2013 LABEL CONFERENCE REPORT
The recently concluded international conference "Human and Environmental Security in Cross-border Regions: Multidisciplinary approaches in Latin America" held in the University of Luxembourg was a successful gathering of scholars whose groundbreaking research reflects on most urgent matters of security in Latin America. Organized by the Belgian and Luxembourgish Association of Latin-Americanists (LABEL) and the University of Luxembourg's Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC), the two-day gathering reflected on the pertinent issues in human and environmental security, both timely and relevant matters in global geopolitics. Twenty presentations by senior and junior Latin Americanists were delivered in three world languages: Spanish, French and English.
The conference, which included six panel sessions, was organized around the themes of human and environmental security, cross-border politics, regional integration, resource management, vulnerability and human rights. The original analytical presentations reflected on the critical points through which these complex themes intersect with each other in relation to Latin America's vulnerable border zones. Some of the more specific concerns addressed by some of the speakers were: migrations, health, food security, poverty and social risks, disasters and social inequities. While each of the panel sessions contributed critical concepts to broader discussions in the field of human and environmental security, the keynote speeches delivered by Alfredo Limas Hernández, professor and artist, and Evangelina Arce, activist and mother of a desaparecida, grounded the conference in a vital way through discussions of femicide, impunity and insecurity in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Professor Limas Hernández provided an academic analysis of femicide within the context of local, state and national politics. Ms. Arce was interviewed by the principle conference organizer, Dr. Carmen Maganda (University of Luxembourg) and she shared her experiences and her views as an activist on the current situation in Ciudad Juarez. Both speakers called for active government intervention on the violence against women and institutional support for the campaign to strengthen respect for women's rights in Juarez, and Mexico in general.
Accompanying the conference, a photographic exhibit entitled Entrecruces was held in two campuses of the University of Luxembourg. The exhibition collected by Professor Hernández features works by Mexicans artists who have portrayed the violence against women in Ciudad Juarez. Co-organized by ‘espace cultures', the cultural arm of the University, Entrecruces politicizes femicide as a result of the violence in the drug trade. Powerful images of Juarez confront those who are open to understanding the continuity between gender violence and political structures. The Luxembourg-based NGO Action Solidarite Tiers Monde (ASTM) also hosted a forum entitled "corps de femme - danger de mort" where violence in Juarez was the focus. Eva Arce shared her experiences in campaigns and read poetry in these events.
The issues raised in the conference and exhibit were not limited to an academic audience. Ms. Arce and Professor Limas Hernández and Dr. Carmen Maganda (http://www.radiolatina.lu/index.php/programas/el-balcon/item/7307-el-balcon-07-10-2013) participated in a transmission on Radio Latina in which they shared with the public at-large their views on ‘human insecurity' in Juarez. In terms of media, these events were also covered by the Luxembourgish newspaper Le Jeudi. Supported by the University of Luxembourg's UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), the conference and Entrecruces have brought to Europe important discussions on some of the most challenging issues of our time in Latin America.
This conference was organized within the framework of the University of Luxembourg-funded HUMENITY (Human and Environmental Resources in Cross-Border Regions) research project. One of the objectives of this project is to construct a methodology for the understanding of both human and environmental security in cross-border territories and how macro-regional security affects cross-border micro-regions. The conference included a variety of presentations which indicated that border regions can be both the cause of insecurity and potential solutions through cross-border cooperation. In his concluding remarks, Professor Harlan Koff (University of Luxembourg) presented a typology of the border conflicts examined in the various conference presentations in which he identified formal and informal governance as the mechanisms that create insecurity through either border "over-regulation" or "under-regulation." Thus, border security should be guaranteed through a balanced approach to security issues.