For a Culture of Peace in Colombia: Conciudadanía

Peace Award Winner 2007, Categorie "Exemplary Organisation"

Colombia has been in the grip of violence for decades: private paramilitary groups and official military units fight for supremacy against left-wing guerrilla organisations in many provinces. Massacres of civilians, kidnappings and land mines have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and made refugees of three million people.

This is all described as "armed conflict". However, the times when violence in Colombia was just the concern of armed units are long gone. It has become the normal means of "resolving conflicts" – in politics and neighbourhoods alike and even within families.

The Conciudadanía advisors, who live locally, work in 40 districts with grassroots organisations, women's and youth groups, as well as public institutions and councils. They demonstrate non-violent methods of resolving conflicts, explain the basics of group work and show how networking and participation in political processes can succeed. Conciudadanía also ensures that the wider public gets to know about its work and its objectives by means of its own radio programmes. Adolescents and young adults in particular are deliberately involved in all of these processes.

The so-called "círculos de convivencia", rounds of talks aimed at peaceful coexistence, are an innovative and much copied example of this. In these talks a human right is first of all discussed and then each individual considers how he/she has violated this right when dealing with his/her fellow human being, and how it might have been possible to behave differently. Each person may only accuse him/herself, not the other participants. At the same time, a mutual promise is made not to use this for purposes of malicious gossip. Conciudadanía is equally dedicated to the care of traumatised victims of the civil war and the social rehabilitation of former paramilitaries.



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