By Don Evans, Member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver, Canada; Summer Lewis, Rotary-Institute for Economics and Peace Partnership Coordinator and Kris Swanson, Member of the Rotary Club of Park City Sunrise, United States
Since the Colombian government and the Marxist-led Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a peace agreement in 2016, after a 52-year war that left 200,000 dead and 5 million displaced, the challenge has been building lasting, sustainable peace. Rotary District 5420 (Utah, United States) and District 5040 (British Colombia, Canada) are taking action to help build this peace, investing in a global grant funding a Positive Peace Workshop for Colombian youth. Districts 5420 and 5040 are partnering with District 4281 and clubs throughout Colombia to sponsor the Positive Peace Workshop, built upon pilot workshops previously held in Uganda (2016) and Mexico (2017).
The Positive Peace Workshops have been developed by Rotary International in partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace, the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and to quantify its economic value.
These workshops in Colombia and Mexico in 2019 will equip participants with the knowledge and skills to work towards peacebuilding. Participants from the Mexico Workshop in 2017 have formed or strengthened collaboration networks and have gone on to start their own projects. Some have taken their workshop experience back to their universities and communities to provide training in taking action on peace and conflict resolution to students and young professionals.
Brian Farr, 2017 – 2018 Director of the Rotarian Action Group for Peace, approached District 5420 with the opportunity to support this specific project, based on ongoing peace work with District 4281 in Colombia. “We were thrilled when Brian presented us with an opportunity to sponsor this grant,” said Kris Swanson, Grant Lead for 5420. “We’ve always considered ourselves to be a Peace District, and being on the forefront of such a momentous project allows us to contribute our piece of peace for long term global benefit. And asking our clubs to match the DDF we committed has truly engaged our Rotarians at an individual level.”
And Rotary District 5040’s decision to become a partner in this Peace Workshop is a direct result of the Past Rotary President Ian Riseley’s 2018 Peacebuilding Conference in Vancouver. Past District 5040 Governor John Anderson chair of the conference organizing committee, said, “We, in Rotary, are known as people who take action. So, to have this opportunity to take action through the Positive Peace Workshop, so soon after the peacebuilding conference we just held here in our district, can be a source of pride for all our clubs. As a former school teacher and administrator, I fully support the focus on youth as a way to build lasting peace.”
Colombia ranks 146 out of 163 countries in the 2017 Global Peace Index, so there are opportunities for building sustainable peace in that country. Peace and conflict resolution is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus; youth can serve an important part of the peacebuilding strategy. By strengthening young leaders’ knowledge and skills in building peace, we can expand and enhance their efforts in creating more resilient and peaceful communities in Colombia.
The Institute for Economics and Peace is dedicated to measuring and reporting on the economic value of peace. It offers educational and community-based programs to increase stability in communities.
Through the Rotary-IEP Partnership, clubs can participate in an online Rotary Peace Academy, a digital training program with interactive tools and webinars about new peacebuilding methods and the underlying causes of conflict. The Positive Peace workshops in Mexico and Colombia bring together diverse groups of community leaders and peacebuilders to discuss projects on conflict resolution.