Young people building peace in Colombia | Karin Andersson
02 Feb 2016
Why have young people embraced the opportunity to lead and participate in the efforts to build peace in Colombia? Perhaps it is because in over sixty years, Colombians haven’t known one day of peace? At a festival for peace last year in the province of Norte de Santander, a young woman told me that “this is a unique opportunity to get to know a country that I’ve never really known, a country in which no one dies because of a war.”
Colombia is a country with a unique geography and history that produced a rich cultural diversity. Each region of the country has its own unique cultural and social norms. With this in mind, the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the left wing FARC guerrillas highlight the importance of peace building at the local level. Even though a peace agreement is likely to be signed very soon, it is clear that a durable peace has to be built from the bottom up.
The truth is, for a long time, young people all over Colombia’s different regions have created their own processes, projects, and initiatives aimed at building peace and promoting their rights and participation in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. These include the youth platform for peace in Meta, the network for young peacebuilders in Antioquia and the School for Youth Leadership in Nariño (all of which have been supported by UNDP’s Local Partnerships for Peace and Development).
Over the last ten years, UNDP Colombia has been supporting local level peacebuilding in the most conflict-affected areas of the country, counting youth as a crucial partner and actor in these efforts. Now, in the midst of the ongoing peace negotiations, UNDP has supported efforts for over 10,000 university students from across the country to participate in direct conversations with the office of the Colombian government in charge of the peace talks.
Using a festival format, combining artistic, cultural and academic elements, was a great way for young people to give voice to their doubts, questions, suggestions, and hopes for the ongoing peace process. The festivals took place in nine different regions and were open to all University students. The forums included thorough information on the peace process and space for the students to ask questions and give suggestions, which centered on issues related to how the peace process implementation would be financed, how the reintegration process of ex-combatants would take place, and how to ensure a plural political participation for the FARC.
In some places, these students are now the ones sharing information on the peace process among their peers.
The adoption of the Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security is extremely important for all these young people committed to building peace in their own communities. It is a formal recognition that young women and men play an important and positive role in the promotion of peace. In Colombia, youth have a critical role to play in the implementation of the new Agenda 2030. And given this historic moment for the country to finally see an end to the armed conflict, Colombian youth have a unique role in reaching Sustainable Development Goal 16. This is an opportunity for youth to build on their unique role as change makers, critical thinkers, innovators, and leaders.
By learning from local efforts, we at UNDP can help make these resolutions and goals a reality. We need to step up and bolster our support for innovative programming to keep boosting young people’s leadership and meaningful participation in building peace in Colombia.