News from Medellin, Colombia!
Working shoulder to shoulder, in partnership, with grassroots organizations has always been the essence of the Youth Peace and Security Program.
During the first week of November, the YPS team, Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Dr. Aldo Civico and Joan C. Lopez, traveled to Medellin, Colombia to hold strategic meetings with partners on the ground, and to share a recently published case study about the role of youth leadership in peace building.
Because Colombia is undergoing a major historical event, that of transitioning out of a 50+ armed conflict, we feel it is pivotal to situate our research and practice within the current historical conditions of the country. No more than a month ago, precisely a week before our arrival to Medellin, the office of the High Commissioner for Peace announced the composition of a Truth Commission and made public its members. The commission will be headed by the Jesuit priest, Francisco de Roux, and his leadership will be supported and accompanied by 10 exemplar individuals (5 women and 5 men) from different sectors of the civil society, ranging from academics to jurists to journalist and public intellectuals. We met with Francisco de Roux and shared with him some of the advances we have made thus far in our work in the city. We also conversed about our future plans, and found interesting intersections between our notions of peacebuilding and conflict resolution and his understanding on the same manner. The meeting ended with enthusiasm about the near future of Medellin, and with a great sense of mutual collaboration.
During the summer of this year, we were invited by the U.N. to write a case study about the involvement of youth in the Colombian conflict both as victims but also, and most importantly, as active actors of resistance to the conflict. Because we believe in the importance of participatory and action-oriented research, we invited some of our youth collaborators to be part of the construction of this case study. In three focal groups we explored the ways in which the Colombian armed conflict has taken a toll on their everyday lives and that of their community. We also explored the ways in which they, as youth leaders, have become active participants in the construction of states of peace in times of war in their neighborhoods and in the city as a whole. The report was written with the data we gathered from these conversations, and we also made some recommendations to the youth section of the U.N..
The report was well received by our colleagues from the U.N., and we felt it was important to translate it into Spanish and to share it with the young women and men that are working, as you read this, to construct a more peaceful environment in Medellin. An intimate reunion was held where we all had an opportunity to speak about our contribution to the report and to the construction of peace in Medellin.
We also met with Federico Gutierrez, the mayor of Medellin. In a meeting at his office we gave him a copy of the U.N. report, shared with him some of the initiatives we have been executing in the city, and provided some constructive comments about the work of his administration towards youth related matters. He was very attentive to our ideas and recommendations, and reiterated his support, and that of his administration, to the Youth, Peace and Security Program at AC4.
Author: Joan Lopez, Coordinator of the Youth, Peace and Security Program at AC4.
Photos: All taken and provided by author.