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close this bookContributions of Youth to the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda (HABITAT, 1999, 137 p.)
close this folderPART II: NATIONAL REPORTS
View the documentII.1 BRAZIL
View the documentII.2 COLOMBIA
View the documentII.3 INDIA
View the documentII.4 KENYA
View the documentII.5 PAKISTAN
View the documentII.6 SENEGAL
View the documentII.7 TURKEY


June, 1999, prepared by Juan Diego Valenzuela and Adriana Patricia Valenzuela
Calle 10# 3-46 Apt 303 Candeleria, Bogota, Colombia
Fax: + 571 284 63 30
E-mail: [email protected]


Useful Facts about Colombia
Name: Republic of Colombia
Geographical Area: 1,141,748 km 2
Population: 36,886,280
Capital: Satafe de Bogota
Important Cities: Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla
Government Type: Republic
Chief Executive and President: Andres Pastrana Arango
Independence Day: July 20th, 1810
Religion: Predominantly Catholic (95.4%)
Language: Spanish
Economy: Agriculture (coffee), Minerals (emeralds), and Oil

Colombia is located in the northern part of Latin America, right on the equatorial line with long coasts along both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is composed of 5 geographical regions, namely, the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, the Orinoco River basin (Orinoquia), the Amazon River basin (Amazonia) and the Andean Region. Andean is where 70% of the population is settled.

Colombia is home for 10% of all flora and fauna species in the world. The Andean Mountain System, access to the Amazon River and the Amazon jungle and the two coast lines provide Colombia with 49,000 flora and 1721 bird species while putting Colombia into second place in the world in hosting the greatest number amphibious species and third in number of reptile species.

1.1 Demographic Situation

Ethnic diversity

According to the census of 1993, the population of Colombia is 36,886,280. The Afrocolombians represent more than 10% of the total population and are mainly concentrated in San Andres, Providence’s island and Choco, along the Atlantic Coast. The indigenous population is 716,419, 82% of which is settled in 517 shelters covering 28,000,000 hectares. This indigenous population is mainly concentrated in the regions of Cauca (20.9%), Putumayo (17.8%), Guajira (11.9%) and Narino (8.7%). Most of them are working in the rural sector and numerous times they have been victims of mandatory displacements due to armed conflict, forcing them to live in the forests and jungles.

General demographic trends

The rate of fecundity has decreased from 7 children per family in the period 1960-1964, to 3.8 children in the period 1979-1980 and to 3.2 children in 1985. The estimate for 1993 is 3 children per family. These rates are below the average for Latin America and the Caribbean (3.2) but above that of developed countries (1.7). The rates of fertility fluctuate considerably among the rural and urban areas. Fertility in urban areas is 2.65 while in rural areas it is placed at 4.41 (Bogota 2.33, Fence 2.54, Quindio 2.55, Vichada 6.16, Amazons 5.69, Guainia 6.01). Although the rate of fertility has decreased significantly over the past decades, it has shown signs of increase especially among young women ages between 14 and 19.

There was significant decrease in the mortality gross rate (number of deaths per thousand people). While in 1960s this mortality was 12 per thousand, at present, this rate has fallen down to 5 per thousand people. The rate of infant mortality has virtually diminished, especially in comparison with the rest of Latin America. Through these advances in health, hope for life has significantly increased. This has been possible through various programmes, including maternal programmes, infanticide prevention, vaccination campaigns and control of illnesses. In spite of all this, the rate of mortality among youth has increased mainly due to violence.

Urban population

Colombia has gone through rapid urbanization towards the end of the 20th century. In 1995, 70.65% of the population lived in cities and 27.65% lived in the largest 4 cities. Bogota, D.C., is home to 14.5% of the total population which corresponds to 5,484,244 people (according to the census of 1993). 30% of the population is concentrated in 5 cities larger than 500,000 inhabitants, 22% in 24 cities with 100,000 to 500,000 inhabitants and 27% in 225 cities with 20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants. The remaining 21% of the population is living in 767 municipalities of 20,000 or less inhabitants.

