Students’ Peace Week: Pathways to Peace

Collective Article

Martha Ruiz, a commissioner from the Colombian Truth Commission, once said “all societies change because the youth imagine a different future”. Based on the proposal done by the GISA Events Coordinator to all Students Initiatives to organize thematic weeks, a group of young graduate students dedicated their time, efforts, and inspiration to build a space for dialogue around the different dimensions and domains of constructing peace. Throughout the third week of April, these groups of students led the discussion on how to build peace based on ethical, gender, environmental, artistic, and victim participation. This article aims at recollecting the main take away and key lessons learned during each event.

Throughout the week we often received the same question: what does it mean to build peace? We believe our efforts in raising awareness and discussing these issues also construct peace. By giving voice to those key actors involved in peace construction processes we inspire new ideas and projects that change concrete realities. As students, this is one of the ways we can build peace together.


Ethical Perspectives on Peace

The week kickstarted with a workshop prepared by Civilian Peace Service Canada, a non-profit organization led by experienced peace practitioners that aim at professionalizing peace by offering training and accreditation to those involved in the sector. The workshop explored the ethical side of a peace professionalism, as well as the main universal values and principles that a peacebuilder must develop to make the world a better place. The core idea recognizes the values of empathy, humility and sincerity as universal, however, they are expressed differently through the wide array of cultures in the world. Besides those values, a peacebuilder must cultivate communication, conflict analysis and transformation, negotiation, and mediation as key competences to build a stable, sustainable, and long-lasting peace.


Peacebuilding and gender security in post-conflict zones

It was a pleasure having the former president of Liberia HE. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to talk about the role of women in peacebuilding in post conflict contexts. With her, Professor Claudia Seymour, and professor Delidji Eric Degila discussed the importance of including women in the peace processes of sub-Saharan Africa.

Local peacebuilding in Yemen

The MENA initiative invited Thiyazen Al-Alawi and Aisha Al-Jaedy for a rich discussion on Yemeni local peace efforts conducted towards promoting peace in the war-torn country through artistic medians and approaches. The event, “Local Peacebuilding in Yemen” was a chance to engage in an incredibly rich conversation with the panel’s speakers in a space that was created to reflect on how, despite the countless challenges and threats faced by local Yemeni peacebuilders and activists, they are tirelessly striving to incorporate new and innovative forms of speech and resistance and to give voice to those unheard through arts and inclusive creative projects involving women, youth and local communities.


Natural resources extraction and human rights violations

What is the link between the computer you are typing on right now, violent conflict, and climate change? Well, to sum it up: natural resources extraction. To delve deeper into these connections, the Human Rights, Conflict and Peace Initiative discussed them with Prof. Filipe Calvão – expert researcher on extractive economies, Mr. Vital Kamungu – from the Good Shepherd Foundation in the DRC, and Prof. Claudia Seymour – who has spent a decade researching about violence in the DRC.

While extraction of natural resources is key in the current global production system, their overexploitation causes various problems. Although local communities certainly benefit from this activity as an opportunity to make a living, their working conditions are overtly dangerous and natural resources exploitation fuels armed conflicts. 

Read more about the event here.

GISA Movie Night: “To End a War”

The Colombian Peace Agreement was signed in 2016 between the government and the FARC guerilla. Despite this, violence has risen and social leaders and former combatants are killed every day in the country. The Peacebuilding Initiative and LANI decided to co-host a GISA Movie Night during the Student’s Peace Week and screen the film “To End a War”, which explored the road that led to the peace talks and then to the signing of the agreement in Colombia.

After the documentary, Borja Paladini, an academic and peace professional, and Yolanda Perea, an Afro-Colombian activist who advocates for victim’s rights, led a panel that discussed the stage of the agreement’s implementation. The most advanced points in the agreement are the creation of the Integrated System of Truth, Justice and Reparation and the Development Programs with Territorial Focus (PDET). Nevertheless, the third point of the agreement, on victims’ rights, has been poorly implemented and there is a lack of resources to ensure reparation to all the victims. Both panelists highlighted the role that civil society has played in the implementation of the accords since it was victims’ organizations and other NGOs who pressured the government to comply with what was agreed upon and provide reparation to the victims.


Digital Networking Event

Networking during a global pandemic is a difficult undertaking. Therefore, we thought we could end the Student Peace Week with a new networking experience via Wonder. This tool allowed us to move around a digital room and mirror real-life encounters. During the event, students and professionals from a variety of fields met and exchanged experiences. It was a great success, and everyone was pleasantly surprised by how smooth digital encounters outside of breakout sessions can be. We created a space where current and future students were able to ask questions and seek advice from professionals, ranging from application tips to how to survive an interview. Definitely a format to be repeated, as it is a very dynamic and inclusive tool that allows people to connect from all over the world. 

The Students’ Peace Week is a thematic week of events that took place from April 19 to 23 organized by the Gender, Peace and Security Coalition, the Peacebuilding Initiative, the MENA Initiative, the Human Rights, Conflict and Peace Initiative, and GISA. Its aim is that of deepening students’ understanding of peace and approach it from different perspectives.

Photo by MONUSCO Photos on Flickr

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