The worldwide phenomenon of enforced disappearances is often framed as a problem associated with contexts of political conflict or guerrilla warfare. It is understood, erroneously, mainly as a human rights issue in the narrower realm of totalitarian governments or military dictatorships. The reality is that it is a mainstream, pervasive, global issue, and it is now increasingly urgent that we understand and address disappearances as part of the normalized political economy of transnational organized crime and as a global phenomenon that can affect anyone, anywhere.
In countries all over the world, from Colombia to the Philippines, children, parents, partners and siblings disappear, leaving behind unspeakable pain and tearing apart the social fabric of their communities. The immense work and resilience of those who have come together and organized themselves in response to these violent crimes have reshaped the conversation around disappearances related to organized crime and the so-called war on drugs on an international level.
In 2020 the GI-TOC Resilience Fund launched a fellowship focused on disappearances related to organized crime with the aim of broadening the discussion about the role of criminal actors in disappearances and to support individuals from affected communities whose work involves resilience and advocacy. The Resilience Fellowship is designed to support people who are innovating and responding to the various effects of organized crime on a local level, and to create a global, multidisciplinary network of resilient activists.
The project ‘Disappeared is a place: The landscapes and stories of those who are #StillMissing’ is a collaboration between the Resilience Fund Fellows and Mexican journalist Daniela Rea, winner of the Breach-Valdez Prize for Journalism and Human Rights. The project therefore represents a collaborative approach to disappearances linked to organized crime across the world, drawing from the perspectives of a group of people from different cultures, who speak different languages and who seek to bring greater visibility and local insights to the issue of disappearances.
This collective programme forms part of a global multimedia campaign produced in English and Spanish that aims to raise awareness about how disappearances are increasingly linked to organized crime in local communities everywhere, reinforcing that this is not a problem to be left solely to multilateral forums or human rights agendas.
The hope is that the project will be a starting point and catalyst for the establishment of a Global Monitor on Disappearances related to organized crime, as well as a dialogue and platform for creating and sharing new tools. It draws attention particularly to local voices and shows the impact they can have in their communities, amplifying participation by encouraging others to respond.
The campaign also enables the Resilience Fund fellows to issue their own calls to action for justice, and invites us all to be part of an initiative that may help bring about peace and an end to suffering for so many families around the world.
Daniela Rea is a Mexican author and journalist, member of Periodistas de a Pie and contributor at Pie de Página, two journalist organizations focused on social and human rights issues in Mexico.
Rosario Lucas is a Mexican illustrator and graphic designer. Her work has been published in a number of national media outlets and international publishing houses. Her illustrations are a form of social criticism to raise awareness on injustices occurring in Mexico.