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UNHCR Colombia launching "Listen for Change" initiative

Briefing notes

UNHCR Colombia launching "Listen for Change" initiative

26 September 2008 Also available in:

UNHCR Colombia is today launching a "Listen for Change" initiative for better protection and improved living conditions in some of Colombia's most vulnerable communities. "Listen for Change" gives priority to small-scale projects that bring rapid and significant changes in displaced people's lives, mostly through the provision of health, education and basic infrastructure like water and sanitation. Twenty-two projects were selected for the first phase on the basis of urgent needs.

The new projects are located in parts of the country with a high rate of forced displacement, either as expulsion or reception zones. They range from the opening of emergency shelters and school cafeterias to the provision of clean water and sanitation.

Each project enjoys the support and financial commitment of the local authorities, for example with matching pledges to bring electricity where UNHCR builds a water system. The community participates with in-kind contributions like construction work or other forms of labour. These requirements ensure that the projects generate a sense of community ownership.

"Listen for Change" comes out of the recognition that lack of essential services not only violates basic rights but also contributes to higher risks of violence and further displacement. Children who cannot go to school, for example, may be more susceptible to recruitment into irregular armed groups, while the absence of basic sanitation is a risk factor for increased sexual violence.

Seven of the 22 new projects focus on children and young people, another seven on indigenous communities and the remaining eight on community infrastructure. One project will help run a boarding school along the Ecuadorian border so that children can stay for the night, avoiding the difficult and at times dangerous daily journeys on the Putumayo River. Another initiative will bring basic sanitation to an Afro-Colombian community on the Pacific Coast, a part of the country suffering from high levels of violence and displacement.

UNHCR Colombia hopes to raise $600,000 for the first phase of the programme by the end of the year through the international community, civil society and the private sector.