Multitrack Programme ‘Semillas de Esperanza’ supports the peace process in the Caribbean region

After more than fifty years of conflict between the government and various guerrilla groups, several million people in Colombia are displaced persons in their own country. The multitrack programme ‘Semillas de Esperanza’ promotes local development, contributes to building trust between different interest groups and supports movements which are actively committed to a peaceful and fair solution of the conflict over land.


Colombia / Caribbean region

Target group:
848 persons (direct target group), 2,610 (indirect target group)

Funding requirement:
865'415 Suisse francs

Project duration:
01.10.2017 bis 31.03.2021

Project number:

Project objective:
The multitrack programme ‘Semillas de Esperanza’ between Switzerland and Colombia contributes to a just and lasting peace in the Caribbean region through activities that influence political, economic and social elements underlying the conflict.

Project coordinator:
Magdalena Siedlaczek, tel: 041 419 23 64, msiedlaczeknot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam

Participating organisations/sponsors:
Caritas Switzerland, Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien, COMUNDO, Fastenopfer, HEKS, Peace Brigades International, Peace Watch Switzerland, Swissaid, Terre des Hommes Schweiz, Terre des Hommes Suisse


Background information

The signing of the peace agreement between the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the government and its entry into force at the end of 2016, as well as the peace negotiations begun at the start of 2017 with the ELN (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional), brought an end to one of the longest and most violent armed conflicts lasting more than 50 years.

Since then, there has been a spirit of optimism in the country, but the transition to a lasting peace is a slow and difficult process. Because since 1985, around 7.7 million people have been forcibly displaced in their own country, more than 220,000 people were killed, and more than 80,000 disappeared. Human rights violations are still commonplace. In 2016 alone, a total of 80 human rights activists were killed, and there were approximately 50 attempted murders. This is an increase of more than 22% compared to the previous year. Added to this are daily threats and intimidation. In many regions, the state has little presence, and the influence of paramilitary groups is great, including in the project area in the Caribbean region.

Because of the deep wounds left behind by the armed conflict, the mutual mistrust that remains, and the different interests and positions within the population, the implementation of the peace agreement is a difficult and sensitive undertaking. In addition to the parties to the conflict, Colombian society, too, must demonstrate its motivation and readiness to move towards a peaceful coexistence. To build and consolidate a lasting peace, it is vital to include all groups so that ultimately, reconciliation will be achieved. For the victims of the conflict, it is important that the massacres and forced displacements do not recur, that crimes are solved and that they get justice. A key issue in the reconciliation process is the land question. However, the implementation and enforcement of the rights of the displaced persons to return and to reparations are unlikely to be free from conflict.

The current programme is implemented in four departments of the Caribbean region in the north of the country. This has around ten million inhabitant s, covers an area of 132,000 km2, and comprises eight out of a total of 32 departments in Colombia. The region is characterised by above-average poverty in the rural areas, as well as a large number of Internally Displaced Persons. Economically, the Caribbean coast is one of the most interesting regions in Colombia, given the concentrated occurrence of raw materials and fertile lowlands. At same time, nowhere else in the country have so many people been displaced from their land: 38% of all abandoned properties which are now occupied by entrepreneurs and large landowners are in this region. 


What are we doing?

The present peacebuilding programme ‘Semillas de Esperanza’ follows on from the first phase, which was successfully implemented in the region from 2014 to 2017. The second phase is once again actively supported and co-funded by ten Swiss relief organisations and NGOs. They include the Switzerland-Colombia working group, COMUNDO, Fastenopfer, HEKS, Peace Brigades International, Peace Watch Switzerland, Swissaid, Terre des Hommes schweiz and Terre des Hommes Suisse. Caritas Switzerland is responsible as the Lead Agency for operative and administrative coordination. The programme is supported and co-funded by the Human Security Division (HSD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs as well as by the Swiss embassy in Colombia.

The programme contributes to a just and lasting peace in the Caribbean region and its firm embedding in Columbian society. The aim is to achieve this through influencing the political, economic and social elements that drive the conflict. In practice, the programme continues to support, in its follow-on phase, the two Colombian partner organisations Colemad and SembrandoPaz who are active in seven communities in the Caribbean region and also closely work with ten organisations. The founder members of both organisations, Luz Estella and Ricardo Esquivia, were awarded the Prix Caritas in June 2017 for their work.

Colemad has worked for many years in the Caribbean region to strengthen an advocacy movement of women and political organisations. They elaborate proposals for the solution of land conflicts as a basis for a just and lasting peace in Colombia. All the women who are involved in these organisations actively support the concerns of disadvantaged women, are committed to helping single mothers and ethnic minorities. They take on responsible positions in their communities when they become involved, for example, in campaigning for land rights, gender equality, a constructive conflict transformation, as well as against displacement and sexual violence.

SembrandoPaz works in five communities whose village residents are affected by poverty, poor educational opportunities and structural neglect. Many are traumatised by the war. Participation in political life is low. The municipal and district authorities are corrupt and do little within the scope of their duties to promote the wellbeing of the villagers. SembrandoPaz supports local and regional development in these villages by means of developing community structures and strengthening civil-society organisations which assert the rights of the village residents.  With the help of this support, and by building trust between local, regional and national stakeholders, the organisation strengthens the peace process at regional level. The processes are intended to serve as models for later implementation in other villages and regions.

In addition to the activities of the partner organisations, Caritas Switzerland is implementing a joint multitrack component together with the participating organisations and the HSD. This leads to a strengthening of the cooperation between both organisations, promotes their direct interaction with the Swiss embassy in Bogotá, and provides them with knowledge from experts. It gives them the opportunity to voice their concerns and to programmatically influence important players. This can be in the context of public relations work, or by bringing together various stakeholders on specific themes – in Colombia and in Switzerland. The multitrack approach enables the exploitation of synergies resulting from state-diplomatic and civil-society involvement. 

Further communication on peacebuilding

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