Colombia Peacebuilding and conflict prevention through sport

Columbia’s recent history has been characterised by armed conflicts between government security forces, guerrilla groups, paramilitary factions and criminal organisations. Millions of people have had to flee from the fighting, with most of them ending up as internally displaced persons in other parts of the country. While the peace agreement concluded in 2016 defused the conflict, it also gave rise to a power vacuum in many regions that criminal gangs are using to their advantage. The danger of violence flaring up again remains high.

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View of the city of Cartagena on the Colombian Caribbean coast

Children and youth have been particularly affected by this situation: They are much more likely to use violence compared with other age groups, and to become victims of violence themselves at the same time.

The Colombian government already uses sport for development as an instrument for peace and reconciliation activities. Building on this, the BMZ has begun collaborating with the Colombian government and with NGOs, in order to jointly develop sports activities aimed at strengthening democracy and civil society in Colombia.

Sport with principles

The aim of the collaboration is for children and young people to develop important skills for peaceful coexistence in a democratic society. In addition to that, the social reintegration of young internally displaced persons and of ex-combatants is being supported. The priority areas are regions especially affected by conflict, violence and displacement.

Together with the Colombian partners, a method called “Sport with principles” (“deporte con principios”) has been developed. It uses sport to teach children and young people values like respect and team spirit, and social skills.

The method draws on concepts of football for peace that already exist in Colombia, as well as international sport for development approaches and findings from the field of sports teaching and from youth psychology.

Achievements so far

To date, almost 1,700 coaches and trainers, and also social workers from various communities, NGOs and governmental organisations, have taken part in training courses. They in turn have assisted some 90,000 children and young people, many of whom had themselves experienced violence and taken part in armed conflicts. Upon completion of the training, many course participants received job offers and were able to turn the voluntary activities that they had been engaged in previously into job prospects.

More than 120 people also qualified as trainers. They are now themselves offering training all over Colombia, thus spreading the sport for development approach and ensuring that it becomes effectively established. The course materials developed in Colombia have since been used in schools, as well as in international training events and in development projects in other Latin American countries.

As at: 18/01/2023