Colombia: lessons learned from the Northern Ireland Peace Process


From 26 to 28 April, Shared Societies Project Content and Policy Coordinator –Clem McCartney- was able to join a group of Colombian academics and activists meeting in Derry, Ireland, with similar people from Northern Ireland to consider lessons which might be drawn from the Northern Ireland Peace Process for the current negotiations between the Government of Colombia and FARC. It was intended that following the discussions the Colombian participants would develop proposals to assist the current negotiations.

The formal negotiations have taken the form of exploratory meetings during 2012 and they have developed a General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace.  This document has laid out an agenda:

  • Integrated agricultural development policy,
  • Poliitical Particpation,
  • End of Conflict.
  • Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs
  • Victims

The general view in the discussions in Derry was that the parties are serious about the talks but it was stressed that there are many others with a stake in the future of Colombia, including the campesinos,  and some such as the paramilitary forces which could undermine any agreement.  There concerns also need to be taken into account. It was said by one Colombian participant that the talks did provide civil society with an opportunity to raise the concerns of other groups and ensure that they are included in the National Debate. This was close to the point that Clem McCartney made – that for a sustainable society a holistic approach is needed which includes all stakeholders and their concerns.

There is some signs that this wider perspective can become part of the Government/FARC negotiations or become a parallel process. It is a positive sign that some elements of the agreed agenda are also featured in the Ten Commitments for a Shared Society. The agreement has also agreed that “there should be the widest possible participation and a mechanism will be established to receive [...] proposals on the Agenda”.  It recognises that “Construction of peace is a matter for society as a whole”, that “Respect for Human Right should be promoted”, that “Economic development with social justice and in harmony with the environment is a guarantee for peace and progress” and that “Social development with equity and well-being … allows growing as a country”.

These are all welcome statements and auger well for the establishment of a stable shared society.  Progress will need to be monitored closely and efforts made to ensure consideration of how to meet the other Shared Societies Commitments. At this stage one can wish the negotiators well and offer support, as well as support for the efforts of civila society to ensure it is a truly inclusive process.

Photo: Colombia Peace March; AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

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