Peace Fellows Travel to The Hague with University of Bradford Study Visit

A post by Natalia Gutierrez Trujillo – Bradford Rotary Peace Fellow 2017-18, class XVI. 

In January 2018, two Rotary Peace Fellows, Natalia Gutierrez Trujillo (the author of this post) and Melody Musser, joined their Bradford Peace Studies and International Development colleagues on a wonderful opportunity to travel to The Hague-Netherlands in a study visit with the University.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsThe Hague Study Visit

Our journey began in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) where we were able to see how this important organisation works, to meet students from other parts of Europe and to ask interesting questions about outcomes related to the control and destruction of these types of weapons. We were able to analyze the cases, such as that of Syria, while we explored the different challenges that come with weapons treaties.

Humanity House

We visited Humanity House, an amazing building where different organisations work every day to make our world more peaceful. Here we met with Anton Petrenko, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, who talked about the conflict in Moldova and explained the importance of inclusion of different kinds of minorities (religious, racial, ethnic, etc) in the policy-making process and in society in general. After dinner together, we had a fun quiz, which tested our knowledge about peace, music, climate change and conflict.

International Criminal Court

The next day was one of the most incredible days in my life. At the International Criminal Court (ICC) we had the opportunity to observe the trial against Dominic Ongwen, accused of war crimes in the conflict in Uganda. It was a dream that finally came true for me personally – witnessing how the court works and developing my understanding of the complexities of the law, its multiple interpretations and tension points was one of the best opportunities I ever had in my life.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Afterward, we went to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), where we had a tour through the Public Gallery and the Courtroom. Ms. Rada Pejic-Sremac, a member of the prosecution team, talked about processes, the difficulties of trials and the different emotions they are exposed to every day.

She showed us a video of criminals confessing their crimes and telling the truth to victims, which was one of the most painful things I have ever seen in my life. I had a mix of feelings during this whole process – on the one hand I was thinking about the importance of international organisations that work on behalf of victims, how in my country, Colombia, our victims are waiting to finally know the truth and for their aggressors to ask for their forgiveness, and that, even though international trials take many years, at least something is being done.

On the other hand, I felt happy to be part of an amazing group of students and with people who are working really hard to make a better world, to promote peace and find ways to prevent terrors like the ones we were witnessing.

Students visiting The Hague

Delivering real change

Finally, we had the chance to see how all our theories, ideals and knowledge can deliver real change. Two young women from the Clingendael Institute and the Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict talked to us about their different professional fields, the kind of roles where we could put our learning into practice.

They worked in field research, policy-making and project funding in almost every region in the world. They showed us how our work can apply to different territories and communities, and how we can impact the process of policy-making to have better and more sensitive policies that benefit the most vulnerable and conflict-affected communities.

Making life-changing impacts

Making this long journey short, we were able to understand the importance of what we are doing, to see that our efforts in every essay or piece of research has a meaning and will have an important and life-changing impact. This was an incredible opportunity, where we were able to enjoy a beautiful city and to learn from extraordinary people that every day dedicate their energy and knowledge to build a more peaceful and just world.