PBI-Canada co-organizes webinar encouraging applications to be a PBI-Colombia field volunteer

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On February 27, PBI-Colombia, PBI-UK and PBI-Canada collaborated on a webinar to help encourage people to be a field volunteer with PBI-Colombia.

They are currently seeking new volunteers with an application deadline of March 2.

For more about that, click here.

This webinar featured former PBI-Colombia field volunteers Marie Zeller (there from 2019 to 2023) and Sophia Kerridge (2012 to 2013) along with PBI-Colombia accompanied Associated Network of Human Rights Defenders (dhColombia) lawyer Germán Romero.

Key excerpts from that webinar include:

Sophia Kerridge: “What PBI really offers is an international presence. And that can be in the form of physical accompaniment or observation in the field, or it can be through our huge support network that spans a number of different levels in various different countries. And what that provides, it essentially shines a light on the threats that those human rights defenders face in order to dissuade the people who are behind those threats from continuing with those threats or from taking things further. And the way that it works is essentially by PBI drawing attention to those security problems it puts pressure on governments and international authorities to take responsibility for the safety of those human rights defenders.”

Germán Romero: “I feel something really deep in my heart for PBI and so does my whole team, we always have you in mind.”

“My work as a lawyer [includes] working with campesino or peasant and Indigenous communities and Afro-Colombian communities to be able to stay in their territory, to defend their territory and to have access to land and to guarantee the protection of natural resources from the threat of megaprojects. …With the Rios Vivos movement in Antioquia which is working to save a river that has been messed up by a hydroelectric project [financed in part by Export Development Canada]. …There is nothing more important to me than being able to be in the field and being able to be directly with the families, with the communities and be able to bring forward strategic litigation.”

“[Before I was with dhColombia] PBI accompanied us directly in the communities in which I was working doing popular education, judicial, legal, political formation, and strategic litigation in the field and that was the only way that I was able to move about in the territory. There was one situation where I wasn’t able to be accompanied by PBI and I was attacked. They had me detained. They had me against the ground. They were going to assassinate me.”

“If PBI wasn’t accompanying us [now with dhColombia] in certain areas of the country we couldn’t go in, we couldn’t work there, and we couldn’t carry out our work, it’s that easy to understand. If PBI didn’t come along with us and accompany us at different hearings that happen in Bogota, it would be impossible for us to have enough safety and security to be able to work as lawyers in those spaces.”

Marie Zeller: “It was wonderful to find an organization that was doing what was just necessary with the principle of not getting involved in the decisions of the organizations that operate there who are really the experts, the ones who had the experience and the pain. That’s what I really liked about PBI, that’s why I applied. …I accompanied German, like he was saying, we are part of a movement, always as outsiders, but we get included. …[Within PBI] there isn’t a boss, there isn’t a decision coming from above, you listen to all of the parties from within to reach a consensus and to reach the best solution. …Horizontality is the most beautiful way of working, it just needs patience. …There’s also a lot of looking after internally, internal support to carry on because we can be emotionally affected [by the situations we accompany]. It’s very important to look after each other. …There are many things you can’t be prepared for, and I think knowing that is a good way to prepare because the situation in Colombia is very volatile, and there are many things you won’t be able to plan.”

During the question-and-answer session, Romero was asked: “For those who can’t work with PBI in the field, what can they do to support your work?”

Romero replied: “I think there are several options. The first is to learn more about the situation that is of the greatest importance. Not just the situation in Colombia, but the human rights situation in general. I think we have some very serious problems in the Western hemisphere in terms of human rights, follow PBI on social media that’s really important. To be totally honest nowadays with the crises we are seeing across the world, for example the genocide being committed against the Palestinian people, the very serious crisis of human rights violations that we are seeing against immigrants and migrants who are coming up to the EU and UK and US border, and now we can add Australia, it can be really important going in on a political and economic support campaign, that’s of great importance.”

In total, 78 people registered for this webinar with participants joining from the United Kingdom, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, USA, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Kenya and Cameroon.

The webinar also included the short film In the Company of Hope. To watch that, click here.

To apply to be a PBI-Colombia field volunteer, click here.

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