Abriendo camino para los afro-colombianos en el proceso de paz

17 mayo 2015

En el contexto de las encuestas recientes que señalan una disminución del apoyo para las conversaciones entre el gobierno colombiano y las FARC-EP en La Habana (ver aquí), puede ser el momento de profundizar alianzas con la sociedad civil para apoyar el proceso.  Un grupo importante excluido hasta ahora–la población afro-colombiana–busca protagonismo en el proceso a través de una nueva organización, CONPA, que espera canalizar las propuestas y necesidades de los afro-colombianos en La Habana.   ?Cómo pueden los grupos marginalizados intensificar su participación en el proceso?  ?Cuáles son los riesgos si no lo pueden hacer?

Les invito a una discusión de estos temas en el Instituto de Paz de los Estados Unidos (USIP) el martes, 26 de mayo–de las 2-3:30 pm (EST)/1-2:30 pm, hora colombiana.  USIP auspicia este Foro de Paz en Colombia con la Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), AFRODES Internacional, el Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, y la Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network.

Se dará el evento y su webcast en español en vivo.  Espero que pueden acompañarnos.  Favor de compartir esta invitacion con sus redes.

El hashtag para el evento es:  #ColombiaPeaceForum.

El evento se traducirá al inglés de manera simultánea y tomará lugar en la sede de USIP (2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037).

Para más información, para inscribirse, y para ver el webcast en vivo, haga click aquí.

En el programa hablarán:

  • Virginia M. Bouvier
    Alta consejera para América Latina, U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP)
  • Richard Moreno
    Coordinador, CONPA y Foro Inter-etnico de Solidaridad con Chocó (FISCH)
  • Agripina Hurtado
    Presidenta, Afro-Colombian Labor Council (CLAF)
  • Carlos Rosero
    Fundador, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) y Autoridades Nacionales Afro-Colombianas (ANAFRO)
  • Marino Cordoba
    Coordinador Internacional de CONPA y Presidente de AFRODES
  • Padre Obdulio Mena Palacios
    Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afro-Colombianas (CNOA)

Para RSVP, haga click aquí.

Rostros de la Memoria

Por si acaso no vieron la película corta, “Rostros de la Memoria,” producido por el Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, se la reproduzco abajo.  Aparte de una cinematografía preciosa, los entrevistados y ponentes tienen muchas perlas de sabiduría a ofrecer sobre la importancia del tema de la inclusión en la construcción de la paz y la memoria histórica.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thinking about Inclusion: Afro-Colombians and the Colombian Peace Process

May 18, 2015

In a context of recent polls indicating waning public support for the peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)–see previous post here–it is worth thinking about how to address the issue of public opinion.  One way that the peace process can be strengthened is by finding ways to engage a broader set of civil society stakeholders.  One important group excluded so far, the Afro-Colombian population, is working to have its needs and proposals heard at the peace table.  How can Afro-Colombians and other excluded groups enhance their participation in the process, and what are the risks if they cannot? Join us at the U.S. Institute of Peace on May 26 from 2-3:30 pm for a discussion of these questions.  This Colombia Peace Forum event will be co-sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace, Washington Office on Latin America, AFRODES International, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, and the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network.

The event will be conducted and webcast in Spanish.  Simultaneous English translation will be available on site at 2301 Constitution Avenue NW in Washington, DC. Click here to register.

The program will feature:

  • Virginia M. Bouvier
    Senior Advisor for Latin America Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP)
  • Richard Moreno
    CONPA Coordinator and Coordinator for the Inter-Ethnic Chocó Solidarity Forum (FISCH)
  • Agripina Hurtado
    President, Afro-Colombian Labor Council (CLAF)
  • Carlos Rosero
    Founder, Black Communities Process (PCN) and National Afro-Colombian Authority (ANAFRO)
  • Marino Cordoba
    International Coordinator of CONPA and President of AFRODES
  • Father Obdulio Mena Palacios
    National Afro-Colombian Conference (CNOA)

For more information, to register for the event, and to view the webcast live online, click here.  I hope you can join us!