Peripheral growth, uncontrolled migration and marginal settlement are among the main problems that affect Colombian cities. In general marginal settlements, shantytowns constitute 50% of the cities. There are social, political, economic and cultural differences that reflect the urban disorder and segregation in contrast to harmony, integration and solidarity. The lack of housing and land opportunities for the poor cause the invasion of land and the growth of the cities on high potential farm lands.


One of the most important demographic phenomena that have affected the economic, social and cultural operation of the country is the rural-urban migration. In 1951, 38.7% of the population lived in urban areas; whereas, in 1993, this percentage has reached 65.3%. In 1995, 73.82% of the total population were living in cities. The contribution of this migration to the growth of certain areas of the country during the period 1988-1993 was very significant. For example, the growth of Bogota between the censuses of 1988 and 1993 was 2.7% with 1.1% net migration rate which represents 41% of the total growth of the city.

Lack of education and employment opportunities, health and other public services, drinkable water, roads of transport and communication, inadequate housing and armed conflict are among the main reasons for rural-urban migration.

As a result of this rapid urbanization process, problems such as increment of marginality, housing deficit, inadequacy of public services, lack of infrastructure, reduced employment, increase of poverty and delinquency and consolidation of informal economies have greatly affected the life in the cities. Migration has high social costs. Among the migrated youth, it has caused a lack of identity as a result of loss of customs, traditions and culture, resulting in an uncertainty for the future. Moreover, there are also numerous problems concerning the relation of the migrated youth to the youth of the city.

1.2 Major Human Settlements Conditions


The housing deficit is more than 1,200,000 units. This deficit is mainly concentrated in urban areas, affecting the families with incomes close to the minimum wage. For the low-income population, housing is not merely a place to live but also a source of income through room rentals, small store management, etc. In the Kenedy neighborhood in Bogota, 80% of the houses were modified to accommodate this need for income.

There is a high demand for housing and public services, but the inability of the government to facilitate easy access to housing for low income families has obliged people to invade public lands and build illegally. As a result of this demand, pirate house-constructors have become active in selling bad lands to low income families with low prices.

Public Services

In 1985, 57% of the houses had all the necessary public services (water, energy, and sewer system); in 1993, this percentage has risen to 62%. The present aqueducts cover 75% of the population, so about 10.1 million people do not have this service. The covering of the sewer service is 60%. 16.1 million people are without sewer system service. 750 plants for treatment of residual water exist but about half of them are not in working condition.

According to the census of 1985, 78.2% of the houses had energy; whereas, in 1993, this percentage has risen to 78.2%. More than 500 municipalities have direct telephone access for international calls and television covers 95% of the territory.


There are 6 international airports in Santafe of Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cartagena and San Andres islands, and 3 large ports in Barranquilla, Buenaventura and Cartagena. Due to the insecurity along the highways, alternative multimodels like roads and fluvial routes have been implemented.

Development project of basic infrastructure and housing

It was encouraged that housing construction can be viewed as a strategy to create employment. Construction of a single or two level house creates 3 permanent direct employment for a period of 6 months while a three or four level house generates 4 jobs and a five or six level house generates 6 jobs on the average. Additionally, it is also considered that the sector generates 1.2 indirect jobs on the average for each direct employment.


In Colombia, owning a private car is a privilege in comparison to public transportation. Many cities have different means of public transportation for 15, 30 and 45 people. In Bogota, 850,000 private cars carry 19% of the population while 22,000 buses carry the rest of the inhabitants. This inequality in access to mobility within the cities is observed not only in Bogota but in other cities as well.

Transportation has caused significant amount of pollution in urban areas and necessary preventive measures against this problem have not been taken.


Poverty in Colombia affects the urban population as much as it affects the rural areas. The economic crisis increases the percentage of unsatisfied basic necessities and misery among the people.

