Para la versión en español haz click aqui

The following article was originally published by SweFOR on December 1, 2015.  

On April 9 last year, thousands of Colombians participated in the walk for peace. The Colombian civil society supports the peace process and will play an important role in the construction of a lasting peace.

Over the course of the last months the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc guerilla group have reached several important advances in the peace process in Colombia, such as the recent agreements on transitional justice and enforced disappearance. SweFOR’s accompanied human rights defenders welcome the advances in the process, but at the same time express concerns about the inclusion of the civil society in the peace process and the implementation of the peace agreements.

A concern raised by Francisco Marín Gutiérrez, member of Hijos e Hijas por la Memoria y contra la Impunidad, is the lack of information about the peace process: “people do not have access to complete information, the only information they receive is from mass media in Colombia, which is often manipulated. Farmers, afro-Colombians, indigenous groups, or anyone living outside of the urban centers, will not have the opportunity to gain complete access to the information about the peace process.”

The lack of information about the peace process is connected to another weakness highlighted by many human rights defenders: the lack of representation of farmers, afro-Colombians and indigenous groups, as well as the invisibility of women in the process. Fanny Rosmira Salas Lenis, the legal representative of the ethnic-territorial organization Cocomacia in the region of Chocó, emphasizes that the people that have had the least opportunity to participate in the process “are the ones who it interests the most, because we live in the areas of conflict”. Another leader of the organization, Humberto Mosquera Andrade, comments that “there is a problem in the peace agenda: it is not clear in which territory demobilized guerilla members will be placed after signing the peace agreement. We want the negotiating parties to sit down and talk with us first.”

Fanny Rosmira Salas Lenis participated in the peace process in Havana as part of the committee of the victims of Bojayá. She maintains that there is a necessity for more inclusion of Colombian civil society in the peace process.

Many human rights defenders express that an agreement between the Farc-guerilla and the government does not necessarily imply the needed changes for the Colombian society in general. Isabel Zuleta from Ríos Vivos Antioquia[1] explains that structural violence will not automatically disappear with the signing of a Peace agreement, that there will not be peace without having justice and without overcoming environmental violence. She also emphasizes that “we live in a society that is chauvinistic and there cannot be real peace without ending that.” Mauricio Castillo, member of Hijos e Hijas raises the issue of corruption and asks: “How can there be peace when there is so much corruption? I would like to see a reform, but I think that will be difficult.”

Diana Gómez Correal, also member of Hijos e Hijas, mentions another aspect that is important to have in mind to reach peace with dignity and increase the possibility for change is the issue of state imposed violence. “Now the Colombian government and society in general have the task to ensure that the victims of state violence are recognized and treated justly and equally.”

The opinions mentioned in this article show the uncertainty and the preoccupations on what could happen during and after a peace agreement in Havana. In conclusion, Colombian human rights defenders emphasize that to create a sustainable peace, there is need to have an inclusive peace process and implementation, that the opinions and preoccupations of different groups in society should be considered and that a guarantee for real participation in decision making should be provided.

[1] From the beginning of this year SweFOR is in the process of evaluating an accompaniment request by Movimiento Rios Vivos Antioquio due to the level of risk the organization faces.