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Why children need change

Children in Colombia need change and there are good reasons to believe that this change is possible.

In fact, there is some cause for optimism.

There has been a reduction in overall poverty levels in recent years.

A peace agreement with the FARC, the country's largest guerrilla group, was ratified in December 2016.

Yet, poverty remains high, particularly in rural areas, and urban shanty-towns, and amongst displaced people, women, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, people with disabilities, care leavers and other marginalised people.

Levels of conflict and violence also remain high. As important as the recent peace agreement is, it alone cannot solve all the problems that Colombia faces - violence and insecurity will not magically disappear. Many young people will continue to be at risk from violence and from recruitment into the armed groups which will still exist even as the FARC lay down their arms. A peace agreement may even create power vacuums into which other criminal groups can expand. It is urgent that we don't allow one threat to children to be replaced by another.

These problems are accompanied by a weak, sometimes non-existent, state presence in outlying rural regions. Education and healthcare provision in these areas is basic and many families live in extreme poverty. Children are often forced to fend for themselves while parents spend long periods of time working far from home, exposing them to hunger, a lack of affection and the threat of abuse.

With the FARC gone, the government will have the opportunity to step in to some of these regions to provide the services that children and families have been lacking. But this is not a foregone conclusion.

Right now there is a window of opportunity to ensure that recent improvements in the standard of living and the peace agreement really are part of lasting change towards a more peaceful, more just and more equal society for children, and for all Colombians.

To seize this opportunity, we believe that children and young people from all parts of Colombian society, particularly those who have experienced conflict and insecurity most directly, must be involved in bringing about change.

Read more:

Why change needs children

What changes can children make?