civil society and in designated institutions such as youth or neighbourhood councils.
  • 124 young people were involved in a total of 31 public bodies such as local youth committees, neighbourhood councils, women's groups and school councils.
  • The adolescents worked out 16 local initiatives and were able to present 12 of them to political important figures. 
Income generation
  • 1’090 young people successfully completed the training in income generation (20 hours).
  • 43 income generation projects were launched. 33 small businesses received small start-up financing.

Results 2019

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 1' 571 young people (51% women) from the seven cities completed the training (30 hours) in  "Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution". Through the training, the young people strengthened their skills as mediators in conflict situations and exercised this role during a total of 22 peace actions in their communities. The actions included activities to promote gender justice, create meeting places and peace zones, protect people of the LGBT community and preserve nature. Thanks to these actions, a total of 3' 679 people have been reached, who can now benefit from a more peaceful environment.
  • 76% of the trained young people showed positive changes in their behaviour as peace builders and in the relevant social skills after completing their training.
  • 349 young people (55% women) were trained as youth leaders.
  • The content of the training was adapted and a stronger focus was placed on how young people should deal with the increasing violence in their communities and how to mitigate the risks associated with it. In addition, the young women were given advice on how to protect themselves against gender-specific violence.
  • For the first time, a national meeting of 35 particularly talented youth leaders from the entire project took place. During 5 days the young people exchanged ideas and experiences on peace building and founded a national Paza la Paz youth network.
Youth organisation and participation in civil society
  • 1'541 young people completed the training (30 hours) in youth organisation and participation. They now know their rights and duties as well as the democratic mechanisms. They have also been trained in social skills such as teamwork, communication, decision-making and group leadership. These skills enable them to participate actively in civil society and in designated institutions such as youth or neighbourhood councils.
  • After completing their training, 61% of the young women and 60% of the young men feel strengthened in their abilities as peace activists. This is an enormous progress compared to the previous year, where only 19% of the women and 46% of the men noticed a strengthening of their abilities.
  • 490 young people were involved in a total of 27 public bodies such as local youth committees, nature conservation groups, women's groups and school councils
Income generation
  • 1’526 young people successfully completed the training in income generation (20 hours) and acquired skills in leadership, teamwork, assertiveness and life projection. Thanks to the training, 65% of the trained young people were able to significantly strengthen their entrepreneurial profile.
  • 534 young people attended the advanced training courses on specific topics such as financial management, which were conducted by external institutions.
  • 24 income generation projects were launched, such as a barber salon or the production of soft drinks. These small businesses received small start-up financing of around CHF 170 each. This enabled 207 young people (107 women and 100 men) to improve their economic independence.
Institutional strengthening of the partner organisation
  • The 7 local programme managers and some other project staff completed a workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 with a special focus on the issue of inclusive, peaceful and just societies.
  • YMCA Colombia organized an international conference on "Education for Social Transformation" with experts from Colombia, USA, Canada and Peru.

Results 2018

Program Area “Paza la Paz”

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 1,596 young people from the seven cities of the programme completed their training (30 hours) in the field of "peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution". They now know ways to solve conflicts without violence and act as mediators in dangerous situations.
  • The contents of the module have been adapted and now include training blocks on topics such as violence against women, post-conflict, peace agreements and forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • 223 young people (59% women) were trained as youth leaders. Together with their groups in the neighbourhoods, they independently initiated 73 projects and activities in order to sensitize the population and to point out solutions.
  • 4,310 people took part in these activities, which were organised by the young people.
Youth organisation and participation in civil society
  • 1,476 young people completed their training (30 hours) in youth organisation and participation. They now know their rights and duties and the democratic mechanisms. They are also trained in teamwork, communication, decision making, group management, etc. These skills enable them to participate actively in civil society and in institutions such as youth or neighbourhood councils.
  • 131 young people (66 of them women) were elected to public bodies such as neighbourhood councils, youth councils, etc. in 2018.
Income generation
  • 1,545 young people successfully completed training in income generation (20 hours).
  • 314 young people attended advanced training courses on specific topics such as financial management provided by external institutions.
  • 25 income generation projects such as small grocery stores or a neighbourhood library were launched. These small businesses each received small start-up financing of around CHF 170.
Institutional strengthening of the partner organisation
  • The 7 local programme managers and the social workers completed further training in "theory of change".
  • YMCA Colombia intensified cooperation with other organisations and networks and worked with a total of 87 organisations (including government organisations).

Field report of a volunteer

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Further information

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Facts about the project

Name: Paza la Paz - A step towards peace
Partner organization: YMCA Colombia
Locations: Armero-Guayabal / Bogotá / Bucaramanga / Cali / Medellín / Pereira / Quindío
Goal: Development of young people into self-determined adults
Participants: 1'500 young people from particularly disadvantaged neighbourhoods
Required funds 2024: CHF 250'000
Duration: Project exits since 2004, current phase: 2021 - 2024
Responsible: Isabelle Aebersold,isabelle.aebersold at horyzon.ch

Facts about Colombia

Population: 51,5 million (2021)
Capital: Bogotá
Human Development Index: 0,752 (rank 88 of 191)
Life expectancy: 69,3 years (2022)

Source: Human Development Report