Training activities are planned in October 2015!
You must send us your completed forms at info(a)pasc.ca to apply for accompaniment in Colombia. Forms may be filled out in English.
A means of protection For autonomy... ...And mutual solidarity between social movements
Your stay Kinds of accompaniment Field work Coordination Risks and security Cost Selection process Requirements and responsibilities Application form Introductory meeting Training process Report back
One of the solidarity strategies PASC has been implementing since 2003 is international accompaniment, which consists of ensuring a physical presence along side social activists who are victims of political threats. An international presence, along with other forms of political pressure, have a dissuasive effect on perpetrators of political violence. Accompaniment therefore serves as a means of protection for social activists; It allows them to pursue their work and also helps legitimize what they do in the eyes of local officials.
PASC accompaniment helps support struggles led by local organizations and communities, and is only provided at the request of these groups. Accompaniment is a strategy that seeks to increase the space available for the work of social activists. Besides being a means of protection, accompaniment also provides psychological support to victims of state crime, allowing them to rebuild their sense of security and autonomy, so that they may continue their struggles.
Accompaniment, as a form of political support for processes of resistance, creates a space for exchange between activists, creating links of solidarity between northern and southern social movements in the Americas. PASC accompanimnet thus seeks to promote a sharing of experiences and knowledge that can empower participants from both the north and south. In the same vaien, the PASC collective's popular education efforts are designed, not only to reinforce the self-determination of Colombian communities, but also to enrich social struggles in Canada.
Accompaniment on the ground is done either in the Choco or Suroccidente regions of Colombia, in afrodescendent, metis, and native communities where Justicia y Paz is actively working, or with organizations that belong to the Red de Hermandad, including the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Colombia.
The kind of accompaniment provided is based on the needs and priorities of our partners, as well as on the experience and interests of the person carrying out the accompaniment.
The length of a stay may vary between three months and a year, depending on the availability of the person providing the accompaniment. There are sometimes shorter stays available when there are special events requiring short term accompaniment.
Please note that it is sometimes possible for students to receive university credits as well as bursaries for accompaniment work done with PASC. Procedures vary from school to school.
Some examples of activities that accompaniment field work may include:
- physically accompanying local activists in their advocacy work;
- providing a physical presence in communities faced with the threat of military or paramilitary incursion and, in the case of incursion, communicating with armed forces;
- taking notes on military activity in the region and on the human rights situation in order to complete detailed reports that will be shared with participating organizations;
- action research (interviews, investigations) on the ground into economic interests (with an emphasis on Canadian interests) that contribute to violence in the region;
- visiting communities in resistance that wish to share their experiences and denounce the crimes they are dealing with;
- participating in the organization of public campaigns and events along with our partners;
- visiting political prisoners and their families;
- representing PASC in dealings with local authorities and with the Canadian embassy;
- organizing popular education workshops on advocacy, continental economic dynamics, food sovereignty, etc;
- doing sociocultural work with children: art workshops, educational activities, festive events...
Depending on the skills of the person doing the accompaniment, special projects may also be developed, such as:
- contributing to psychosocial work being done by our partners with victims of State crime;
- contributing to legal work being done by our partners (legal defense, undertaking recourse through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, legal research, etc.);
- contributing a participatory educational event or action in a specific field that helps to reinforce the autonomy of communities (ecological agriculture and construction, community health, community media, etc.);
- media diffusion project (audio, video, or photo report).
A field work plan is elaborated by the partner organization seeking accompaniment. Usually the person doing accompaniment joins a "ground unit". The main space for coordination is within the ground unit, where participants can consult with and support one another. The ground unit does, however, remain in constant contact with members of PASC in Canada, and all decisions pertaining to the kind of accompaniment to be provided, PASC's strategy, risk analysis and security standards are made together with the Collective.
