Colombia Appoints Women Peace Negotiators
In a long overdue decision, the Colombian government has appointed Nigeria Renteria and Maria Paulina Riveros as members of the Colombian government’s negotiating team in its ongoing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Millions of people have been victimized during the 50-year old armed conflict in Colombia that has caused the death of more than 600,000 people; the displacement of more than three million people; and the vast destruction and loss of properties in the country.
The ongoing negotiations process has been hailed as a very important step for the Colombian people, especially women, since the conflict has had a serious impact on their lives, and has significantly limited their participation in decision-making positions.
The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), its members and partners in Colombia Red Nacional de Mujeres, Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), the national indigenous women’s network (PIEMISIKUPANAYF), Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas and Coalición 1325
have been advocating for this appointment in various fora as well as through the implementation of its programs. In a series of workshops on the Localization of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security organized by GNWP and its members, and partners across Colombia, the absence of women’s participation in the peace negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the FARC was identified as a major concern.
With this in mind, during the announcement of the peace talks in October 2012, GNWP and other women rights organization expressed this concern and sent a letter to the then UN Women director Ms. Michelle Bachelet and Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. The letter appealed to their good offices to persuade the four sponsoring countries, Norway, Cuba, Venezuela and Chile, to include gender experts to assist the facilitation teams and publish the names of the people on their teams. It also urged all stakeholders to recognize that the peace talks and the ensuing peace agreement will be much more substantive and will have a greater chance of implementation if women have ownership by being fully and equally represented.
To enhance the lobbying efforts, GNWP also organized a panel discussion on the participation of women in the Colombian peace talks on November 2, 2012 and a follow up panel on November 8, 2013. As the negotiations were commencing at that time, the demands during the first panel discussions from representatives from Red Nacional de Mujeres and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Colombia were the observance of a ceasefire during the peace process; the representation of women among the principal negotiators of the Government and the FARC; truth, justice and reparations for victims, specifically for victims of sexual violence and guarantees of non-repetition; and the continuation of the peace talks until an agreement is reached. However, during the follow up panel discussion, the demands were more critical and cognizant of the lack of commitments from the negotiating parties to ensuring the representation of women in the negotiations. The absence of women in the peace talks is a key concern expressed not only by women’s organizations but also by international policy makers and UN officials.
GNWP and its members in Colombia welcome the appointments of Ms. Renteria and Ms. Riveros. Speaking on behalf of GNWP member Red Nacional de Mujeres, Ms. Beatriz Quintero explained: “To us, the appointment of two women at the negotiating table is a very important decision. From the beginning of the [peace] process, women’s organizations have been demanding that the government comply with Resolution 1325 [and its provision on women’s participation].”
GNWP members and partners in Colombia are hopeful that women’s participation as chief negotiators will lead to the inclusion of women’s issues and concerns in the discussions, and consequently, to a more just and lasting peace: “We believe that it [the inclusion of women at the negotiating table] will be one of the channels through which our voices and proposals can be taken into account in the ongoing peace process,” declared the women of the Colectivo de Pensamiento Mujeres Paz y Seguridad (Women, Peace and Security Think Tank), in a statement welcoming Ms. Renteria and Ms. Riveros’ appointments.
The hard work of women’s organizations is not over just yet: “Now we will continue to work hard to ensure that the women’s agenda is included in the post-conflict agenda,” Ms. Quintero emphasized. “You can only broaden and deepen democracy if women and their agenda are part of the process!” GNWP is hopeful that these appointments will pave the way for the full integration of gender perspectives in the peace negotiations and in the agreements that will ensue. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), “2013 UNHCR country operations profile – Colombia,” accessed on December 5, 2013 http://www.unhcr.org/
by Selamawit Tesfaye