The Peace We Want – A Healthy Environment for All

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My name is Gina Cortés Valderrama and I come from a country where the use of weapons has become a norm for establishing control over its citizens. I come from a country that, despite being the second most diverse in the world in terms of flora and fauna, is not able to peacefully enjoy such a gift due to the conflict caused by the hands of the guerrillas, the military and the multinational companies.

Since my birth, 27 years ago, I have listened day by day to stories in which excessive acts of violence and terror are narrated; stories that are beyond the imagination and are portrayed in the pain of millions of families. According to Indepaz, the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, only in the last month there has been a massacre every two days in my country, Colombia. In recent days, protests against violence perpetrated on citizens at the hands of the police and armed forces have resulted in the deaths of young people between the ages of 17 and 27. I ask myself, who protects us from those who should take care of us? These acts of systematic and structured violence that have been going on for months now have resulted in a growing distrust by civil society towards institutions and the state itself. As in this, and similar scenarios around the world, digital spaces have allowed citizens to work collectively to denounce human rights violations. Communication through social networks and other means have permitted the international community to learn about the reality that is lived in those corners of the globe that have been severely affected by violence since decades ago.

Digital Tools and the Creation of Collective Platforms

Under the physical distancing measures implemented to face COVID-19, the importance of ensuring equal access to virtual spaces and digital tools has become even more vital. Technology promises not only connectivity but also a quicker response to conflicts and global solidarity. It has been a space in which we, the youth, girls and boys, have created a path for ourselves to have a voice in discussions about our future. Digital tools have enabled the creation of collective platforms where women and gender equality organizations from all the regions have outlined the fundamental principles to ensure a just and resilient recovery of our current challenges.

One of the main challenges remains in ensuring an ethical design and implementation in which safe and accessible online spaces and digital tools are guaranteed for all. The conflicts that hinder the way to peace are surrounded by extreme inequality, structural racism, gender-based violence and exclusion, where the opportunities are available to those of privilege. This, under no circumstances, can be exacerbated by the implementation of digital tools.

Digitalization is a Responsibility of the UN

To this end, the United Nations has the responsibility to ensure that digitalization allows for the generation of political and social platforms that guarantee the participation of civil society and leave no one behind. Platforms that go hand-in-hand with international cooperation fostering humanitarian dialogues and spaces for reconciliation. We cannot allow peace to depend on the governments in turn or on authoritarian institutions in search of the accumulation of power. Peace processes require transparency, commitment and collective action. Only in this way it is possible to recover trust, a universal value that is on the verge of extinction.

The Charter of the United Nations was founded under the principle of strengthening universal peace collectively.  This year, as we celebrate 75 years of the United Nations, I make a call for us to build a future of peace together. I am a Colombian woman who, despite the current circumstances in my country, is still full of hope to be able to enjoy the right to live in a healthy environment where terror is not the norm. I urge you here to help us, young people, from all corners of the planet and in all our diversity, to achieve peace by guaranteeing spaces where we do not fear the darkness in the streets of our own neighbourhoods; where we do not experience rejection or hate due to our place of origin, skin colour or gender with which we identify; where women have the opportunity to sit at the discussion tables to shape the transformation we want to see; spaces where mother earth is respected and climate justice is achieved in every corner.

May peace not remain in our imaginary as a distant and impossible dream to achieve. May peace transcend the discourses of hate and give us the freedom to enjoy a full existence.

A speech written by Gina Cortés Valderrama, YGC 2020.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Solutions Initiative. 

Editor’s Note: This speech has been prepared and delivered for the “UN 75 – The Peace We Want” digital conference. It was originally published at WOMEN ENGAGE FOR A COMMON FUTURE.

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Gina, 2020 Young Global Changer, is passionate about contributing to the enhancement of resilient communities in developing countries based on a human-rights approach. She is an environmental engineer from El Bosque University in Bogotá, Colombia and M.Sc. in Sustainable Resource Management from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

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