Although Colombia, with a population of 45 million and an annual per capita income of $ 11’000 (2012 ) counts as a middle-income country, it is characterized by high social inequality and an ongoing armed conflict for 50 years affecting the society as whole. Caritas Switzerland is active in Colombia since the 1980s focusing on human rights issues and peacebuilding while focusing on the marginalized and vulnerable groups. Caritas Switzerland foresees the possibility of rapid humanitarian aid action when needed.
The current country program 2013-2016 of Caritas Switzerland (Annual turnover: 1.7 million CHF) focuses on the Chocó region, one of the poorest areas in Colombia. Chocó has been adversely impacted and continues to suffer from the ongoing conflict between the government and various guerrilla groups. Open conflict as well as the striking lack of basic infrastructure, hinder the people’s freedom of movement. Most affected by these limitations are the minority indigenous and afrocolombian groups who make up 82% of the inhabitants in Chocó and suffer from acute poverty and thus are in danger of physical and cultural elimination due to the conflict and its effects.
Caritas Switzerland strengthens and supports internally displaced adults and children in the Chocó area and in the capital Bogotá, in claiming the rights they are entitled to receive just compensation for incurred losses and thus contributing to their e to lead a life in dignity. Caritas Switzerland helps, in cooperation with the Colombian Caritas, to protect human rights activists suffering from death threats by offering them a temporary break at a safe location in Colombia or another Latin American country.
To improve the situation of the marginalized black, indigenous and peasant groups in conflict-affected Chocó, Caritas foresees the construction of democratic structures, rule of law as well as the furthering of Dealing with the past processes. The main focus is the support of the peace negotiations whose success depends on the participation of social and ethnic minorities. With projects focusing on livelihood protection (access to water, land, education, employment, political participation) of marginalized black, indigenous and peasant farmers in the Chocó area, Caritas Switzerland makes an sustainable and comprehensive contribution to the strengthening of a peaceful Colombian society where human rights are respected and poverty is reduced.
Caritas Switzerland creates synergies with SDC, the FDFA and other Swiss and European NGOs and Caritas sister organizations operating in Colombia.
Short history of Caritas Switzerland presence in country
Caritas Switzerland is present in Colombia since 1982 and implements projects indirectly with local partner organizations. During the first project phase (1982-1988) Caritas worked predominantly in the areas of awareness-raising in health issues and social assistance for slum-dwelling children. In addition, Caritas Switzerland engaged in projects that largely contributed to the reconstruction of the city of Popayan, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1983.
In the second phase (1989-1997) focused on the assistance and rehabilitation of victims affected by natural disasters with an enhanced budget. Engagement in education for children, youth and marginalized women remained central. In this phase, Caritas Switzerland began its protection engagement for victims of human rights violations.
The third phase (1997-2011) was characterized by an emphasis on human rights and Colombia became a designated ‘priority country’ of Caritas Switzerland.
The current phase with focus set on human rights and peacebuilding lasts from 2013 to 2016.