Peace Education in Colombia

(*Reports prepared by graduate students of the American University’s International Peace and Conflict Studies Program.  Please see November 2010 issue of the Global Campaign for Peace Education newsletter for more information: www.peace-ed-campaign.org/newsletter)

Peace Education in Colombia, South America: by Priscila Silva

 

IFA (Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen). Gives a description of German Agro Action’s (Welt Hunger Hilfe) project from 2005-2007 that worked on conflict resolution and peace education in the Department of Antioquia, Colombia. Working with 40 communities, the organization targeted peace promoters, women, youth and children with the goal of infusing said participants into the process of ensuring a peaceful coexistence in a region that has been marred by violent conflict. They also focused on the protection of said youth and children, as they are often the victims of violence.

The Peace Education Programme works to educate the participants using various methods, such as training to care for victims of the civil war, training youth motivators and in general disseminating awareness on the need for peace though round tables and dialogue among varying communities and levels. One of the factors that has helped the efforts of German Agro Action was their partnering with the local organization of Corporación para la Participación Ciudadana (ConCiudadanía) in Antioquia’s capital of Medellin.

Training Projects:

Servas International.  Servas International is a non-governmental organization that works towards building peace through a network of volunteers worldwide. It is composed of nine regions ran by assigned coordinators who keep up to date a network of hosts who serve as home base to travelers from around the world interested in learning about another culture. The idea is to create a multicultural peace through the knowledge gained from experiencing other parts of the world.

A particular event held through Servas was the “Servas Peace Training Experience in Colombia 2010.” The event was held from March 21st to the 28th. Based out of University El Bosque in Bogota, Colombia, the event was intended to “help participants recognize and develop their personal goals for peace and develop the tools they need to implement regional and international peace projects.” The four key aspects of the event were: Being; Becoming; Belonging; and Building. The website below gives detailed information of the event, including a daily schedule demonstrating their methods to develop and foster peace while learning about other cultures, in this case the varied traditions and customs within Colombia.

http://www.usservas.org/pdfs/ServasPeaceTraining2010.pdf

International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE). By developing alliances with other organizations, universities, etc., IIPE is a breathing source of information for those that want to learn more, get involved or share their resources with the peace community, working from the foundation of participatory learning, where everyone can serve as both an educator and student.

The program in Colombia was entitled “Learning to Read the World from Multiple Perspectives: Peace Education toward Diversity and Inclusion.” IIPE hosted the event from July 11-17 in Cartagena, Colombia, a popular city on the Atlantic Coast of Colombia, once a major slave and trading port. It was co-coordinated by other organizations, such as the Fundación Escuelas de Paz that are also working towards furthering peace education in Colombia. An interesting component of the event was that it was completely bilingual. Below is a link to the brochure the event.

The focus revolved around Colombia’s violent past and present and the need to coexist peacefully among many cultures, moving away, transforming, the violence that plagues day to day life. In order to do so the institute focused more specifically on the varied channels of violence, the need to involve all socio-ethnic groups in dialogue, the need to understand and listen to varying perspectives and the development of alternatives to violence and methods to approach peace education.

The Institute was founded by Betty Reardon and other faculty colleagues in 1982 at Teachers College in Columbia University, and they have since hosted the IIPE event in different parts of the world, as they stress their portrayal of being a “’learning community’ in which the organizers and participants work together to nurture and inclusive, highly interactive learning environment toward practicing a culture of peace. “

Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung gGmbH (INWENT) INWENT is a capacity building organization with projects worldwide. One particular project deals with creating peace educators in Central and South America. Their website speaks of the long civil wars of various countries, human rights violations and unequal distribution of income that keep countries such as Colombia in a cycle of violence. In order to try and change these repetitive cycles, INWENT trains participants to teach peace so that said participants can teach it themselves to others. You can visit this link to find additional information on their programs.

The programs are intensive, and last at least a year and are directed to those who are already involved in educating teachers, members of NGOs, etc. Specifically, the website gives the example of success in Colombia, with the opening of Escuelas Rurales (Rural Schools), founded by a former alum of the training programs, and INWENT’s goal continues, with the support of of other organizations, to build peace educators throughout.

Colombian Organizations working towards constructing a culture of peace:

Fundacion Mi Sangre. Mi Sangre Foundation was founded by Juan Esteban Aristizabal, otherwise known as the popular singer/songwriter Juanes. From Medellin, Colombia, Juanes grew up in the heart of violence among warfare and the drug-trade that continue to take the lives of innocent people. From the beginning of his singing career, his songs spoke of the distress of his people, as he pleaded for peace and a time of compassion. This devotion to wanting to establish a culture of peace within Colombia led to Mi Sangre.

