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Peace monitors for reintegration in Colombia
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A unique project implemented by Colombia’s Ministry of Sports used sports to re-integrate ex-militants and their families into civilian life.

On 1 December 2016, the Colombian Congress approved the new version of the Peace Agreement, signed between the national government and the oldest guerrilla group in the country, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). This agreement would mark the starting point of a series of challenges for the construction of peace in a society that, for decades, has been immersed in the middle of violence.

One of the first challenges, both in Colombia and in any process that ends an armed conflict, is the bilateral cessation of hostilities, the disarmament, and, from there, the reincorporation of ex-combatants into civilian life, which some have never known and of which others have a vague memory.

To this end, 23 Transitory Village Zones for Normalization (ZVTN) were set up in Colombia. These temporary and transitory territories were created to facilitate the first step towards the reincorporation of the FARC-EP structures, which would be carried out economically, politically and socially (agreement to end the conflict and build a lasting peace. Point 3.1.4.1), and for a defined period: from 2 December 2016 to 31 May 2017 (Office of the High Commissioner for Peace – OACP, 2016).

It was in this context that the Ministry of Sports implemented one of the first projects by a government agency that, without having been conceived for it, favored the transition to civilian life of ex-combatants. The project was the Sports, Recreation and Physical Activity Project in the ZVTN, whose objective was to meet the need to occupy the free time of those who had just begun their Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process.

In the first year of its execution, the project consisted of the hiring and training of monitors, or specialists in recreation, physical activity and sports for each ZVTN where activities of this type would be carried out. Initially, the target population was guerrillas’ ex-combatants; however, gradually, other actors were involved: members of the Public Force in charge of security, civilian population, surrounding inhabitants, among others.

"From the beginning, the ex-combatants had a very good acceptance of sports activities - OP6[1]" (Ruiz, 2022), and with the passing of time, it was they who "(...) expressed their desire to share sports spaces with the civil community surrounding the village area" (Ruiz, 2022). Little by little, the monitors were identifying, within the guerrilla population, leaders who voluntarily took charge of organizing tournaments, handling material, and supporting the monitor.

Although the dynamics around sports practice contribute to strengthening self-esteem, empowerment, and leadership; they also help to generate conditions of "normalization" of life in post-Agreement scenarios, favoring communication and relations within the communities.

In this way, and after the end of the ZVTN and the creation in 2018 of the Territorial Spaces for Training and Reintegration[2] (ETCR), the project acquired a new focus. For this year, instead of hiring two professional monitors for the program, one professional and one of the ex-combatant leaders identified were hired; they called themselves "monitors for reincorporation."

“This situation is of vital importance within the project, since it was not only constituted in a novel element for the population of the rural areas, but it was constituted for the 23 ex-combatant monitors hired in a labor option, this being their first legal job, after laying down arms and returning to civilian life – OP6” (Ruiz, 2022).

The relations of people to sports programs expand their opportunities for social participation (Ruiz, 2022). Sport is not only a scenery for competition, but it is also a stage for moral negotiation that promotes empathy (Light & Light, 1996); and in that case, it creates conditions for social and labor reintegration, and national reconciliation.

Given the positive results of this experience, for the year 2019, the Ministry of Sports in Colombia exclusively hired ex-combatants, called "Monitors of Peace", to implement the project from now on, the same project that they had been participants of.

 

______________________________________________________________________________

References

Acuerdo final para la terminación del conflicto y la construcción de una paz estable y duradera. Bogotá, 1 de diciembre de 2016.

LIGHT, David & LIGHT, Brenda. (1996). Sport, Militarism, and Peace”- En: Peace and conflict: journal of peace psychology, 2 (4), pp 369 – 383.

Oficina del Alto Comisionado para la Paz. (2016). Funcionamiento de la Zonas Veredales Transitorias de Normalización (ZVTN) y los Puntos Transitorios de Normalización (PTN). Bogotá.

Ministerio del Deporte. Coldeportes se la juega toda por la paz. Fecha: 19 de abril de 2017. Consultado el 28/10/2022. Disponible en: https://www.mindeporte.gov.co/sala-prensa/noticias-mindeporte/coldeportes-se-juega-toda-paz

Ministerio del Deporte. Informe de Gestión 2010 – 2018. Disponible en: file:///Users/angelaaguirre/Downloads/INFORME-RESUMEN-GESTION-2010-2018.pdf

RUIZ PÉREZ, Stevens. Deporte y Construcción de Paz. Consideraciones sobre el deporte como herramienta para la consolidación de una cultura de paz en la Colombia actual. Editorial Kinesis. Bogotá, 2022.

 

______________________________________________________________________________

Ángela P. Aguirre J has a Master’s in Political Science and International Development Cooperation. She has been high-performance athlete and an amateur athlete. She has more than 10 years of experience supporting peace processes in Colombia from different perspectives - from international cooperation, as a public official and citizen of the world with a great commitment to development for human freedom.


[1] OP6 - Project Operator N6: Psychosocial Therapist. Support professional for the Sports+ Program of the Ministry of Sports. Interview conducted on August 20, 2019 in Bogotá. In: RUIZ, Stevens. Sport and Peacebuilding. Editorial Kinesis. Bogotá, 2022.

[2] ETCR: Areas where ex-combatants and their families, surrounding communities, civil society organizations, state institutions and international cooperation agencies, would work together in associative activities that would allow collective and community reincorporation and territorial reconciliation.

Tags

Country
Colombia
Region
Latin America and the Caribbean
Sport
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions.
Themes
Target Group
Adults
Practitioners

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