What I learned at the Summit

The definition of peace is changing, and for it to become a reality, the entire world needs to be behind it

As my flight took off from El Dorado airport, I tried to align and organize all that my mind had absorbed in the past four days.

From President Juan Manuel Santos’ opening remarks to doctor Ira Helfand’s detailed description of what would be nuclear for us, every second of the 16th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was filled with learning.

Peace varies, so do we

I learned to appreciate the reality of my Costa Rica. Though we are separated by a short three-hour flight, Colombia is a country that has lived a completely opposite reality.

While Costa Rica hasn’t had an army since 1948, our South American brothers have endured an armed conflict for over 52 years. 170 thousand civilians dead. Countless missing. People born and perished without knowing peace.

This is the reason why we should recognize, and scrutinize Colombia’s current conjuncture. The guerilla disarming process and its reinsertion in society calls for extreme care. Now more than ever, this country needs every one of its citizens for this to become a reality.

Doctor Ira Helfand, from the Physicians for Social Responsibility

Additionally, I learned to view peace different. I used to think I knew its definition. In fact, I was almost certain that, if I were to ask it out loud, everyone would give me a similar answer. Not anymore. I can’t ask a Costa Rican man for his definition of peace and compare it to a Syrian girl, born in 2010, who has faced more years of her life at war than at peace.

Nobody can deny that the future is overwhelming. The odds of an armed conflict increase every day. Just 8 countries are nuclear power, but they hold our world in their hands. And they aren’t slowing down. Military countries are investing 1,2 trillion dollars in weapons.

But all Nobel Laureates said the same thing: it’s been proven that armed conflicts is only a short term solution. Historically, our lack of negotiating skills has ended in war. A war that progressively increases its sights on cities and not specific military objectives.

Dialogue has never been humanity’s business card.

To this, we must add our economic model, designed only to accumulate capital, which has in turn created vast gaps of inequality in almost every country. While we see such amounts invested in military efforts, only a very small fraction is invested in education.

To this day, most nations live in a constant state of discrimination against women, youth and minorities.

It is not an easy road. A peaceful future seems utopic. Impossible. But this doesn’t mean it is so.

Then the big question arises: how do we achieve peace?

A key step is education

Through it is how give young people the tools necessary for them to break the barriers such as discrimination and economic inequality. But education is not only given in schools, but also in the daily social exercise. Let’s take into consideration that the tools to educate are easier to use than ever before.

We’ve reached a point in which a pilot, sitting in front of a computer in the United States, can kill a person in the Middle East. We can do the same with education. Today is the day in which we can educate without walls. Without borders.

Shirin Ebadi urged young people to study

Besides education, there are several roads in which we can promote world peace. The United Nations have generated 17 Sustainable Development Goals with clear and concise objectives. You can visit them here.

All around the world, initiatives at a national, regional and hyper-local level exist, to promote a sustainable development of peace and respect.

The future can be an obstacle or an opportunity. Jody Williams put it well: “if you don’t do anything to change, then you can’t complain.”

The power of youth

Currently, half the world’s population is 25 or under. And it’s a population that wants change.

I saw change in the number of teenagers from the United States that want to change their nation for good.

I heard change in cheers and celebrations of thousands of young Colombians as President Santos announced that the National Liberation Army (ELN) had released Odín Sanchez, the first step towards dialogue.

I met change when I interviewed a young woman from the Emirates who, at 16, has her own foundation aimed towards creating environmental conscience.

These are people that do not want to depend on their government to accomplish things. They take action. Their actions might not be massive. Perhaps, they might not change the entire world. But they are making change.

As for me, after this trip, I now understand the value of communication at a deeper level. We journalists are also responsible for educating. On my behalf, one of my goals is to inform as many people as possible about the peace efforts all over the world.

As for my country, our Costa Rica, once the flag nation of values in Central America, it still has the chance to recover its peaceful ways of the past. But it needs every single one of us.

After all, not only Nobel Laureates must promote peace.

Author: Bernardo Montes de Oca

Escribo de este mundo. Aunque es cansado.

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