20 Dec

Colombian Ministry of Defense Initiatives Help Juveniles Resist Recruitment by Illegal Groups

first_imgIn light of these pressures, minors never truly join illegal organizations voluntarily, according to the study “Like Lambs among Wolves: On the Use and Recruitment of Children and Adolescents in the Context of Armed Conflict and Criminality in Colombia,” conducted by a Colombian political scientist and newspaper columnist with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The study reported illegal armed groups rely on child labor, as minors are put on the front lines during combat and comprise the largest labor base in the black market economy. The minors who join these groups often do so because of the precarious conditions of their communities, which are home to ongoing shootouts between groups engaged in turf wars and a lack of economic opportunities. Colombia’s Ministry of Defense regularly holds events to prevent outlaw groups from recruiting minors, and 2015 was no different. “A Dream 2,600m Closer to the Stars” offers youths living in Colombia’s most isolated communities an all-expense paid trip to Bogotá so they can see other possibilities that life has to offer and broaden their horizons. By Dialogo December 10, 2015 RECRUITING MINORS FOR ILLEGAL ARMED GROUPS HAPPENS MORE IN REGIONS THAT DON’T HAVE A MILITARY PRESENCE IN COLOMBIA. THERE IS NO CHILDHOOD OR ADOLESCENCE. THE FARC COMMAND IS ALL THERE IS “EASTERN BLOC ARMING RIOS EPL” THAT IS WHERE the Demobilized Humanitarian Aid Group (GAHD in Spanish) is, it is part of the same initiative to keep young people from joining illegal organizations. ONE WHERE RECRUITMENT IS FORCED: LA VICTORIA AMAZONAS, GIRIGIRIMO.INDIGENOUS ETHNICITY:TUYUCA. BARAZANO -YURUTI-GUANANO- SUPPORT THEM These campaigns really need to reach areas as far away as possible from the municipal capital cities because that is where these outlaw organized groups are constantly showing up and therefore these actions never reach those areas, which makes it easy for criminal groups to increase their ranks with minors. While there are no tools to calculate the precise effectiveness of these prevention programs, there are indications they are having a positive impact. Using the data provided by the more than 30,000 demobilized persons in the reintegration process, the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR) found that approximately 12,000 people were under the age of 18 when they joined the ranks of outlawed groups. Although there isn’t comprehensive data regarding the total number of minors recruited, figures suggest that between 7,000 to 18,000 minors were linked to armed rebel groups until 2014, according to the report “Comprehensive Reparation for Children and Adolescent Victims of Illicit Recruitment in Colombia,” published by the International Center for Transitional Justice. The FARC, ELN, local gangs, and narco-trafficking groups have recruited juveniles for decades, often using threats of violence against youths or their families to recruit. They also are deceptive, promising money, cars, firearms, and a glamorous lifestyle if the young people join their ranks. For two weekends a month since April 2015, the GAC has hosted 560 youths between the ages of 15 and 17 in Bogotá, where they’ve visited museums, attended movies and amusement parks, tried different foods, and learned about different neighborhoods as part of the Ministry of Defense’s $243,864 investment. Security authorities provide these prevention campaigns for the highest-risk populations in departments where illegal armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), street gangs, and drug-trafficking organizations operate. The campaigns are held throughout the country, in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Guaviare, Meta, Norte de Santander, and Putumayo, with the endorsement and support of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, the Police for Children and Adolescents, and local authorities. As part of the “Enough! I’m Free Here” campaign, which seeks to keep minors out of Colombia’s armed conflict, the Commander’s Advisory Group (GAC) is conducting the “Play for Life” initiative. A separate program, “A Dream 2,600m Closer to the Stars,” which is led by the Group for Humanitarian Aid to the Demobilized (GAHD, for its Spanish acronym), is part of the same initiative to prevent young people from joining illegal organizations. The campaign’s name is derived from the elevation of the Colombian capital, which is 2,600 meters above sea level. Symbolically, Bogotá also represents a completely different world – close to the stars – for those living in the most far-flung rural communities. “Participants from different rural schools mingle and form teams that represent different values, such as friendship, responsibility, and respect,” explained Colonel Mauricio Cote, the director of GAC’s Recruitment Prevention Group. “The idea is for all to have fun as a community and to play games that will teach them to defend their values. “For this campaign to become a reality, we first had to conduct a study of the region. On many occasions, the difficulty lies in the fact that people still cling to the ideology of the insurgents, and any intervention conducted by the Army will be regarded as suspicious,” he said. “However, this campaign hopes to promote tolerance and the value of keeping children in their homes. Because of that, all communities end up happy.” Countering recruitment efforts by illegal groups Minors disentangled from armed conflict “We reach communities that are practically cut off from the outside world, where guerrilla and paramilitary groups operate and make promises to the people that, in the end, they will not be able to keep,” Col. Cote stated. The Ministry of Defense has estimated that fewer and fewer minors have joined the ranks of insurgent groups in recent years. In 2015, 212 minors – the majority of whom were between 15 and 17 years of age – were rescued by security forces from such groups or left on their own, according to the GAHD. Of those, 159 had belonged to FARC, 52 to the ELN, and one to a dissident group. This year, the Ministry of Defense has spent $304,830 to hold 640 “Play for Life” activities for 2,810 minors. “It’s at these ages that children start to think seriously about what they want to do with their lives,” Col. Cote stated. “It is also the time in which they can get the most out of a visit to the capital because they will remember that they will have better options in life if they steer clear of violence.” The “Play for Life” campaign counters these recruitment efforts by teaching young people the values of following the law and staying away from gangs, organized crime, violence, and drugs. Since 2011, defense officials have held sporting contests, movie screenings, cultural events, and workshops every month in a different region to educate the public about illegal recruitment activities and prevent minors from being enticed by illegal armed groups. ‘A dream 2,600m closer to the stars’last_img read more

