The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interview with Patricia Lozano, a peace observer.

Mara Garcia

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School shootings, terrorist attacks and drug wars. The human race does not need a natural disaster to see its final days. We have our own personal beast on planet Earth, homo sapiens. However, there are still some, that try to make the world a better place to live.

The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFor), is a nonviolence movement that aims for a world free of violence, oppression or injustice. One of its many programs is Accompaniment. Every year they send peace observers to countries of conflict to “participate in the work for peace, democracy and human rights.” SweFor, has implemented this program in  Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia.

According to FOR Peace Presence, the experiences of various organisations located in Colombia demonstrates that “international presence in a conflict region can diminish considerably the risks of the civilian population that has been converted into a military target.”

Speaking to the Circular, Patricia Lozano, a SweFor peace observer in Colombia, says that they provide physical accompaniment to local defenders whose human rights activism often receive threats.“We have agreements with human right defender organisations or individuals and physically go with them to the regions. We ensure that they are safe while they work and if something happens we report it to authorities either locally or internationally”.

Ethnic community supported by SweFor. Photo Credit: Patricia Lozano, peace observer

Ms Lozano explains that they support ethnic communities, afro-Colombian communities, victims, peasants, land rights or environmental rights. SweFor tries to change the situation through their social network and political instance. They demand the intervention of state institutions to guarantee human rights of the people in some critical regions.

According to Lozano, this project is important because many thought it would bring peace since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) intervention. FARC has been the largest rebel group in Colombia. These communist fighters started the war against the repression and inequality mainly by the Colombian security forces. In 2016, FARC and the Colombian government signed a peace treaty disarming FARC and turning them into a legitimate political party. Even tough FARC reduced its violence levels, other armed organisations are looking to take a piece of Colombian territory and make it their own.  As a response to this, there has been a very fast increase in acts of human rights defenders and community leaders to counter these armed movements.

International presence in a conflict region can diminish considerably the risks of the civilian population that has been converted into a military target.

The method of physical accompaniment helps to raise the community profile in order to protect itself and expand the range of action. This program represents the international concern for human rights.  The presence of peace observers like Ms Lozano, according to Peace Brigades International, has three simultaneous effects:

  1. Protects threatened activists by raising the stakes for potential attackers.
  2. Provides moral support and international solidarity.
  3. Strengthens the international movement for peace and human rights.
International Accompaniment in Colombia. SweFor/ Photo Credit: Patricia Lozano, peace observer.

Peace Watch Switzerland (PWS), another NGO organisation, said that peace observers “heightens the political cost of violations of human rights by putting them in the spotlight of the international community”. They put pressure on local actors who are concerned about the negative consequences such as, potential economic sanctions or tarnished international reputation.

No matter the nationality, we have to understand that we are all humans and therefore have the same rights. The importance of an international presence in conflicted regions is vital to prevent the violation of human rights and most important save humans integrity to demean themselves by attempting with their other rights.

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Mara Garcia