The Citizen Mobilization | Simon Bolívar Square


By Juan Rojas

On October 2, 2016, the current government in Colombia asked the citizens if they wanted the possibility of peace through agreements with the oldest guerrilla in the Americas; the surprise negative response took us to hundreds of young people, I was one of them, to lead a movement that took to the streets hundreds of thousands and so shortly after a month and a half gave the country a new agreement. In the same plaza that the young people filled in 2016, a flagship ceremony of the 2017 One Young World summit was held, where we used the flashlights of our cell phones in a very emotional act, and that same act was repeated on monday, March 19 the plaza was filled again with young people with a message: let's enlighten peace (#IluminemosLaPaz).

Those of us who were there last Monday in the square do not represent or have the voices of all the young people of Colombia, but I do think it is appropriate to tell the One Young World community the implications that the mobilization of young people in Colombia has had and will continue to defend peace, hoping that our lessons learned will serve many more.

The first thing is that technology is undoubtedly the main ally for those of us who want to mobilize citizens around social causes, when a small group decided that it was necessary to return to the streets a WhatsApp group in which some of us could add new members was the tool to communicate in a base group of almost 150 young people to agree messages, hours, places and spokespersons. If 50 years ago we had to dial a telephone in each person's house, today we can speak in real time to many people to respond to the immediacy of the situation.

The second is that young people are aware of the importance of converging around the big issues. For our case of peace, knowing that a society at war is not the scenario in which diverse sexual orientations are respected, that the conflict generates serious damage to the environment and even that education needs the state to be present throughout the entire national territory to guarantee coverage.

Finally, the citizen mobilization innovation, it is good to go out massively to the street and fill the public squares, but it is clear that to be relevant it must be news, in this sense the campaign “Defendamos la verdad” -Defend the truth- use technology, and each firm of support for the campaign was converted into an email received by the presidents of the upper and lower chambers of the Colombian congress, asking them not to study the president's objections to six articles of the special transitional procedure law that is created from peace process.

I am convinced that being ambassadors One Young World means being part of a network of work to achieve change. Last March, 19 we were many ambassadors who helped make this mobilization possible that we calculated mobilized around 20,000 people throughout the country. Ángela Serrano, was as coordinating El Avipero network serving as articulator of organizations; Paola Silva, with her feminist activism group "7 polas" was present and making visible in networks the impacts of the conflict on gender issues; Felipe Calvo was from the first day helping us with the call directed to grassroots youth organizations; María Paula Macías and Alejandra Rodríguez were key players in the control, we didn’t want that political actors  arrive in the main stage in search of protagonist for their campaigns.

Community OYW, being on top of the main stage and being able to address so many people who with their cell phones symbolically illuminated the peace while we read a manifesto in which the young people spoke to the congress let me confirm that the changes are possible, and the young people are truly called to materialize those changes in the present, not in the future.