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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 finding it within ourselves.


Latin America: Is There Hope for Prosperity After the Commodity Price Boom?

Katia Vostroknutova's picture

This blog was previously published in The World Post.

Talk about ‘growth’ in Latin America has become less upbeat today than a few years ago. That’s no surprise. For over a decade, average growth meant at least double the economic activity that we are seeing today. 

Lima, from Gastronomic Center to Capital of Urban Transformation

Eric Dickson's picture

Vista de la costa de Lima

‘Oh you’re going to Lima? I’ve heard the food is supposed to be amazing’. So goes the typical comment I get from friends and family when I would mention my work related travel plans. And in this sense the city does indeed live up to what is now internationally recognized. In my short amount of time in Lima I discovered it has a gorgeous historic downtown area, a stunning coastline peppered with manicured parks in the upscale parts of town, and a largely flat topography coupled with a near complete lack of rain.

#Youthbiz: Thousands of Young Entrepreneurs Discuss Innovation, Growth and Jobs Creation with World Economic Leaders

Luis Viguria's picture

Young entrepreneurs from Latin America

Thousands of young entrepreneurs from 43 countries across the world took part in a series of online and onsite dialogues as part of the Road to Lima 2015 activities. The inclusion of youth in such an important process was possible thanks to the World Bank Group and the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT).

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Oil is Well that Ends Well

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture

Why are petroleum prices dropping so fast anyway? Have they reached rock bottom yet? Should we be worried if they continue to fall? These are questions that probably every finance minister in either oil-rich or oil importing nations is trying to answer.  

Future Development Forecasts 2015

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Despite their mixed record last year, Future Development's bloggers once again offer their predictions for 2015.  Eight themes emerge.
1. Global growth and trade. The US economy will strengthen far above predictions. Together with lower oil prices and a better business climate in emerging markets, this will create substantial positive spill-overs, including to the smaller export-oriented Asian economies, boosting the growth of their manufactured exports well above recent trends. The US will look to open new free trade agreements in Asia—India may try to join—and seek opportunities to do the same in Africa. Meanwhile, Germany will face increasing resistance to the free-trade agreement with America (TTIP), just as Angela Merkel celebrates her 10th year in office.

In Latin America, Hard Hats and Tools are no longer only for Men

Maria Margarita Nunez's picture

Women that have joined road maintenance has increased significantly.

While driving around rural areas of Puno in Peru, Caaguazú in Paraguay or Granada in Nicaragua, do not be surprised to see women lifting rocks from the roads and using shovels and picks alongside men.  In fact, in the past 15 years, the number of women that have joined organizations in charge of routine road maintenance in Latin America has increased significantly and with this their life conditions have improved dramatically.

For rural communities, good roads mean the world

Maria Margarita Nunez's picture

Coffee beans in the hands of a Peruvian farmer.

On a Friday evening last November, twelve mayors from nearby districts gathered at the municipal office building in Tarapoto, Peru. Even though the rainy season was just ramping-up in this lush tropical area of the country, local roads were already being washed away. These mayors were eagerly planning for the local Provincial Road Institute to use their tractors to protect their roads to counter the negative effects of the rain.
One of them cried out, “How will my people bring grapes and coffee to local markets without good roads? Our products are going to rot and my people are going to suffer.”