Peacebuilding in Colombia 2018
Louise is studying Peace and Development at Uppsala University, and took part in the 2018 Peacebuilding course at Universidad de Los Andes.
Before leaving for Colombia, I had only a vague idea about what the peacebuilding program would be like. I was happily surprised when I checked the schedule for the first time, seeing all the different lectures, field visits and discussions. Three weeks of very long and intense days with a packed schedule would normally have felt very harsh, but never have I been as eager to participate in everything as during this course. Thanks to the great variety of perspectives on the conflict, we were able not only to learn about facts, statistics and official statements, but also many opinions, thoughts and reasons behind different actions. I broadened my view a lot, and now I have a much greater understanding of the issues that I had already been discussing and reading about at home. What I had read before was just the tip of an iceberg, and many things were not entirely true either. I had been exposed to one out of millions of perspectives on this conflict and peace process, and during this course I have been able to explore many more.
Going to the academic excursions was a great way to see how different institutions and organizations work and what areas they are targeting. Building peace is an extremely complex task and it needs to cover the whole society and every individual, which might seem impossible at first. But it was very motivating to meet many of the Colombians that are working every day to rebuild the country and to reach a long-lasting peace. Many areas we touched upon were areas I had not even thought about before, and it left me with a huge amount of inspiration for my future studies and career within peace and development. The excursions did not only show the positive side of the picture, but also made me realize the magnitude of misunderstandings, corruption and propaganda from all sides in the conflict. Just because the peace agreement has been signed doesn’t mean that the parties understand each other and that they will do their best to keep all the promises. And the fact that the peace agreement is very thorough and well-written doesn’t mean that it will be implemented efficiently and work well in practice. There is also a deep polarization in Colombia, as we saw both during the plebiscite and the presidential election, which increases the difficulties of working together towards a mutual goal. During the excursions we were able to receive many different views on how the ideal Colombia would be like. There are also many basic needs and human rights that need to be met in order to satisfy the population in both urban and rural areas, and without an improvement in these areas, the source of the conflict will still be present even if the arms have been laid down.
Together with the Colombian dance classes, coffee tasting activities, food experiences and theatre visits, this course has also given us the opportunity not only to study the political situation and peace agreement but a bit of the rich Colombian culture as well. While studying this conflict that has been ongoing for decades, it has sometimes been hard to understand the reality all the affected people have had, and hard to take in all the different experiences and touch life situations that are far from my own reality and childhood back in Sweden. Therefore, it has been great to take part in some of the Colombian cultures to see the positive part of the story and the things that have helped many Colombians to go on with their lives and make the country a better place despite the difficulties. I fell for the country directly, and I can’t wait to come back.