Colombia

Urban reintegration initiative launched for Colombian ex-combatants

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Eighty ex-combatants living in Colombia's capital, Bogotá, have received support to upgrade their small businesses as part of an IOM-led initiative to reintegrate demobilized people living in large urban areas.

The new reintegration model for ex-combatants in large cities was presented this week by IOM, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mayor's Office of Bogotá.

The new initiative is designed around three key premises. Firstly it aims to build on what the beneficiaries already know how to do, by supporting small business ventures that need about US $1,500 per business, and providing specialized training to enable the owners to become better qualified in their trades.

Secondly it aims to include the family in the training process, as in the majority of the cases the spouse, siblings, parents and/or children are helping the ex-combatant in setting up and running the businesses.

And thirdly it aims to provide links to business and commercial networks which commit to help the new entrepreneurs with marketing and sales advice during the first few months to ensure the success of their new ventures.

Some of the new businesses to participate in this new model include maquilas (assembly plants), food and other shops, bakeries, shoe and clothing manufacturing, craftsmen and artists.

Bogotá is home to an estimated 5,300 ex-combatants who have been demobilized from illegal armed groups.

"Large cities pose specific and complex challenges for those who are in the process of reentering civilian life. Lack of education, capital and business knowledge make it even more difficult for them to gain access to the labour market or the formal economy in a metropolis such as Bogotá. This is why these types of initiatives are so important," says IOM Chief of Mission in Colombia Marcelo Pisani

Since 2006, IOM, with financial support from USAID, has been working with the Colombian Government in the reintegration of more than 53,000 ex-combatants from armed groups throughout the country providing psychosocial support, income generation projects, education and vocational training.

For more information, please contact Jorge Gallo at IOM Bogota, Tel: +57 6397777. Email: jgallo@iom.int

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