Faces of Memory

In case you missed the short film, “Rostros de la Memoria,” (“Faces of Memory”), produced by the National Historical Memory Center, I include it below.   In addition to amazing cinematography, the film offers many pearls of wisdom on the importance of inclusion for peacebuilding and reconciliation:

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Peace Frequency

May 14, 2015

The U.S. Institute of Peace has developed a radio program in tandem with courses that it offers through the Global Campus of its Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding.  On April 14, 2015, my colleague Daryn Cambridge interviewed me as part of the course taught by Pamela Aall, on “Mediating Violent Conflict.”  You can listen to the conversation with the three of us (and browse other programs with luminaries in the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution) at the following link:





Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vicissitudes of a Peace Process: 36th Round of Talks Closes with Parties on Track

May 11, 2015

The Colombian government and the FARC-EP ended their 36th cycle of peace talks on Friday, May 8.  In a joint declaration, the parties announced that during the 11-day cycle, they had worked on three distinct fronts.  (See their joint communiqué here.) First, they defined a road map and the technical and logistical aspects for implementation of a joint pilot project for de-mining and de-contamination of explosive devices in Antioquia and Meta that they had announced on March 7.  (See details here.)  Secondly, based on visits of international experts in the three previous cycles, a group of Colombian generals worked with FARC military leaders in the Technical Sub-commission to advance a methodological framework for carrying out a bilateral, definitive ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. Finally, the parties continued to work on crafting agreements on the issue of victims’ reparations.

Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator, noted that the joint de-mining initiative, with the accompaniment of Norwegian People’s Aid, would begin in the next few days.  This historic initiative will mark the first time the FARC and the Colombian Army work together in an effort to de-escalate the conflict.

De la Calle noted nonetheless that the progress in the 36th round was “important, but insufficient.”  (See his statement here.)  In the light of recent charges by the Army, the Instituto de Bienestar Familiar, and the Defensoría del Pueblo that children continue to be subject to recruitment, De la Calle urged the FARC to stop recruiting minors under 18 years of age, and to enact a plan with international supervision to release all minors currently in the FARC rank and file.  He acknowledged the FARC’s Feb. 12 announcement that they would stop recruiting minors under age 17, but said it was insufficient, confusing, and contradictory, given that Colombian law, international norms and global trends put the age for recruitment at 18.

De la Calle observed that the peace delegation had heard the “hard message” implicit in the latest polling results showing the Colombian populace’s skepticism and impatience about the peace talks.  (See my previous post here.)  He noted that President Santos has instructed the delegation to advance more forcefully in the talks.  He reiterated that a “good, stable and lasting peace” is within reach and that Colombians must not lose faith in the task at hand.

For his part, Iván Márquez, head of the FARC peace delegation, issued a statement at the close of the session in which he underscored the FARC’s commitment to national reconciliation and peace.  (See his statement here.)  On the topic of victims, he noted that the FARC had put some 200 proposals, shaped by the forums and hearings that had been held with victims, on the table and were awaiting the government team’s response.  Márquez underscored the “mutual commitments” that have been made by the parties with regard to de-mining, and the FARC’s commitment to maintain indefinitely the unilateral ceasefire and cessation of “offensive hostilities.”  Likewise, he noted other pending items, urging discussion of a  National Constituent Assembly, agreement on a bilateral ceasefire, and the establishment of a truth commission to clarify the paramilitary role in the conflict. (On the clarification commission, see more here.) He also called for joint study and discussion of the reports of the Historic Commission on the Conflict and its Victims that were presented to the table in February, given their relevance for the discussions on the theme of victims.

