What am I taking with me?

By Nathalia Contreras Pardo

Today, on the last day of the Symposium, I am reflecting on how much I learned during these past two weeks. I realized that what I thought would be a mainly academic experience turned to be one for personal growth as well.

From the academic perspective I found the sessions on security really interesting and useful. Before coming I had identified security as one of the main areas required for a successful transition, however, my understanding was very limited and in some sense, biased to a defense approach on security mechanisms.

Having the opportunity to read, to discuss with other participants, and to listen to the speakers on this issue was so enriching because now I, even without being an expert, have better tools to address this issue in my professional practice. Particularly, working as part of the monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the Colombian Peace Accord, provide recommendations for effective security mechanisms is key. After this experience I feel I have enough knowledge to think about different approaches or models that can be adapted to Colombian situation and address security-related problems from a more holistic point of view.

Also, the experience of being in Bosnia for two weeks is unique. Having the time to learn about Bosnia’s history, struggles, challenges, the lessons learn and personally knowing survivors´ experiences is a life changing experience. First, it is really interesting to see how other countries have deal with transition, which mechanisms have been more effective than others, which have been the most complex issues to solve, and how to move forward. As a Colombian, it is fascinating to learn from other countries’ experiences. In particular, it was really interesting to see how after more than twenty years civil society still strongly engage on initiatives to contribute to the transition, to develop local ownership, and at the end to have the country they dream, where all Bosnians are not afraid to recognize other as equals, despite their beliefs.

Additionally, I found several contexts and struggles familiar to me in the sense that Bosnians have gone through similar experiences than we, as Colombians, have gone through. So from now on Bosnian is a place that I will always look upon and come back to for inspiration.
Finally, these two weeks have set the perfect scenario to get to know other participants. It has been a privilege to be part of that diverse group, all of whom came from different backgrounds and have so much to tell and teach. Given that, the discussion were always active and allowed me to challenge my own opinions and approaches to some of the topics we addressed on the sessions. I personally value this type of interaction because, as a person and a practitioners, it is really important to keep questioning your ideas, to keep learning and to be always open to change. Hence, respectful disagreement helps you grow.

I am really thankful for the past two weeks, the knowledge I gained and the great persons I met, I feel I have 21 new peacebuilding colleagues and friends.