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Finding peace in Colombia

Catalina Quintero's picture
Sunday was the day that all Colombians, in Colombia or abroad, voted in a referendum to ratify or not the peace agreement that was signed on September 26 between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group and the Colombian government.
 
As a Colombian living in Washington, D.C., I was serving as a voting monitor (Colombians citizens who volunteer to make sure the process runs smoothly and transparently) here all day, from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Most of us were for the YES vote; so we were both saddened and surprised when we heard the news that the NO vote had narrowly won.
 
Though I was pessimistic at first, I thought about the great peacemakers of this world, and in particular Nelson Mandela who once said: "In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people." I have come to a different conclusion about this supposed "blow" to achieving peace in my country. I think this is a lesson in what the true meaning of peace is, especially for those of us who work on combatting conflict and often think that peace is a technocratic agreement.
 
City view of Bogotá, Colombia.  (Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank)


It is true that society has been extremely polarized in recent months, and that although this is likely the most comprehensive and technically sound peace deal in this 50+-year-old conflict, the process was not very inclusive or transparent of society at large. Corruption scandals in the current government abound, and the fear that we might turn into another Venezuela if the FARC gain political power (which the agreement provides for to an extent) are not that far-fetched for many Colombians glancing over the border. The process divided Colombian families. There is not one person I have spoken to that has told me that they could easily breach the subject at dinner without a real fight breaking out.
 
The NO vote was a lesson to us Colombians that polarization and choosing sides here isn't the way, that listening to the other rather than just maintaining our position is what we need the most. If we are fighting, and if there is violence verbal or physical within our hearts and minds and at the most basic level of the family, how can we have a national peace when we aren't even at peace with ourselves let alone our family members or colleagues at work? Peace is the work of a united nation, a united effort.
 
I don't think all is lost, in fact, I think this NO vote reminds us that for the peace agreement to hold, we need to be more inclusive of all opposing views. What works for peace is love and not fear, understanding and trust of the other rather than ostracizing someone for a different opinion. It is about taking that anger and resentment within and transforming it, because they don't work. Humility and calmness do.
 
President Santos has declared that the ceasefire still holds while democratically recognizing the NO vote. Former President Uribe has also emphasized his will for peace and for continued conversations with the FARC so that the opposition's views can be included in the agreements. Finally, the FARC has said they will not return to "the jungle" to fight ever again.
 
The whole point is that we had forgotten to look ourselves in the eye, each Colombian, and realize that we are both part of the problem and solution to peace...by finding it within ourselves.

 

Striking extreme poverty by 2030: How can the New Deal help?

Sarah Hearn's picture

The message of the  g7+ group of conflict-affected and fragile countries is clear. Solutions to conflict and poverty only work when they are nationally-owned and led. That might seem obvious, but the international community has learned the hard way that externally-imposed priorities do not add up to peace and sustainable institutions that drive development.
 

5 things we learned about violent extremism

Alys Willman's picture
Credit: www.weforum.org

The threat of violent extremism formed a common thread through many discussions at the Fragility Forum this month. While certainly not limited to fragile settings, these areas experience a disproportionate burden of attacks and exploitation by extremist groups. If we are going to prevent further violence, our efforts have to focus there.

UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson noted this in his opening remarks, saying, “We must get better at stamping out the flames before they pose an existential threat. We must do more prevention and post-conflict work.”
If we are ready to get serious about prevention and response to violent extremism, we need a better understanding of why people and communities support extremist groups, and why they don’t. During the Forum, the panel “Violent Extremism: What we know, and what we don’t” helped shed light on some critical empirical questions. 

Here are five things we learned:

Gender equality and peace building - moving beyond MY goal to implement the Sustainable Development Goals

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture

The buzz around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is changing, as reality kicks in and countries now have to figure out how to integrate the thinking of the goals into plans, set priorities and commit to targets.

Up to now global interest groups and constituencies have rallied around MY goal – one of the 17 SDGs that they supported. This is understandable, as their first achievement has been to see their goal included. With that done the hard work is starting, to implement the ambitious agenda.

No doubt this will be challenging and the crosscutting goals that have several sector “homes” are likely to face particular difficulties. Constituencies need to team up and mobilize joint resources and strategies especially around Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies. This is sensible and smart: Reducing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and increasing women’s roles in peace and statebuilding are core objectives of both constituencies.