In 1997, 26.9% of the population lived with unsatisfied basic necessities while 9% was living under conditions of misery. The poorest region in the country is the Atlantic Coast and Choco, Cordoba, Sucre, Narino and Boyoca also have over 20% values for the percentage of people living with unsatisfied basic necessities.

In the same year, 55% of Colombian homes fell below the poverty line and two out of ten Colombians had income below the poverty line. In other words, almost 8.3 million people were not able to cover the cost of basic food basket.

In relation with the above-mentioned figures, a large portion of the young people in Colombia is affected by poverty.


In August 1997, law 397 created the Ministry of Culture that is to undertake the cultural patrimony of the nation.

Cultural Patrimony of the Nation

The cultural patrimony of the nation is constituted by all the goods and cultural values that are expressions of the Colombian nationality such as the traditions and customs. More than 600 places have been declared as part of the national Colombian heritage. There are 5 places that have been declared by UNESCO as part of the humanity’s patrimony (Cities of Cartagena and Monpoz, San Agustin and Tierra Adentro’s archeological parks and the “Katios” Natural Park).

In the first half of 1999, restoration projects in 13 sites in 8 regions have been started with the purpose of preserving and recovering the historical and cultural legacy of the nation. “Watch-Youth of the Cultural Patrimony” is a project of university youth groups that look after the protection of the cultural patrimony. The operative body for preservation of the patrimony of Colombian towns and regions has been enlarged with Ministry of Culture being its coordinator.

National System of Culture

The Ministry of Culture, municipal councils and departments of culture promote the culture and arts through publications, and development, financing and implementation of various activities. Among these actors, young people have an impact on culture development through their participation to the municipal councils.

1.3 Problems and Trends that Impact Youth

In 1997, youth constitutes approximately 30% of the total population with 34% of the youth living in conditions of poverty or of misery.


In 1993, 9.8% of the youth had no education, 32.7% had not completed primary education and 15.2% had not enrolled further than primary school. 85% of the total population has completed primary education while only 47% have completed secondary education. Moreover, only 9% of the population have gone through some higher level of education. Very significant differences are observed when rural and urban areas are considered separately. For each 3 young scholar in the city, there is hardly even one in the rural areas.

In 1960, of those that attended universities 18.4% were female while in 1994, this percentage has increased to 51.4%.

The main reasons for not attending school are necessity to work (36%) and high costs of education (22%).


Education is directly related to access to employment. Unemployment rate among university graduates is 6.7% while of those that have completed secondary level of education 11.3% are unemployed.

Young people are among the groups most vulnerable to unemployment. The rate of unemployment among youth between ages 15-19 is 2.5 times higher than the national average. Among the youth of ages 20-29, this rate is 1.5 times the national average and 2 times the rate among those 30 or older. Unemployment of youth between the ages of 12-14 who live in cities is twice that of those in rural areas. For youth of ages between 15-19, unemployment is three times higher in cities than in rural areas. Agriculture provides more ease for young people to find employment.

For young women, the unemployment rate is significantly higher. In cities, unemployment of women is twice that of men and in rural areas, this ratio goes up to four or more except for those girls that are 14 years or younger who have discharge demands for domestic service.

Between the ages of 14 to 17, youth receive 49% of the legal minimum wage and this percentage is even lower for young girls. Moreover, less than 10% of working youth have access to social security.


Violence is the most important cause of death for young people of both sexes with higher percentages for men. 27.1% of deaths of males between ages of 10 to 14 are due to homicide or lesion. For deaths of males between the ages of 15 to 29, violence is again the main reason. Surprisingly, similar figures hold also for women.

The percentage of young women facing domestic violence is 38.6% while for men this percentage is as low as 5%. In 1996, 10,847 investigations related to sexual assault were carried out and 88% of these were aggressions against women. Of these cases, 34% were between the ages of 10 to 14 years, 24% were between 5 to 9 years old and 7.5% were younger than 5 years old. Of the total 85% of the resolved cases, 75% of the time the aggressor was well known to the victim, 10% of the time the aggressor was the father, 9% of the time it was the stepfather, 1% the spouse, 10% another relative and 45% another acquaintance.

