Planting seeds for sustainable peace in Colombia

av Alicia Borges Månsson

The 23rd of June 2016 is an historical day for Colombia. After 52 years of fighting and almost four years of peace negotiations, the Government and The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) finally agreed to a ceasefire. Niras-Indevelop  has had the opportunity to work on a number of Swedish funded initiatives in Colombia such as the International Training Program on Women, Peace and Security. Alicia, who manages the national program funded by the Embassy of Sweden, gives her personal reflections of the peace process in this blog.

The ceasefire is an important step towards achieving sustainable peace. There are many challenges remaining, particularly putting the peace agreement into practice; however, this ceasefire represents an enormous opportunity given the strong public engagement in the process  and a well-informed population.

Sweden has been an important partner for Colombia for many years and has strongly supported programs related to Women, Peace and Security. For instance, the Embassy of Sweden in Bogotá and UN Women supported the summit on women and peace that took place in October 2013. The summit brought together over 500 women from throughout the country.  An important result of the summit was the formal request to include women in peace negotiations. This  led to the establishment of a gender sub-commission for negotiations in Havana, Cuba which was given the responsibility to include and oversee gender aspects in the agreements related to rural reform, political participation and illicit drugs.

Since 2011, 48 Colombians have graduated from the Global ITP program on UNSCR Women, Peace and Security, financed by Sida and organised by Niras-Indevelop in cooperation with Kvinna till Kvinna. Some of these graduates have played a vital role in highlighting the importance of  gender in peace negotiations, both through their engagement in civil society organizations and in government institutions like the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace.

In addition,  Niras-Indevelop is currently conducting a national program in Colombia, funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Bogotá,  on  UNSCR Women, Peace and Security to respond to the need to reach out to people in other regions of the country other than Bogotá. This training program conducted in Spanish has brought together 28 participants representing state institutions, public forces, civil society, media, and academia.  It has been an excellent forum for dialogue and information exchange among these various sectors that otherwise hardly communicates with each other. As stated by one participant “By coming together around the topic of the UN Resolution, sharing experiences and establishing inter-institutional relations we can clarify and define ways of contributing to peace from our different organizations. Such common understanding of the concepts allows our actions to be harmonized within the framework of human rights and make stronger contributions from the territories and institutions to the peace building process.”

This training program covers numerous topics related to women’s rights and their necessary participation in peace building. It also provides a broader perspective on the challenges facing the country in a post-conflict scenario. Such knowledge is both relevant and essential in the present context of Colombia. It is important to look forward and find ways of working with this engaged and committed group of graduates to consolidate the knowledge acquired and support them in the dissemination of this knowledge at the organizational, regional and national levels.

For Niras-Indevelop it’s fundamental to continue reaching out to the regions and to the diverse groups of people with this kind of national training programs focusing on gender, women’s rights and empowerment, peace and security particularly in a context where integral rural development is a priority. Together we will continue planting the seeds for change and for sustainable peace in a post-conflict Colombia.