Featured Affiliate: The Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors - ACOOC (Colombia)
The Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (Spanish: la Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia, or ACOOC) is a social organization which, based around the concepts of nonviolence and conscientious objection, supports alternatives to Colombian militarism, militarization, and the patriarchy, via legal, public campaigning, and educational strategies. Since 2006, ACOOC has worked alongside young people and their communities with to cultivate a peaceful culture.
ACOOC is made up of an interdisciplinary team that combines legal, educational, psychosocial, communicational and investigational knowledge and experiences, which, in turn, are the components that make up the organization:
- Legal, political, and psychosocial support: here we focus on consulting and accompanying young conscientious objectors and those at risk of being recruited, providing legal and psychosocial backing that supports their basic rights.
- From a training perspective, the organization offers educational tools which provide young people with a greater understanding of how to exercise their basic rights regarding illegal recruitment, compulsory military service, and preventing violence. It is a commitment to improving the subject’s understanding of legal and conceptual matters regarding his or her rights, and therefore building alternatives to militarization.
- The purpose of nonviolent direct action and public campaigning is to develop communication strategies and promote our experiences and goals. Nonviolent direct action is the main focus, and is promoted via public lectures- in-person and online- which provide opportunities for reflection, awareness, and collective creation. An example of ACOOC’s nonviolent direct action (AND) can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsa0FmdNSVk
- Our research component is centered around two main ideas: firstly, that the highest level of jurisprudence (that is, the revision of legal documents) associated with recruitment is maintained; this, using strategic legislative action, helps us to better serve the young people that we accompany in legal, political, and psychosocial situations. Secondly, we provide spaces for critical thinking about the relationship between militarism and the patriarchy, and- from a male-centered, nonviolent perspective- the corresponding effect these two things have on gender-based violence. One of the most-recent initiatives addressing these problems is the group named Invisible Violence (Violencias Invisibles), which, via personal testimonies, is dedicated to researching gender-based violence carried out by armed force members on their partners, and whose research demonstrates the connection between said violent acts and archetypical, patriarchal social norms: http://especiales.datasketch.co/violencias-invisibles/
- Our social and political advocacy component develops strategies for strategic relationships with other organizations and institutional influences, which help us to build networks to solidify the collective efforts that would result in favorable conditions in protecting the fundamental rights of young people.
The relationship between ACOOC and the WRI (War Resisters International) began in 2006 following Colombia’s first international conference for solidarity for conscientious objectors. It was at this conference that a network of support was formed for young people - in the form of in-person accompaniment during court procedings - in which the WRI has combined efforts with other international allies that account for the visibilization of Colombia’s conscientious objectors movement and the related militarization concerns in Colombia.
In 2019, ACOOC was among the groups that headed up the organization of the Conferencia Internacional Antimilitarismos en Movimiento, and is one of the initiatives that struggles for demilitarization and the elimination of military service in Colombia.
Some of the key initiatives that ACOOC dedicates itself to are its training programs with youth organizations and institutions that promote the right to conscientious objection, as well as developing methods to strengthen societal foundations in different areas.
ACOOC also provides permanent counseling for young people who may find themselves needing to defend their military situation, those who decide to exercise their right to conscientious objection, and for those who argue against any violation of their rights during the recruitment process.