Forced migration is one of Latin America & the Caribbean’s deepest wounds. This displacement is the result of challenging conditions, violence and high vulnerability levels. Adolescents and youth are in general amongst the most affected, becoming refugees, displaced or finding themselves in fragile contexts.
Causes and consequences are connected in a vicious cycle: displacement, violence and difficult conditions augment vulnerability, which in turn makes these elements more likely. RET International’s intervention has shown that education can protect entire families as well as generate better conditions and that youth are key actors of this transformation.
It is essential to have adequate conditions in order for youth to develop, learn necessary life skills, share values and recognize their rights. The latest example of the urgent needs of adolescents and youth in the region is the migration crisis of minors from México and Central America to the United States.
This migratory movement has increased substantially; according to the High Commissioner of the United States for Refugees (UNHCR), the total number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased from 4’059 in 2011 to 10’443 in 2012 and then more than doubled again to 21’537 in 2013.[i]
In this study, UNHCR sustains that the reasons for this phenomena are multiple and act simultaneously: social violence, domestic violence, exclusion being the most important.
RET has offered humanitarian support and protection to a great number of the refugee populations in Latin America since 2006. This experience showed that it is necessary to provide adolescents and youth in fragile contexts with the necessary conditions for their development. Both their physical and psychological integrity has to be protected.
The virtuous cycle proposed by RET International integrates psychosocial attention, education and livelihood development; together these components ensure protection. Also, this holistic approach enables the active participation of youth as agents of positive change in their communities [ii] leading to sustainable results.
This has been the process developed by RET International, which has now reached more than 100’000 people in the region. It is made possible by the generous support of a variety of trusted partners. The U.S. Department of State, the Federal Foreign Office of the Government of Germany, the Swiss Embassy in Panama, and the Colombian Ministry of Education all contribute to RET International’s efforts. The United Nation system also plays a key role through actors such as UNICEF and UNHCR, while the private sector is represented by Fundación Telefónica. The programmes currently focuses on Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama. The results show a model that is generating a real transformation in the lives of many vulnerable Latin-American youth and their families.
RET International strives to bridge the gap between humanitarian action and development aid. We are committed to encourage the youth of the region leave vulnerability behind and move towards sustainability.
[i] The UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR. Regional Office for the United States and the Caribbean. Children on the run. Washington, D.C. 2010.
[ii] RET – Protecting Through Education. Actions for the resilience of children and youth. Guide for Governments. Panamá, 2013.