The National University of Colombia (UNAL), Bogota convened a seminar on ”Higher Education, Community Engagement & Knowledge Democracy for Reconciliation Processes from June 5-8, 2017. The four day seminar was organized as as a prelude to the gatherings to the historic Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) Conference (to be held from June 12-16, 2017 in Cartagena, Colombia). This seminar was aimed at reflecting upon one of the main challenges we are facing in Colombia nowadays: to revise, reflect upon and redefine our role as academics to support the peace process we have just started in the country. The seminar was facilitated by two international speakers of great repute; Prof Lesley Wood (June 5-6) & Dr Rajesh Tandon (June 7-8). While Prof Wood is the Professor at the North-West University in South Africa; Dr Rajesh Tandon is the Founder-President, PRIA & Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in CBR.
Prof Wood enabled academics to explore, understand and find ways to operationalize their roles as knowledge producers within a society, and for educating people to reconcile differences and learn to cooperate as citizens towards the creation of a peaceable society. On the other hand, Dr Tandon deliberated on the ‘role of academia in the process of peace building in the post-conflict era; how can universities play an active role in building peace and social harmony; how the knowledge democracy movement can give a new meaning to world peace by propagating the principles of trust & respect for each other’s value systems; how can university campuses contribute towards building bridges in divisive societies; how can the research community (academics, students) engage with the communities for fostering unity, peace and solidarity’. He explored as to how university campuses can contribute towards building bridges in divisive societies and how can academics and students engage with the communities for fostering peace and social harmony. He also emphasized on the role of higher education as public institutions, and their role as convening centres for enabling multi-stakeholder dialogues for ensuring the peace process in the society.