The organization itself now deals with many programs, but the biggest focus is on the children who have been involved in and affected by Colombia’s civil strife. The goal is to provide psychosocial support for said youth and create the future protagonists for peace. Juanes believes that one needs to invest in the children, as they will obviously become the future leaders. The non-profit organization, founded in 2006, also functions as a bridge between communities and international organizations, pushing for the safety and inclusion of children.

The foundation has various supporters, the most recent one being the World Bank. Aside from their financial support for projects, etc., the foundation also sells merchandise such as t-shirts and journals to raise money. Working in a country where children are not only involved in warfare, but also innocent bystanders at the hands of land mines, the work to be done in Colombia to progressively move towards peace is great, and the foundation understands the grand
scope of what it is against, committed to creating a world of peace and equality, first and foremost for the children. The website provides much more information, albeit better understood in Spanish, but if you’re not fluent in Spanish, then the English version will do just fine. To find more information simply go to:

 Aside from his organization, Juanes has been involved extensively in using his music as a tool for peace. Specifically, in 2008, he planned the concert entitled Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace without Borders) as a reaction to the political strife that arose between Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. The concert was held on the Simon Bolivar Bridge, the border between the three countries, and proved to be a great success. Following in 2009, he successfully held the second concert of Paz Sin Fronteras in Havana, Cuba, drawing in the participation of many other artists, as well as putting him in the center of a heated debate and hate crimes from those that opposed his selection of Cuba. A resident of Miami, Juanes received many threats and hate mail condemning his concert, demonstrating the even greater need for peace, especially between Cuba and the Cubans of Miami.

Peace Brigades International PBI conducted a study in 1993 to evaluate the need for action in Colombia. It had started working in areas of armed conflicts only ten years prior, and after their study of Colombia, PBI recognized that there was not only a vast need for intervention to protect human rights and fight against violence, but that the work to be done would prove very challenging because the conflicts in Colombia are multifaceted and span across many different regions. In 1994 PBI fist laid foot in Colombia and with the help of other international organizations they have worked towards protecting human rights and finding a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Colombia.

To commence their work, PBI endured a long arduous process that consisted of dialogue with various government agencies and general awareness, leading to their official establishment in Colombia after a few years. Their website aims to educate the global public on the conflict at hand, and stresses the importance of all of their support, especially from the many volunteers on the ground, extending the awareness of the multifaceted conflicts beyond the borders of Colombia.

Throughout the years that PBI has been on the ground, they have placed staff in various regions, particularly in areas where forced displacement has been a problem. To this day they have 32 volunteers in Colombia and support staff in Bogotà, Brussels and Washington. Their website has much more information including articles, bulletins and how to get involved with the organization. The most recent bulletin highlights their 15 year mark since starting their peace initiatives in Colombia, and continues to highlight the additional work to be done, and most importantly their success to this day because of the support from the citizens of Colombia who continue to fight for their rights and a peaceful resolution.

In addition to the organization’s website below, you can also view a documentary by PBI commemorating 15 years of service alongside Human Rights Defenders in Colombia.  

To find out more visit http://www.pbi-colombia.org/

Alianza Educacion para la Construcion de Culturas de Paz. The Alliance of Education for the Construction of Peace Cultures has its roots in Colombia and was an initiative of a group of professionals working in the World Bank. In 1999 they held a meeting in Cartagena with the motive of joining the forces of 15 projects that had been developing around peace education in Colombia with much success. They recognized the need to establish a network for said projects so that they could continue to prosper, and invited other national and international organizations to join the initiative, which became reality in November of 2002 when the Convention of Cooperation and Technical Assistance for the Alliance was signed.

The first three year plan was put in place from 2004-2007 and helped extend the Alliance’s influence across 25 departments, incorporating 300 varying ideas and methodologies including peace cultures, human rights, conflict resolutions, inclusion, etc. The next three year plan spanned the years of 2007-2010, helping to reinforce the goals of the previous plan while adding reinforcement to knowledge management and the permanent construction of the Alliance and its allies as a network of strategic information helping to strengthen constructive experiences and peace cultures in Colombia. The plan then lead to the creation of four strategies and four lines of action to accomplish their goals.

The organization’s mission statement is to support the strengthening of Constructive Experiences for Cultures of Peace via cooperation and technical assistance, based on the systematic construction of the Alliance via the Development of Knowledge Management Projects, the Impact on Public Policy and Communication. The website provides much more information, but is only in Spanish, although a great resource. It continues with its vision and objectives and provides news and information on resources and materials as well as other websites of interest. Being relatively new, its website will hopefully be translated into other languages in order to share its extensive knowledge with non-Spanish speakers, but for now, if you’re fluent, please be sure to check out the website: