Sports diplomacy: 20 young Colombian athletes visit Switzerland

Press release, 01.09.2017

Twenty young Colombians are currently in Switzerland as part of a visit organised jointly by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the visit is to allow these young people – who come from a region mired in conflict – to learn more about training techniques while discovering popular Swiss sports, and to use sport to give them hope for a better life away from crime and violence.

These 20 athletes are aged between 16 and 17 and will be at the Tenero National Youth Sports Centre (CST) from 1 to 15 September 2017. They come from the department of Nariño in the south-west of Colombia, a region particularly affected by the armed conflict  and where Switzerland has been active through its development cooperation efforts. During their stay, the young Colombians will meet other athletes and young people, and discover popular local sports. Introductions to other sports, including badminton, rock climbing, archery, unihockey and handball will also be on the programme. The  basketball club of the National League A Lugano Tigers will be the venue for a training session. Work and brainstorming sessions will be held to identify sporting projects that they will launch on their return to Colombia along the lines of the Swiss Youth and Sports model. And the part of their visit dedicated to tourism will take them on a tour of the canton of Ticino.

The aim of the visit is to use sport to give young people from a region plagued by armed conflict hope for a better life. The idea is to help them avoid being tempted to join an illegal or criminal group by giving them access to the world of culture and sport. They are selected on the basis of their school results and motivation in sport and sent abroad to meet other young sportsmen and women. The visits are organised as part of the Diplomacia Deportiva (sports diplomacy) programme, which was launched in 2011 by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are 40 countries taking part in the programme. Together with the Colombian foreign ministry, the FDFA organised the first edition of the Young Athletes Without Borders project at the end of 2013. A total of 86 young people have visited Switzerland between then and 2016.

By supporting this project, Switzerland is underlining its commitment to protecting young people in armed conflicts and combating the recruitment of child soldiers. An evaluation of the three first editions of the programme in Colombia highlighted the fact that the young people who had visited Switzerland had shared their experiences and acted as leaders in their communities, sports clubs and schools. The study also demonstrated that the project has a positive impact on the educational development of the participants, 90% of whom went on to continue their schooling.

This visit has been organised by the FDFA in cooperation with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Office of Sport, Presence Switzerland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Switzerland has been working for many years to improve living conditions for people in Colombia, particularly victims of the armed conflict, and to support sustainable economic development in the country. The SDC's activities focus mainly on emergency aid in the event of disaster, post-conflict support, protection of the civilian population, and access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. It also supports projects that aim to help victims of anti-personnel mines and local inhabitants threatened by forced displacement in several of the municipalities in the department of Nariño. With the assistance of its partners, the SDC supports children and young people by creating community protection mechanisms.  In addition, the FDFA's Human Security Division is engaged in peace promotion, human rights protection and dealing with the past in Colombia.

As part of Switzerland's economic development cooperation activities, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has also supported the department of Nariño with the production and export of premium cocoa beans which are used by Swiss chocolate makers. This project, which was recently concluded, aimed to create alternatives to urban migration, to reduce rural poverty and to make an overall contribution to stabilising the region.

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs