October 3, 2013
This morning, delegates of the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP resumed their 15th round of talks in Havana, where they continue to discuss the theme of political participation, and to craft agreements designed to end Colombia’s internal armed conflict. As the parties struggle to forge agreements at the table over difficult issues, including juridical security for the insurgents and the mechanisms for ratifying an agreement, the external pressure for the parties to speed up the process increases. The parties at the table have assumed a moral responsibility “to guarantee the effectiveness of the process and conclude working on the points on the agenda swiftly and in as little time as possible.”
In the meantime, there is much to be done to prepare the terrain. It is increasingly clear that a peace accord is a necessary but insufficient condition for peace. This is not to say that a peace accord is not important. On the contrary, it is indispensable. However, peace will not magically and automatically “trickle down,” Andries Odendaal reminded us last week in the launch of his new book, A Crucial Link: Local Peace Committees and National Peacebuilding.
Given that fifty percent of peace agreements fail in the first five years after they are signed, building consensus around the way forward–both at the table and in the broader public–is essential to an agreement’s effectiveness. It is at the local level that conflict violence occurs, and it is here that victims, displaced people, ex-combatants, local authorities, and communities more broadly must learn to live together and find ways of both addressing past wrongs and resolving new conflicts non-violently when they emerge.
Clearly, there will be educational and technical tasks involved in preparing a public for ratification and implementation of an agreement, but deeper processes of healing and cultural transformation will also be needed over the long term, and creating a culture of peace will require individuals to assume responsibility for constructing an environment that promotes peaceful co-existence–if not reconciliation.
Preparing for Peace at the Local Level
How can civil society prepare itself for this kind of peacebuilding? A new initiative launched by the Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action offers an avenue that includes some thoughtful and innovative ideas for fostering the kind of widespread commitments that will be needed to help build and sustain peace from the bottom up.
About two years ago, I accompanied some of the women who would later form this Collective when they traveled to Barrancabermeja in the department of Magdalena Medio with women peacemakers from the Philippines and Colombia. The exchange, sponsored by the London-based Conciliation Resources and organized by Rosa Emilia Salamanca of CIASE (Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica), brought together Colombian and Filipino women of quite different backgrounds. Their joint trips to the Philippines and Colombia included members of the Armed Forces and employees in the public sector, as well as academics, women religious, entrepreneurs, and ex-combatants. Each trip was designed for the women to learn about peace initiatives in each country and to share their experiences in promoting peace. These exchanges, which included a range of women from many sectors–the military, religious women, ex-combatants, business women, teachers– inspired a long reflective process of what the participants call “Diálogos Difíciles,” and led to the institutionalization of these dialogues through the establishment of the Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action. The Collective and their dialogues offers an intriguing experiment in learning to value diversity–something that can be particularly difficult in a conflict zone, but is essential to the recovery of democratic culture.
Ethical Pact for Peace
At 6 p.m. last night, the Collective gathered at the Javeriana University in Bogotá to announce a bold new initiative–an Ethical Pact for Peace in Colombia. The Pact recognizes that “negotiations are one of the paths to achieve a transformative, sustainable, and lasting peace,” and urges the parties not to leave the table until they reach agreement. It also notes that there are paths beyond the peace talks that can lead toward peace, and offers a roadmap – a sort of civil society framework agreement—for the ethical transformation of Colombia.
The 15-Point Plan
Those who sign the Pact agree to a fifteen-point plan of personal transformation that commits them to:
- Recognize the humanity and right to life of each and every person that lives in this country.
- Recognize, respect, and value diversity and political differences: no one has the absolute truth.
- Reclaim the idea and practice that the State welcomes the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country.
- Defend a security policy centered on human lives and based on the comprehensive and effective respect for their rights.
- Promote the respect and effective fulfillment of human rights and economic justice by the state, businesses, and all of society.
- Transform our exclusive authoritarian cultural practices and pursue equitable relations between men and women.
- Categorically reject all forms of violence against women and convert them into unacceptable political and cultural practices.
- Construct ideas and practices of “just justice” within a legal framework that respects the human dignity of all women and men.
- Banish opportunistic, corrupt, manipulative and criminal practices present in all sectors of the country.
- Recognize and overcome the deep pain caused by all the violences that have torn at us for decades.
- Promote active dialogues encouraging those who think differently and seeking to change the view that those who are not with me are against me.
- Elaborate a pluralistic memory that includes diverse beliefs and visions about what happened and that guarantees that that tragedy will not be repeated.
- Identify and question the interests, imaginaries, and myths that maintain violence.
- Promote and demand non-violent, ethical forms for conducting politics at every level, recognizing the value of the public sphere as a collective birthright.
- Defend and strengthen our active participation in public spaces for dialogue and political debate and strengthen the notion that opposition is integral to the dynamics of democratic construction.
Each of the aforementioned points is meant to generate pedagogical actions and political dialogue and to offer some concrete ways forward. The Pact is only one of many initiatives under way in Colombia, but its launch is a sign that some sectors of civil society are beginning to think seriously about what a transition from war to peace might entail–not just for the armed actors but for all of Colombian society. The Pact reminds us that the negotiating teams are not the only ones responsible for building peace in Colombia, and that while the parties work through their differences at the table, there is much work to be done back home.