South America

6/2018. “An Innovative Global Diplomacy Public Health Student Program – Lessons from the Field in a Post-Conflict Medellin, Colombia”.Abstract

For over fifty years, Colombia has been embroiled in conflict, displacing nearly seven million people, second only to Syria for the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. Most are displaced to urban environments into dense informal settlements with inadequate water, sanitation, shelter and power infrastructure. The city of Medellín, has become home to over 200,000 IDPs in informal agglomerations. Medellín’s transformation to a city of progress and innovation through the promotion of “social urbanism” is an example of how collaboration between city institutions and government sectors can address issues of poverty, violence, equality, engagement, and reintegration of displaced populations in Colombia.

The Post-Conflict Colombia Public Health Project is a collaborative academic exchange program aimed at bringing together public health students from the United States and Colombia for the purpose of understanding between the people of both countries. The project aims to educate students while also providing direct service and fostering long-term cross-cultural relationships and sustainable projects. Seminars, skill building workshops, cultural experiences, and community engagement are used to build professional competencies and inform policy recommendations for future projects. Despite the limited research on the educational impact of short-term global emersion programs, small scale evaluations point to an increase in learners’ cross-cultural adaptability. The believed benefit to students’ professional and personal development must be balanced with ethical considerations including preparedness of students, health and safety risks, cultural sensitivity, and issues of sustainability. In order to address these concerns, programs should be developed collaboratively through bi-directional participatory relationships, incorporating both education and direct service components, and promoting local capacity building and long-term sustainability.

Our course pairs 16 carefully selected graduate-level public health and medical students from Harvard and Universidad de Antioquia, who will serve as both student and citizen ambassadors, to come together and share about their culture, values, and experiences through the lens of diplomacy and dialogue to make a meaningful impact in the people and country of Colombia. The course examines the social development model of Medellín and its impact on advances in peace, social equity, and health. Beyond the theoretical concepts, students will learn to apply them to the Granizal community in order to create practical solutions that are sustainable, scalable, innovative, and measurable.

As other disciplines move away from curricula limited to rote learning and fact-based content, public health and policy education will also benefit from incorporating experiential and competency-based learning with an emphasis on skill building in leadership, management, policy-making, and research.5 The Institute of Medicine’s 2003 report, Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century, recommends eight content areas as essential to graduate level public health education programs: informatics, genomics, communication, cultural competence, community-based participatory research, global health, policy and law, and public health ethics.6 The report further acknowledges the importance of developing international relationships between academic institutions, community organizations, and health agencies for collaboration in interdisciplinary and community-based research, learning, and service. Health disparities, issues of social justice, and public health threats from infectious disease are less and less confined by political and geographic boundaries. The future generation of leaders in public health and policy must be able to bridge nations and cultures through diplomacy and be equipped to develop innovative strategies and partnerships across professional disciplines and on a global scale.

While several public health approaches have been documented in the literature, we describe a model for a multi-institutional and cross-cultural collaboration based on The Post-Conflict Colombia Public Health Project, a three-week intensive course developed in partnership between the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Open Hands Initiative, and the University of Antioquia. While this model is a public health course focusing on Colombia, the concepts and educational strategies can be applied across academic disciplines and to other countries and communities.


Jocelyn Kelly and Alejandra Azuero Quijano. 4/2012. “A Tale of Two Conflicts: an Unexpected Reading of Sexual Violence in Conflict through the Cases of Colombia and Democratic Republic of the Congo .” In Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes, Pp. 437-493. Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher.Abstract

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) has been called “the rape capital of the world” while Colombia was known in the late 1990s as “the murder capital of the world”. What do these capitals of crime have in common? Both countries have been plagued by conflict-related violence, including sexual violence. This chapter will serve as a comparative study to explore how such different cases – situated at difference points on the spectrum in terms of prevalence and attention received – are still described using the same narrative language.

Ronak B. Patel, David Alejandro Schoeller-Diaz, Victoria-Alicia Lopez, and John Joseph “Ian” Kelly IV. 6/2012. Hope in the Face of Displacement and Rapid Urbanization.Abstract
This study seeks to offer a practical examination of resilience in complex urban landscapes for the academic community and humanitarian actors at the local and international levels. Distrito de Aguablanca (Cali, Colombia), a complex settlement area with some 600,000 residents, functions as a case study in human security and resilience that can inform public policy and community level decision making in especially difficult humanitarian environments, with sociopolitical volatility, large populations of internally displaced persons, and high crime and violence rates.
Rob Grace and Julia Brooks. 9/2015. Humanitarian Action and the Politics of Transition: The Context of Colombia.Abstract
What challenges are inherent for humanitarian practitioners when operating in a context of transition from protracted conflict to peace? This paper examines this question, focusing on Colombia as a case study. As a result of the decades long conflict in Colombia, as well as natural disasters, a host of serious humanitarian concerns persist in the country. The ongoing peace process between the government and the largest anti-government armed group in the country—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—while certainly a welcome development, yields an environment not only of protracted conflict but also of protracted transition. This paper discusses four particular issue areas relevant to operating in this context: grappling with the politics of denialism; the gap between the political negotiation agenda and the humanitarian issues facing the country; interactions between humanitarian actors and national transitional justice measures; and building linkages between humanitarian organizations and actors operating in other fields, such as development and peacebuilding.
Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Bridget Marchesi, Doug Johnson, Peter J. Dixon, and Kathryn Sikkink. 3/2016. “Evaluating Transitional Justice: The Role of Multi-Level Mixed Methods Datasets and the Colombia Reparation Program for War Victims.” Transitional Justice Review, 1, 4. Read PublicationAbstract
This paper examines the role of mixed and multi-level methods datasets used to inform evaluations of transitional justice mechanisms. The Colombia reparation program for victims of war is used to illustrate how a convergent design involving multiple datasets can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a complex transitional justice mechanism. This was achieved through a unique combination of (1) macro-level analysis enabled by a global dataset of transitional justice mechanisms, in this case the reparations data gathered by the Transitional Justice Research Collaborative, (2) meso-level data gathered at the organizational level on the Unidad para las Victimas (Victims Unit), the organization in charge of implementing the reparations program and overseeing the domestic database of victims registered in the reparations program, and (3) micro-level population- based perception datasets on the Colombian reparations program collected in the Peacebuilding Data database. The methods used to define measures, access existing data, and assemble new datasets are discussed, as are some of the challenges faced by the inter-disciplinary team. The results illustrate how the use of global, domestic, and micro- level datasets together yields high quality data, with multiple perspectives permitting the use of innovative evaluation methods and the development of important findings and recommendations for transitional justice mechanisms.