In Colombia, 14.4% of the adolescents are already mothers, and 4.06% are waiting for a child. As a result, 18.4% of the women between the ages 15 to 19 years have already begun maternity. Almost 9% of the 19 year-old females have 2 children. These percentages fluctuate significantly when rural and urban areas are compared since women in the rural areas have almost 2 more children at the end of their reproductive period compared to their peers in the cities.

Drug and Substance Abuse

Of the youth between the ages of 16 and 18, 5.9% consume drugs. Consumption increases with age; while 47% of the youth between the ages of 16 and 18 have experienced with some kind of substance, this figure goes up to 57.6% for those that are older than 22 years. When consumption of cigarettes and alcohol is also added to the figures, the percentage of youth that use some sort of substance goes up to 78.4%.

Trends that Impact Youth

Sports, social gatherings, new technology, communication, internet, fashion wear, music, interest for social issues such as environment, peace, equality, etc. are among the trends that affect the youth.


2.1 Youth Policy

Constitution of 1991 states: “Colombia is a social right state, organized as a unitary Republic, with autonomy of their territorial entities, participatory and pluralist...” Constitution of 1991 recognizes and creates space for the development of the youth, as subjects with duties and rights. In addition to this, Constitution says that the adolescent has a right to protection and integral formation and the state and society will guarantee the active participation of youth in public and private organizations that target the education, protection and progress of youth.

General Education Law of 1993 (Law 115) creates space for youth participation in school governments. In August 1994 the Ministry of National Education was restructured and Vice-Ministry of Youth was created on 8 August 1994 under this ministry.

On 4th of July 1997 the government enacted the youth law (Law 375). This law primarily aims to contribute to the psychological, social, spiritual and cultural development of young people and promote their active participation to the society as young citizens. This law has three important aspects:

· The expressed recognition of youth and youth rights.

· Recognition of young people’s full participation to the society.

· The recognition of the responsibility of the state and the society to formulate and to execute public policies for youth.

This law recognizes people between 14 and 26 years of age as young. This law is on regulation process. The youth law contains rights and responsibilities, the policies for the participation of young people to the development of the society and their own social promotion.

2.2 National Youth Institutions

It is the set of institutions, organizations, entities and people that work for youth.

Governmental Entities

The Vice-Ministry of Youth is the coordinator of national public politics on youth.

The secretaries and departmental offices for youth coordinate, execute and guide departmental public politics for youth.

The secretaries and municipal offices develop and implement the municipal policies for youth. At the end of 1997, 57 small cities have established offices of youth.

Youth Related Institutions

ICETEX: Colombian Institute to Promote Studies Abroad
ICBF: Colombian Welfare
ICFES: Colombian Institute to Promote Higher Education.

Youth Houses

There are meeting places for young people. Since the end of 1980s, national government, municipal administration, NGOs and young people have participated in the implementation of this programme. Actually, there are more than 60 youth houses, 24 of which have been strengthened by the Vice-Ministry of youth through the project of international technical cooperation UNDCP/AD/COL/91/665. Their actions are directed to train young people in their free time.

Youth Organizations

Red Cross of Colombia
Corporation Group Tayrona.
Opcion Colombia Corporation.
Christians Association of Youth.
Christians Association of Women.
Colombian Youth Workers
Scouts of Colombia
Association of University Students
Institute to Foment of Democracy “Luis Carlos Gal#148;

Municipal Youth Council (CMJ)

These councils are created according to the article 45 of the national constitution, which creates opportunities for youth participation and involvement in decision making. Municipal, departmental and national councils are created under this article and are elected by popular vote of young people. These councils are autonomous organizations serving as a communication canal between youth, the private enterprises and the state to design the policies, programmes, and projects concerning the youth. In Cartagena and Medellin, these councils were created by the initiative of the youth leaders in contrast with other regions where the young people are waiting for these councils to be created from the government as part of its responsibilities. It is important to note that these councils are municipal, regional and national, whereas in most other countries, there is one national youth council.

