Swapping rifles for rafting in name of peace

Former Colombian guerrillas who are in the process of reintegration into society as whitewater rafting guides will appear at two free events held at The University of Queensland this week.

The public events on 22 and 23 May will feature ex-combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), Colombian community members, and Special Assistant to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Colombia, Mauricio Artiñano.

UQ’s Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P Centre) will host both a public seminar and roundtable discussion exploring the reintegration and reconciliation process after the historic signing of the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP.

R2P Centre Director Professor Alex Bellamy said he was pleased to endorse this initiative which supports peace in Colombia by helping former combatants to transform their lives and those of their communities.

“We are buoyed by this visit as a symbol of hope, a victory for reintegration, and a sign of what can be achieved to build peace,” Professor Bellamy said.

“Colombia endured 52 years of armed conflict, but after four years of negotiations, Colombians made a choice for peace.

“A bilateral ceasefire resulted in the signing of the 2016 Final Peace Agreement which has paved the way for a profound transformation.”

The Colombians were invited by the International Rafting Federation to attend the 2019 World Rafting Championships in Tully, Cairns, as part of the Rafting for Peace initiative.

The participants have trained as certified rafting guides as part of their reintegration efforts and they are now leading an eco-tourism project in Colombia.

Mr Artiñano said this was an inspirational example of the fruits of peace in Colombia.

“Five former FARC-EP combatants who voluntarily laid down their weapons two years ago have taken up tourism and rafting as their path for reintegration into civilian life.

“The team is excited to share their individual stories and perspectives on the peace process, as well as their one-of-a-kind visit to Australia at these public events.”

The visit is being co-funded by UQ’s R2P Centre, which is co-funded by The University of Queensland and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, UQ’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Political Science and International Studies.

For more information on these events, please click on the links below:

Colombian Café seminar roundtable

Contemporary Challenges in United Nations Peace Operations:

Reflections from South Sudan, Somalia and Colombia

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