Accompaniment involves certain risks due to open armed conflict in certain regions and to the overall context of low-intensity conflict throughout Colombia. Human rights advocates are constantly threatened and their work is consistently discredited and often criminalized. A person doing international accompaniment, however, is in a privileged position due to their Canadian citizenship. Holding a legal stay permit; having access to a large support network of Canadian, International, and Colombian NGO's; being clearly identified as a person providing accompaniment; supervision and monitoring provided by established local organizations; communication with the Canadian embassy and Colombian authorities; and strictly adhering to security norms are all mechanisms that help to ensure security conditions for international accompaniment.
Risks are always made clear to participants. Throughout the training process, participants acquire the necessary skills to perform regular risk assessments and develop security strategies. Accompaniment teams are required to respect all security norms set out by PASC (whether in respect to the handling of information, interactions with armed forces, traveling in areas of open conflict, etc.).
PASC does not receive regular funding, so all costs relating to the basic operations of the project are covered by donations made in solidarity by other Canadian organizations. For this reason, the costs related to accompaniment trips are the responsibility of participants. PASC can, however, offer help in organizing fundraising events and help participants in obtaining donations.
The following criteria allow us to evaluate candidates for accompaniment and adjust the objectives of the training process to the particular needs of participants :
Before leaving for Colombia, a person wishing to undertake an accompaniment project must :
- Be aged 21 years or older (there are certain exceptions);
- Live in Canada (to facilitate the training process);
- Have a good knowledge of Spanish as well as a sufficient knowledge of French to allow participation in all training activities (reading material and workshop participation);
- Have completed the training process before departure;
- Be available to provide accompaniment for at least 3 months (except in the case of special events);
- Commit to organizing a report back activity and to actively participating in PASC activities upon return to Canada;
- Be able to adapt to challenging physical and psychological conditions;
- Share an anti-imperialist vision of solidarity; (see for example : Decolonize Our Solidarity)
- Have an understanding of the Colombian sociopolitical context and of the dynamics of social and armed conflict;
- Have an open mind and be able to respect the autonomy of communities and local organizations;
- Be able to identify and adapt to situations involving risks within a context of low-intensity conflict or open armed conflict;
- Be able to work well in a team and make decisions by consensus;
- Have some experience of significant intercultural exchange in Canada or elsewhere;
- Be flexible and adapt easily to change;
- Be psychologically and emotionally stable enough to work under pressure in the face of risk.
Les personnes souhaitant réaliser un séjour d'accompagnement en Colombie doivent remplir le formulaire de candidature. Seul-es les candidat-es ayant dûment remplis ce formulaire avec sérieux seront contactés pour une rencontre d'introduction.
Candidates will be contacted by members of the collective to schedule a personal interview upon reception of the completed form.
The training period is a process that takes place over a minimum of three months which includes several readings, four group trainings, as well as individual follow-up meetings. Throughout the process, with the help of PASC collective members, candidates must actively prepare for their field work (making contact with our partner organizations, developing skill-sets, outlining a work plan, etc.) as well as attend to the logistics of the trip (preparing a visa application, vaccinations, insurance, etc.).
Training sessions are made up of workshops, discussions, individual and group exercises, as well as scenario simulations.
Training sessions address the following themes:
- Colombian conflict in the continental context
- The history and actors in the conflict
- The civil resistance process in Colombia
- Mechanisms and impact of low intensity conflict
- Human rights advocacy: strategies and concepts
- International accompaniment
- Security and risk analysis
- Introduction to psychosocial intervention
- Introduction to popular education
- Stress and fear management
- The work of our partner organizations
All people carrying out accompaniment commit to creating a "report back" activity after their trip to Colombia in order to share their experiences with their networks. This activity may take the form of a conference or workshop in the community organizing, union, or university context, a public event, photo exhibit, or presentation of a written, video, or audio report, or an art project. We also count on those doing accompaniment to participate in organizing training activities for future accompaniment teams. As the PASC's existence relies on the active involvement of its members, participants are also invited to join the collective upon their return to Canada in order to be fully involved in the organizing of the project.