2.3 Government Programmes for Youth

Youth card

This programme was created as a system of initiatives and has national covering, designated to provide to young people between 12 and 25 years possibilities to buy goods and services of their interest through certain discounts. This programme was not successful mainly because the storeowners did not make the planned discounts and this created distrust on behalf of young people towards this type of programmes. Presently, this programme is being redesigned by Vice-Ministry of Youth to be re-implemented in the coming months.

Obligatory Social Service

A fundamental contribution of the society will come from the establishment of the obligatory social service that will be validated as obligatory military service and will allow the youth to support social and educational processes as well as the protection of the environment. This service will be no less than 6 months.

Integrated Services

It is a programme where the government entities, NGOs, and international institutions establish strategic alliances to combine efforts in order to guarantee the quality of and the access to products and services for youth.

Eight municipalities were chosen for the development of the project that is expected to last for 36 months. The Ministry of Education will offer technical assistance and the Youth Vice-Ministry that is the executive entity within the National Government with resources provided by a credit from the World Bank (65%), 20% compensation from the Government, and 15% minimum compensation from the municipalities. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will administer these resources.

Environmental Police Force

The coordinated efforts of the Ministries of Defense and Environment have been valuable in assisting conservationists, local groups, and the community as a whole. It is important to note this experience since few countries in the world they have environmental police forces.

Sexual Education

This programme aims to focus on sexual health while emphasizing the social and emotional responsibilities of sexual activity. It is important to inform the youth of AIDS and other venereal diseases as well as the risks of pregnancy since these are common problems of our day.

Ecological Tourism

The Youth Vice-Ministry in association with the Special Administration of National Parks and Reserves of the Ministry of the Environment, will encourage tourism in the 42 protected areas of Colombia, in order to promote knowledge of our historical and natural patrimony and to generate a culture of respect for the environment. This programme will be very important to generate awareness.

Prevention of drug and substance abuse

This programme aims to increase awareness about the dangers of drug and substance abuse. To this end, the issue will be made part of the educational curriculum and other models will be developed to reach the working youth.

Information Centres

The SENA (National Service of Learning) will have a database on employment-seeking young workers, which will increase the access of employers to the young work force.

The “Luis Angel Arango” Library in Colombia is a great resource and venue for the generation and development of knowledge and awareness. Seminars and conferences here on environmental conservation, democracy, peace, and others will provide to the underprivileged youth free access to valuable information.


Colombian social institutions are recent, in comparison to European countries. The oldest of these, which are the Republic Presidency, the Ministry of Defense and the Treasury, are but two centuries old. Similarly, Colombian efforts in environmental conservation are also very recent; after 272 years of colonial rule, followed by 185 years of Republicanism, it was only 27 years ago that environmental conservation started with the Inderena Foundation (National Institute of Natural Renewable Recourses). In 1993, this institute was replaced by the Ministry of the Environment, which established the SINA (Ambient National System), in 1999 to promote sustainable development.

Like the environmental conservation movement, youth institutions are also very new to Colombia; the Youth Vice-Ministry was established in 1994. Although the government and NGOs have been participating in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda, the youth organizations of Colombia are just starting to guide their actions towards this goal. However, to the lack of efficient networking, the activities of youth and related organizations remain disconnected.

Projects of the Tayrona Group for the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda

The Youth Law outlines that the youth networks will be one of the main executors of the present law. These networks will also be a means for the youth’s participation according to the article 45 of the National Constitution.

The Tayrona Group proposes to organize “The Latin-American Meeting of Youth for Environment, Peace and Life”, and to establish the Environmental Youth Network of Colombia. The lessons of the past few years will guide the way to be followed in these undertakings.


Green Encounter for Life, Bogotark the florid one, 1997. 15.000 youth participants.

