Making peace a reality – a Colombian example
“Good wishes alone will not ensure peace”, said Alfred Nobel. Last week at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, I was pleased to see so many young people and civil society organizations leading a new wave of community mobilization and political advocacy for peace.
The fact that this year the Summit took place for the first time in Latino-America, precisely in Bogota, Colombia, demonstrates that this region is moving forward and there is a willingness to engage in peacebuilding efforts from different parties.
Following three days Summit, I was pleased to attend this event and see that Colombia is ready to change after more than 50-year-long civil war. Despite great hardships and abuses from the past, Colombian people have not give up hope of a just peace. Today, civil society and political leaders have reached the maturity to engage in serious dialogue and take concrete actions for sustainable peace and reconciliation. It is clear that the wounds of the past are still present but Colombian youngsters are ready to reshape the country around them.
Peace is not an easy goal to obtain. It requires a holistic approach in order to shape conditions of well-being, cooperation and improve human relations. It is necessary to take actions from different fronts – from the national level through effective public policies, to the grassroots. In Colombia, sport as a tool for peace is currently been used as one of the approaches to building a more peaceful, just and inclusive society.
Today, a number of civil society organizations are adapting sport activities for the inclusion of the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Adapted football through mixed teams is been used to promote gender equity, and low-cost bikes are helping people’s life to break out of the vicious cycle of violence in some vulnerable communities. Organizations are also using the values of sport as a mechanism for mobilization and capacity building.
At the national level, political leaders have been increasingly aware that sport is a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting social change, development and reconciliation. At the Summit, I met with Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2016, and he avowed that sport is playing a key role in peacebuilding efforts in Colombia. He has said in the past: “peace will allow us to practice sport, and sport will allow us to build peace.”
A number of humanitarian agencies are working in partnership with international organizations and local NGO’s such as the joint IOC-UNHCR project in the Quibdo area, which aims at protecting young people through sport from the risks of armed conflict and other forms of violence.
Peace and Sport has supported six NGO’s in Colombia since 2009, including Colombianitos and Fundamor, and beneficiated 5,000 children. Additionally, during the Summit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Futbol con Corazon, a NGO that uses the pedagogical possibilities of football to help vulnerable communities overcome problems related to violence and poverty. This organization is currently helping to prevent prostitution, early pregnancies, drugs, alcohol and exclusion in Barranquilla.
I believe that Colombia is a good example to illustrate how the values of sport are applied on the field. Through well-structured mechanisms sport can help to create the conditions for sustainable peace. Today, many sport-based programs are part of a holistic approach in cooperation with other organization working in areas such as health, transitional justice, reconciliation, and economic and social development.
The world of peace and the world of sport need to join efforts and work together towards common goals. Sport is at the service of peace promoters, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Its transversal nature, universal language combined with its media power can help to give solution to vital development questions such as health, education, poverty, ethnic tensions, inequality and humanitarian aid.
For the end, I would like to add another quote from the father of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin: “the important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well.” We are currently living in a world that requires mobilization and unification. Good wishes are not enough as Alfred Nobel said. Today we need to fight well for peace. Only through well-structured mobilization with concrete actions, objectives and involvement, particularly from youngsters, we will be able to face the challenges of our current world’s situation.