Historical Memory Center Launches Final Report

This morning I head over to Bogotá’s Casa de Nariño, the Colombian equivalent of the White House, where Gonzalo Sánchez, the head of the Historical Memory Center (HMC), will present that group’s final report, Basta ya! Colombia: Memorias de guerra y dignidad. (loosely translated as “Enough Already!  Memories of War and Dignity”) to President Juan Manuel Santos.  The Historical Memory Group (now Center) was set up by the National Commission on Reparations and Reconciliation (NCRR), which was created by Law 975 (the Justice and Peace Law) in 2005.  The law mandated the NCRR to produce a “public report on the reasons for the illegal armed actors’ creation and evolution” from 1964 onwards.  The NCRR in turn tasked an independent academic group, the Historical Memory Group (HMG), to produce the report, dignify the memories of the victims (as a form of symbolic reparations), ensure attention to traditionally excluded (including gendered) dimensions of the violence, and foster long-term reconciliation. The HMG sought guarantees of autonomy and independence, and as a member of the HMG’s International Advisory Board, I have been privileged to work with and support this amazing team of public intellectuals in their efforts to shed light on the Colombian conflict and create public policy recommendations to ensure that the violence is not repeated.  These academics have produced 20 books in the last six years on emblematic cases of violence in Colombia.  Today marks the culmination of this work and the presentation of the final report on their findings and recommendations for public policy.  A landmark day.

The first grant I ever brokered  at the U.S. Institute of Peace was to the gender unit of the HMG, now the Historical Memory Center, and an official state body.  I remember hearing María Emma Wills, the head of the HMG’s gender unit at a forum sponsored about five or six years ago by the Initiative for Inclusive Security in Washington, DC.  I waited for her following the forum and encouraged her to present a grant proposal so that USIP might strengthen the gender dimensions of the HMG’s work.  She and her team developed a unique interdisciplinary and participatory methodology that produced several reports on the gendered dynamics of war on the northern coast of Colombia.  Several books and manuals (all in Spanish –would be great if someone wanted to fund translations and publications in English!) resulted from this effort:

The project also produced a toolkit to be used by historical memory workers in communities that have experienced violent conflict. [Click here to view and download a toolkit for the construction of historical memory].  This toolkit is now being translated into English, with support from the Swiss government.

These books provide important windows into how violence against women occurred within the armed conflict, the gender discriminatory mechanisms involved in that violence, the participation of women within that violence, and also the resistance initiatives promoted by women.  The project included memory memory workshops with victims in the Caribbean coastal region, a photography exhibition, and the creation of therapy protocols and psycho-social aid for victims.

Heading off to the launch of the final report.  No time to add pictures now… maybe later.

About Ginny Bouvier

Love reading, writing, thinking, and working with people to make the world a better place. Family and friends, yoga, travel, photography, perusing dessert menus keep me sane. Latin American enthusiast. Peace practitioner yearning for justice. Heading up the Colombia program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, but tweets and posts are my own.
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9 Responses to Historical Memory Center Launches Final Report

  1. Alcira says:

    Dear Ginny –

    Great article about Colombia’s Independence Day and the militarization of Colombian society. Equally great your sharing of the reports by the Memoria Historica Project. We need to get a “good education”, education for peace so we need to learn our history, past and present.


  2. Sibylla Brodzinsky says:

    Ginny, I was there too but didn’t see you. How long are you in town? Do you have time for a coffee? My email is sibyllab@gmail.com.


  3. sarakoopman says:

    Ginny, I did a straight translation into English of the toolkit you mention, but then, working as the research coordinator for Pilar Riaño, the lead researcher and member of the Historical Memory Group, we adapted it to make it more useful to those doing memory work in other contexts of violence. So as to make the toolkit more appropriate and relevant in other countries and contexts, a dialogue was opened, with the support of funding from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thirty-three memory workers in twenty countries where conflict continues (across four continents) read and commented on an initial English translation and adaption of the toolkit. Twenty of these then attended a workshop held in Vancouver, BC, Canada May 25th and 26th, 2011 to engage in further discussion and feedback. This process led to fabulous edits and additions to the set of resources for remembering and narrating conflict which is now available in English at http://reconstructinghistoricalmemory.com/. I encourage folks to read and use it!
    in solidarity,
    Sara Koopman


    • Thanks, Sara, for the link! Great to have more input on this process, and to see the impact that the Historical Memory Group is having not only in Colombia, but world-wide. It has been difficult to break through the language barrier in both directions–sharing the innovative methodologies and processes that the Colombians are developing, as well as sharing other experiences and knowledge from other conflict zones with Colombians. Lots to be done here. The Swiss government has been an important player in helping this to happen. Congratulations for your role and to Pilar, Maria Emma Wills, and the HMG team for their dedication to making this happen.


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