Vicissitudes of a Peace Process

Events of the last months are a reminder of the ups-and-downs to which peace processes are prone.  In this regard it is worth recalling that the last few rounds of talks have shown steady progress.  The 34th round in March had ended on a high note. With the help of the  high-level technical subcommission, the parties had moved forward on the  joint de-mining initiative in Meta and Antioquia, and the FARC had increased its recruitment age from 15 to 17. (See the parties’  joint statement here and the FARC statement here.) These two issues–landmines and child recruitment–had long been sticking points and the advances represented concessions on the part of the FARC.  The parties have been exploring additional measures for de-escalating the conflict, including a joint cooperation agreement on identifying mass graves and remains of the disappeared (which number in the tens of thousands). On March 10, President Juan Manuel Santos had decreed suspension of the bombing of FARC camps for one month.  And on March 27, Humberto de la Calle had announced that the President’s expert commission on transitional justice, which includes delegates of the Ministries of Defense and Justice, the Transition Command of the Armed Forces, the High Commissioner of Peace and national and international experts, had developed proposals to apply differentiated transitional justice mechanisms to military and police officials. (See more here.)

When the 35th cycle of talks opened the next month in Havana, public support for peace registered new heights.  On April 9th, hundreds of thousands of Colombians marched for peace to commemorate Colombia’s National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims.   The Center for Historical Memory announced a  design competition to create a National Memory Museum.  Bogota hosted a week-long global summit for art and culture for peace that brought together world-renowned artists and performers to reflect on the role of culture and the arts in the transformation of violence.  At the Candelaria Theatre in Bogota, actress Patricia Ariza called for “a bilateral ceasefire of all the fires, including the cultural fires that burn other people.” (“Quisiéramos un cese bilateral de todos los fuegos, incluidos los fuegos culturales que atizan a otros.”)

On April 10th, the day the 35th round of peace talks resumed in Havana, President Juan Manuel Santos announced his decision to extend the suspension of the bombing of FARC camps for one more month. (See his statement here.)

That week, ninety delegates from 10 churches, 17 national church organizations, 15 ecumenical organizations and churches from three continents, and representatives of Colombian victims’ groups gathered in an International Ecumenical Meeting for Peace in Colombia to construct proposals for peace in various regions of Colombia.  (See their concluding declaration here.)  In the regions themselves, efforts to engage in pedagogies of peace ant the construction of historical memory initiatives as a guarantee of non-repetition are also moving forward.

Strong Hemispheric Support for the Peace Process

While the parties talked in Havana, optimistic breezes were blowing across the Caribbean as well.  In Panama, the region’s heads of state were convened for the seventh Summit of the Americas.  Renewed diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba last December had removed a long-standing hurdle to Cuba’s participation in this major gathering that has been held every 3 years since the Organization of American States was established.  Presidents Barak Obama and Raúl Castro shook hands and pledged a future of hemispheric cooperation.  Summit of the Americas Panama 2015 April 10_118_VII_Pan_2015The Summit of the Americas concluded with confirmation of strong support throughout the hemisphere for an end to Colombia’s armed conflict through diplomatic means.  And shortly thereafter, the Obama administration announced its intent to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On April 14, the mood of the country shifted with the FARC attack in Cauca.  (See my earlier post here.)  President Santos immediately rescinded his earlier suspension and ordered bombings of FARC camps to be renewed.  (See his statement here.)  The Colombian Broad Front for Peace, which has been issuing periodic reports on the unilateral ceasefire the FARC declared last December, produced a report on April 23 that called for further investigation by the FARC and by independent parties.  Civil society groups denounced the militarization of the area and called for protection of the civilian population and denounced the killings of five indigenous leaders in the zone.  (See civil society statement by NGOs  here).  On April 17, 2015, the U.S. State Department affirmed its “continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.” (See its statement here.)

On April 21, 2015, Pres. Santos  convened the  National Peace Council, formally installed in Oct. 2014 after seven years of inactivity, and the Council supported the decision to continue the dialogues in Havana “without hesitation or delay.”  (See statement here.) It identified as priorities developing pedagogies of peace, mobilizing and organizing the populace for peace, developing the institutional architecture for the implementation of agreements, and political engagement to develop the political will for peace-building in the regions.  The Council also called on the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to formalize peace talks.

