IOM Facilitates Visit of High Level US Delegation to Colombia
Colombia - IOM last week (19/02) arranged a visit of US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom and US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker to view peacebuilding and post-conflict projects in Bogota, Colombia.
The delegation visited the USAID-supported Workshop School of Bogota and the Reintegration Process for ex-combatants managed by the Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR).
The school has been training socially vulnerable youth in various trades for over 20 years, enabling them to improve their standard of living through income generating activities. It admits ex-combatants and victims of the armed conflict, as well as to some juveniles incarcerated in detention facilities, but with special permission to continue their studies.
The Deputy Secretary met with Director of the Colombian Reintegration Agency Joshua Mitrotti and three ex-combatants from various illegal armed groups. The ex-combatants explained why they left the armed groups, psychosocial aspects of their demobilization and their stigmatization by Colombian society.
José*, now 22, who joined the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group when he was only 12, explained how one of his biggest challenges was finding work: “I was delivering my resume in person to a company. When I said that I had been in an armed group, the man’s expression immediately changed, and I knew that I wouldn’t get the job. I know now, that we can’t erase our past. It is important to ask ourselves: if demobilized individuals are prepared for civilian life in society, is society prepared to receive them?” he said.
USAID and IOM have supported the development of the reintegration policy for ex-combatants in Colombia for over 12 years, through technical assistance and institutional strengthening of government agencies working to build peace.
*Name changed to protect his identity.
For further information, please contact Angelica Alzate at IOM Colombia, Email: email@example.com, Tel. +571-639-7777