National Assembly of Catholic Youth, BogotMarch 1998. 250 youth participants.

Environmental National Congress, Ministry of the Environment, Guaduas, June 1998, 2000 participants.

Permanent Assembly for Peace, BogotJuly 1998

World Festival of the Youth, Portugal, August 1998.

National Assembly of Youth for Peace, BogotMarch 1999.

Latin American Encounter of Youth for Peace, supported by the UNESCO, 350 participants.

These meetings have brought together youth that is interested in the environment and peace. In the same spirit, the Tayrona Group wishes to create a network that would allow the participation of more individuals in the exchange experiences and that would facilitate the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Latin-American Meeting of Youth for Environment, Peace and Life


To generate a space of meeting, participation, and organization of Colombian and Latin-American Youth interested in environmental conservation.

Date and Venue

October 7-9, 1999, Santa F Bogota, Colombia.


Youth in leadership positions, young organizations, NGOs, government entities that have experience and interest on the work of youth in environmental conservation with an approximate total of 500 persons.


The meeting aims to merge academic, social, and cultural interchange with summit conferences, seminars, and specific workshops. The programme will include spaces for artistic and cultural parallel activities to promote the expression and growth of Latin-American cultural diversity.

Important Note

In the meeting, we are planning to establish the “Environmental Youth Network of Colombia” with its plan of action in municipal, regional and national level. We will be glad to have your support in the meeting as a sign of the strengthening of the network to implement the Habitat Agenda and Agenda 21.

For this activity we request

Technical assistance, documentation and information on best practices,

Contacts with NGOs, youth organizations and GOs worldwide, and UN offices,

Participation of the representatives selected by you.

Other Projects

In addition to the organization of the above-mentioned meeting, the Tayrona Group has several other projects:

Lucida for the environment, peace, and life: This promising project proposes to utilize all branches of the fine and plastic arts to relay the message of environmental conservation. The work that is generated will be a means of expression that stimulates the creativity of the children and youth, promoting the acquisition of knowledge, awareness, and participation in environmental work.

Recycling paper: This is a programme that has been implemented for the past two years in Ciudad Bolr, an area of marginal human settlements in Bogotwhere women family heads and youth recycle printing and photocopy paper, from the sales of which they earn additional income.

Ecological cocktails: To prevent the consumption of alcohol, natural fruit juices are promoted as substitute party drinks.

Environmental education: With this programme environmental conscious building has been promoted through seminars, forums, and conferences in schools and universities and workshops, hikes, and ecological trips.


An evaluation mechanism to monitor and assess the value of activities directed to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda does not exist in Colombia. Thus, it has become necessary to create a database of the best practices. In this light, the Tayrona Group is working on the establishment of the Environmental Youth Network that would allow the sharing and distribution of information on practices and experiences related to the Habitat Agenda.


· There is a great housing deficit and incomplete coverage of public services in Colombia.

· The slow construction process is no match for the accelerating urbanization, which will continue to generate marginal human settlements.

· The economic problems and political instability that plague the country have not allowed overcoming poverty.

· The human settlements are not sustainable.

· The work on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda should be interdisciplinary and inter-institutional; however, this has not been achieved in Colombia despite the efforts.

· Colombia Tayrona’s Youth Environmental Network is a collective effort to strengthen the work of the young people in the implementation of the Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda. In order to guarantee the sustainability of this initiative we want to generate processes of international cooperation.

· Colombia has an extraordinary biological, ethnic and cultural diversity and this is its most important promise to achieve sustainable development.

· In Colombia appropriate city planning does not exist. It is necessary to build sustainable cities in the future:

- To guarantee the participation of all in the decision-making process;

- To create and strengthen strategic alliances among the state, the private sector, the NGOs, the civil society, the youth organizations and youth in coordination with the international community;

- To articulate plans, programmes and projects;

- To utilize the technological advances to sustain an efficient, effective communication;

- To promote scientific investigation; and

- To promote training activities and education.

The youth is very interested in participating in this process.