While the Cauca incident undoubtedly shifted the political landscape at home, by the end of the last cycle, it was already clear that the Colombian government and the FARC-EP would hold to their commitment to stay at the table in Havana until a final agreement is reached.  With the close of the 36th round of talks this past Friday, the parties appear to be back on track, though moving cautiously as they test the ground and seek to recover their equilibrium in the face of an ongoing war.  They will resume talks on May 21.



Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peace in Colombia Falters in Critical Area: Public Opinion

May 6, 2015

The 36th round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) opened last week in Havana, Cuba. The optimism from the last two rounds, when negotiators agreed on measures to deescalate the conflict, appears to be giving way to renewed skepticism about the ability of the two parties to deliver on their promises. (See my previous post here.)

A Gallup poll released on April 29 revealed that the popularity of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has staked his presidency on achieving a peace deal, dropped from 43% to 29% in the past two months. A second poll over the weekend by Ipsos-Napoleón Franco confirmed the results.

Attitudes toward the peace talks showed a similar disenchantment. Those backing the process dropped from 69% to 52% in the Gallup poll, while the number of respondents who believe the FARC should be militarily defeated jumped from 25% to 42%. The 72% support Santos enjoyed for starting the talks two months ago has now dropped to 57%. These trends are problematic for the peace process, given Santos has promised any accord reached in Havana will be ratified by the Colombian population.

The polling results showed a parallel increase in support for former president Alvaro Uribe, who has been a staunch opponent of the peace process. Uribe’s support climbed 12 points to 59% in the Gallup poll and 16 points to 57% in the Ipsos-Franco poll. With congressional elections coming up in October, campaign season is well underway and the results may be a bellwether of things to come.

Peace’s poor showing in the polls reflects a political moment characterized by scandals and a strike in the judicial system, a badly managed teachers’ strike, economic worries, and growing perceptions of insecurity more broadly, particularly in urban areas. Perhaps most significant, however, is the national outrage and indignation over a FARC attack on a military encampment two weeks ago in the southwestern department of Cauca, which killed 11 soldiers and injured some two dozen more. At least one guerrilla was also killed, and the military presence in the area was heightened.

The FARC and the government agree the deaths are a tragedy, but both have avoided taking responsibility and demanded the other do so. Santos condemned what he called a ”vile” and “deliberate” attack that violated the unilateral ceasefire upheld by the FARC since last December. The president renewed the bombings of FARC camps suspended following the largely successful rounds of talks earlier this year. He called on the country’s armed forces to “unleash all the offensive actions necessary to protect the civilian population and… our troops.” Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator, pronounced “the path of confidence and hope that had been built has been damaged.”

FARC leader Pastor Alape highlighted the “incoherence of the government to be ordering military operations against a guerrilla force that has declared a truce,” and insisted that the talks “should not be broken for any reason.” The FARC called on the international community and the Broad Front for Peace, a coalition of Colombia’s leftist parties, to investigate the case. The Broad Front’s final report called for further investigation both by the FARC and by an independent commission established by the negotiating parties.

Meanwhile, FARC peace delegation commander Pablo Catatumbo called the Cauca incident “regrettable,” and reiterated it was “a reaction of guerrilla units to the siege and harassment of the armed forces.” He underscored that the ceasefire does not exclude “defensive actions.”

It remains unclear whether the attack in Cauca was a defensive action as suggested by FARC leaders, a renegade attack by local FARC contingents, or an effort on the part of FARC to position itself for the debates in Havana, which relate to questions of truth, justice, and reparations.

What is clear is that the parties—albeit the FARC under protest—are experiencing the consequences of conducting a peace process without benefit of a bilateral ceasefire. Of 34 ceasefire agreements signed with armed groups around the world in 2014, only three, including the indefinite one declared by the FARC in December last year, have been unilateral. Both types of ceasefires present serious challenges in terms of verification, but a unilateral one undoubtedly incurs higher political costs for those who undertake it.

The existence of a declared ceasefire raises the expectations of the population that it will be respected and that rigorous monitoring and verification protocols will be enacted. When it is perceived to have been violated, trust in the process can be expected to plunge. Trust can, however, be recovered if the incident is well managed and used to move the process forward.