20 Sep

Arsene Wenger defends price of football at Arsenal

first_imgArsene Wenger has defended the cost of tickets at Arsenal, insisting the board are keen to make them “more affordable” to fans. The BBC’s ‘Price of Football’ survey found that Arsenal sold the most expensive Premier League match-day tickets at £97. Meanwhile, a Bayern Munich supporters’ group has said it will not enter the Champions League fixture at the Emirates Stadium next week until five minutes into the game in protest at the ‘outrageous’ £64 their fans are being charged. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis was questioned at the AGM about the much-publicised pricing structure and was also defensive on the club’s stance. “Our focus is to develop our revenues,” he said. “The focus has been on our commercial revenues – we have never based our ticket prices solely on the fact there is high demand for our tickets, it is never an issue we have taken lightly. “We have sought to be balanced and responsible in our ticket pricing decisions. The facts are that the board has held general admission ticket prices flat for seven of the last 10 seasons, with inflation-only increases in the other three. “What that means is, in real terms adjusting for inflation, general admission ticket prices have fallen approximately 20 per cent since our move to the Emirates Stadium. “Almost no one gives up an Arsenal season ticket, our renewals were well in excess of 97 per cent and again with that demand we held ticket prices flat. Looking forward, we will continue to make ticket price decisions carefully and responsibly.” A pricing policy closer to that offered by Bundesliga clubs is something many supporters’ groups have clamoured for Premier League clubs to adopt in recent years, especially given the increasing television revenue now on offer. But Gazidis insists a lack of public funding for stadiums and infrastructure means English clubs cannot afford to follow suit. “It is difficult to make comparisons to Germany,” he added. “There is little acceptance here in England as there is in Germany for public funding of new stadiums, with a few exceptions. “We have to build our stadiums in this country through private finance, in Germany taxpayers are subsidising the match-going fans. We don’t have that luxury – there is always a balance we have to draw.” The ticket pricing issue was one of the main talking points at Arsenal’s annual general meeting on Thursday morning, with the BBC survey also finding that the Gunners sold the most expensive season tickets in the English top flight as well. But Wenger is determined to see prices driven down and feels his club have done well in recent years to freeze their prices. “It is my job to do that,” he said when asked at his pre-match press conference if Arsenal offered value for money with their ticket prices. “Overall I feel that we have made a conscious effort in our board meetings to block the increase of our tickets and in seven of the past 10 years we have not increased our prices. “Overall there is a desire on our board to stabilise (prices) and make the tickets more affordable for people. Is football more expensive? Yes, but Saturday or Sunday if you want to go to rugby you will see the tickets are expensive there as well. It is maybe part of professionalism and a modern society.” That will come as little consolation to Munich fans as FC Bayern Worldwide announced on Twitter its plans to boycott kick-off of the German side’s crunch Champions League game in north London on Tuesday. “To protest @Arsenal’s outrageous ticket prices, we won’t be entering the away bloc (sic) for the first 5′ to show what the future of football is,” the group posted on Twitter. “If @Arsenal want to charge £64 for the cheapest ticket, they can expect quiet stadiums and empty seats. That’s what they’ll get a taste of.” Press Associationlast_img read more