Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Thinking back on the time that we’ve been here and the little time that we still have until we go back home, I realise that the end of this experience is fast approaching. This apparently sad thought becomes less hopeless when I consider all of the knowledge that I can take with me. It´s the kind of knowledge that comes from shared experiences and the background of the rest of our classmates; from all of the professors who we have had; from all of the people who have made this programme possible.
Perhaps this knowledge currently exists as some ideas waiting to be consolidated. One of the ideas that I am beginning understand is that peace, in its several forms, is possible depending on some ifs… If what? If the many factors outside us settle down in the correct way. But at the same time, peace is never possible unless we are willing to work to reach it. Therefore peace is in each of us, as one classmate said last week, but in addition, it depends on our attitude as well as our behaviour as the first step. I always thought that before criticising others we have to be critical of ourselves, but now I know that even this is not enough. Nothing changes if you are conscious about your weaknesses but you don’t try to be better. Is this difficult? Sure. But is it more difficult than convincing the rest of the world to leave their weapons, or undertaking international interventions in a responsible way instead of following your own interests, or obliging governments to apply international laws?
Our views in class and out often differ, but during these discussions we are learning about ourselves as well. I learned, for instance, that I had prejudices over security forces, particularly in terms of international interventions. Even so while I listened to my classmates discuss models of security that I didn’t yet know, I wondered whether these models could really do a lot less harm in post-conflict countries in practice or if they m’estan explicant una milonga (“tell tall stories” as we would say in Catalan)? Beyond confirming that I still think in my mother tongue, and that my background carries weight over my perceptions, this demonstrates that there are other models and therefore possible solutions to the current problems relating to security.
Although sometimes ignored by governments and manifesting as different kinds of justice in practice, international laws represent a valuable institution in the pursuit of peace. And working in peace are committed people in mediation, education, academia, communications and social services, as well as lawyers, journalists, police forces, sociologists, activists and the military.
There is a lot of work to do and nothing is perfect but if we didn’t believe peace to be possible, we would not be here. Maybe structures, attitudes or behaviours need to be changed but if you recognise these many committed people willing to drive this change, how do you see the glass?
Carlotta Santos Vidal, Spain
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2013 Session