When a similar crisis erupted last November over the FARC detention of a high-ranking general in FARC-dominated territory in the Chocó department, the government suspended the talks and called on the international community to assist in finding a solution. The crisis was quickly resolved and the process surged ahead. At the time, everyone agreed it would be important to set up a mechanism for managing future crises, but this does not appear to have happened. It is not too late to still do so.

Despite the best intentions of those at the negotiating table, it is important to remember that each side will still have its share of individuals and groups looking to spoil the process. I have previously argued that the best approach is to try to co-opt or isolate these actors.

Implications for Peace

That the parties are back at the negotiating table after the recent violence is no small achievement. In past decades, similar attacks were sufficient to overturn peace talks in La Uribe, Caracas, Tlaxcala, and Caguán. This time everyone decried the bloodshed, but few called for a halt to the talks, though increasing numbers are seeking conditions and a deadline for reaching agreement.

Nonetheless, Bogota faces an ongoing credibility gap regarding the talks in Havana. The number of Gallup respondents who don’t believe the negotiators will reach a peace deal jumped from 44% to 56% in the past two months. The percentage of skeptics was even higher, at 69%, in the Ipsos-Franco poll. This is partly based on a mistaken perception that the talks are not going anywhere, when in fact all parties acknowledge consistent progress, and believe a final agreement is achievable.

The Colombian process compares favorably with peace processes elsewhere. It has seen only two minor interruptions that were quickly resolved, and the parties have stayed at the table to work toward a final agreement. Negotiators have met on a regular basis in Havana for 36 rounds, for just over two years, and appear to have built confidence that has resulted in three provisional agreements on agrarian development, political participation, and illicit crops and drugs, as well as an unprecedented joint demining project.

Winning the battle for public opinion will require a concerted effort to not only educate the public about what is being negotiated, but to make them stakeholders in the process. The engagement of victims, women’s groups, and LGBTI representatives in the peace talks in the past year was a positive innovation and provides a model for how to do this. Strategic engagement of members of other sectors such as indigenous, Afro-Colombians, youth, labor, press, military, religious, and police could help create and empower efforts to defend the peace process at home.

There is every indication a peace deal will still be reached. Implementation will be the greater challenge. The war has created a reservoir of distrust that is quickly tapped and not easily transformed. For the peace process to succeed, commitments must be made and honored. As government negotiator de la Calle said, “When hope is broken, it is time for faith…. Dialogue… is the instrument that can put an end to the war in the least painful, least prolonged, and above all, the most firm and enduring way.” Reciprocal, bold, and generous gestures are needed to keep peace on track.

(This post was first published by the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory.)


Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memoria desde las regiones

21 abril 2015

Aquí les comparto un video que surgió de un proyecto del Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica para apoyar grupos regionales de memoria histórica (apoyado en parte por el Instituto de Paz/USIP).  Se nota los inicios de una nueva y prometedora alianza entre académicos y víctimas, tanto como entre el centro y las regiones.  El proyecto es emblemático de los nuevos roles de las universidades que se va creando con el proceso de la construcción de paz.  Es para disfrutar:

Aside | Posted on by | 4 Comments

Paz Territorial: Videos y Presentaciones

6 de abril de 2015

Aquí tienen las presentaciones del evento sobre Paz Territorial del 27 de marzo de 2015 en el U.S. Institute of Peace.

Entre los panelistas eran:

  • Virginia M. Bouvier  (Ver su presentación aquí.)
    Senior Advisor for Latin America Programs, United States Institute of Peace
  • Andrés Santamaría Garrido  (Ver su presentación aquí.)
    Presidente, Federación Nacional de Personeros
  • Marino Córdoba (Ver su presentación aquí.)
    Consejo Nacional de Paz Afro-Colombiano (CNPA) y Asociación de Afro-Colombianos Desplazados (AFRODES)
  • Diego Bautista
    Consejero para la Paz Territorial y la Arquitectura Insitucional del Pos-Conflicto, Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Paz
Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment