Colombia + 1 more

IOM press briefing notes 18 Feb 2003: Colombia, FYR of Macedonia

(Extract) - Spokesperson: Niurka Piñeiro

COLOMBIA - Income Generating Projects Help the Internally Displaced - The IOM office in Colombia has just launched the second phase of an income generating project to help internally displaced families in the city of Bucaramanga in the northeastern province of Santander.

So far, 114 families have participated in the project and 100 others will receive assistance under the second phase of the project.

These projects are part of IOM's Post-emergency Assistance to the Displaced Population and Host Communities Programme which provides assistance to those who have been internally displaced by the violence and to the communities that are receiving them

The province of Santander has been one of the hardest hit by the on-going armed conflict.=A0 The largest oil-processing centre (ECOPETROL) in Colombia is located in the city of Barrancabermeja .

This centre has been the target of repeated attacks by the guerrillas who claim the centre has foreign influence.=A0 At the same time, paramilitary groups who are engaged to protect the oil interests clash with the guerrillas.=A0 There have been massacres, selective executions and kidnappings.=A0 The two rival groups control 63 of the 87 municipalities located in the province of Santander.

The Colombian government estimates that between 1995 and 2002, 926,565.=A0 For its part, the Colombian NGO CODHES, which deals with human rights and displacement issues, places the figure at 2,7 million.=A0 The province of Santander is one of the most affected by internal displacement, with most of those fleeing from rural to urban areas.

A total of 49 rural and urban income generating projects are allowing the families to restart new lives by setting up small businesses and rebuilding community links through local initiatives.=A0 The businesses operating so far include bakeries, clothing stores, clothing manufacture, small factories making concrete posts, organic fruit farms and animal nurseries.

The first step to obtain support is a feasibility study of the project.=A0 The beneficiary then receives an initial sum to start buy the necessary machinery and equipment to start the business.=A0 The credit is provided with an interest rate of 2%.

The persons participating in the project receive training in areas such as: business management, accounting, cost analysis, marketing, communications, business development, gender awareness and personal development.

In 2002, more than US$107,000 of funding provided by USAID, was invested in Bucaramanga.=A0 During the second phase US$175,000 will be invested.

IOM will work on the second phase with the Colombian Fund for the Modernization and Technological Development of Micro, Small and Medium Sized Businesses (FOMIPYME, by its Spanish acronym), and the NGOs Compromiso and Corfas.

Contact information: Ms. Liliana Arias, IOM Bogota. Tel: 57.1.636.2423 or 2378

FYR of Macedonia - Community Confidence Building Mitigates Conflict - In Western Macedonia, confidence in communities is building even as ethnic tensions continue to ripple across the region.=A0 Following a move among Albanian leaders to rename schools after Albanian military figures, in turn, provoking Macedonian families to remove their children from the schools, IOM's Macedonia Confidence Building Initiative (CBI) quickly stepped in to defuse the crisis.

Following a series of meetings that brought the two sides together, CBI worked with parents, teachers, students and community leaders to launch a series of community initiatives, including an "Educators' Dialogue" project to help teachers implement strategies to bring diverse students together, a newspaper led by a team of multiethnic student editors, youth leadership camps, support to media coverage of positive interethnic collaboration in schools, and support to multiethnic communities working together to renovate their schools.

In response to the violent conflict that erupted in Macedonia in 2001, CBI was launched by IOM and the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives with the goal of reducing tension and mitigating conflict during implementation of the Framework Agreement.=A0 In the past 15 months, CBI has initiated over 360 projects and provided over US$7.5 million to communities across the country.=A0 In the process of implementing these projects, the programme brings together diverse groups of people, supports community participation in decision making, increases access to balanced information, and strengthens relationships between citizens and their elected leaders.=A0 CBI projects include 64 school renovations and education projects, 45 infrastructure projects, 62 media projects, 44 recreation and community facilities, 35 sports and camp projects, and 84 community outreach projects, such as arts and cultural events.=A0

Contact information: Peter Collier, IOM Skopje, Tel. +389.70252615