Women’s Action for Peace in Colombia: Action for Peace in Colombia: Prospects and Challenges for Women in the Peace Process

Women’s Action for Peace in Colombia: Action for Peace in Colombia: Prospects and Challenges for Women in the Peace Process

On November 8th 2013, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), a program partner of the Civil Society Action Network (ICAN); the Permanent Mission of Norway; UN Women; Coalición 1325; and Cordaid, co-hosted the panel discussion “Women’s Action for Peace in Colombia: Prospects and Challenges for Women in the Peace Processes.” This panel discussion focused on women’s participation in the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia(FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Anne Marie Goetz, UN Women’s Chief Advisor on Peace and Security, moderated the panel, applauding the November 2013 Havana Agreement on political participation between the Colombian government and the FARC as an essential step in ending nearly half a century of conflict. H.E. Ambassador Néstor Osorio of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the U.N. delivered opening remarks, stating that the Colombian government is committed to “sustainable development and sustainable peace” while reiterating women’s participation as central to successful peacebuilding. Ambassador Osorio affirmed that a gender perspective has been included in the current peace talks, and expressed his confidence in a positive conclusion to the reconciliation process. Key steps taken by the Colombian government in promoting women’s participation in the peace process were also highlighted by the Ambassador, with particular emphasis on Colombia’s 2013 National Policy for Gender Equality that earmarked approximately $1.75 billion for implementation; the national law on reparations, whereby 57% of the beneficiaries are women; and the provision of national and local councils for the protection of women from sexual violence, supported by sound regulations. He strengthened the Government´s vision towards favoring women’s participation in the political, social and economic fields as well as in the building up of a peaceful country.

H.E. Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the U.N. recognized the Colombian government’s peacebuilding initiatives, noting that he had “never seen as serious an effort [for reconciliation] as the one in Colombia.” Ambassador Pedersen affirmed that the crux of responsibility for the peace process lies with the Colombian government and rebel groups, while Norway and Cuba, the facilitators, could ensure a certain accountability. While two critical decisions have been reached pertaining to agrarian reform and political participation, Ambassador Pedersen noted that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” He also emphasized women’s participation being a priority agenda, and recognized the tireless efforts of Colombian civil society in bringing about improvements. Ambassador Pedersen called for women’s groups to rise above their differences and work together in enhancing women’s participation in peacebuilding processes.

Ms. Rosa Emilia Salamanca from Coalición 1325 spoke about Colombia’s “long, cyclical, and complex conflict” with over 80% of those displaced being women. Ms. Salamanca was emphatic in asserting the significance of the ongoing peace negotiations, stating that this attempt is especially critical due to the disproportionate impact of the conflict on women. She noted Colombian women’s contribution to various efforts to achieve sustainable peace despite the limited space for their participation in the peace process.

Despite their unrelenting efforts, women continue to be conspicuously absent from the negotiating panels, with only two women representing the government as alternate negotiators; while none are included from the FARC side. Ms. Salamanca underlined the challenges facing women’s formal involvement in the peace process, stating that they “are not recognized as key political actors and decision makers.” Ms. Salamanca called on the Colombian government and FARC to enable the participation of women as chief negotiators; and ensure the successful completion of peace agreements. She also underscored that amnesty provisions must not be considered when dealing with crimes of violence against women, and called for the protection of “women peacemakers, women victims, and women human rights defenders.” Additionally, Ms. Salamanca stressed that the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) on the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 as critical to the Colombian government’s commitment in “ensuring women’s participation in peace processes and the protection of women’s rights.”

Ms. Salamanca emphasized civil society participation in the peace process noting that civil society actors have taken part in three National Forums and 18 Regional Consultations held between 2012 and 2013. Due to the steadfast efforts of women’s participation, , the official report released in November 2013 on the FARC-EP Delegations indicates that “everything about the extent of political participation including its implementation was carried out taking into account a gender perspective and ensuring the participation of women.” Ms. Salamanca shared the petition “Women’s Pact For A Country In Peace” drafted by the Women, Peace and Security Collective and encouraged all the participants at the panel discussion to sign the petition.

Ms. Luz Mery Vanegas Tique of the Colombian indigenous women’s network PIEMISIKUPANAYF focused on the particularly acute vulnerabilities faced by indigenous women during conflict. Ms. Vanegas Tique noted that of Colombia’s 102 indigenous communities, 65 are at risk of disappearing. She also expressed deep concern about the recruitment of young indigenous people into armed groups. Despite the extremely limited space within the political process for indigenous women’s participation, Ms. Vanegas Tique stressed that the “contribution of indigenous women is essential and our participation is part of our life and guided by the principle of balance with nature.” Ms. Vanegas Tique stated that the PIEMISIKUPANAYF network was founded to enable indigenous women to unequivocally assert their rights at local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, Ms. Vanegas Tique highlighted a number of recommendations that emerged from the Women’s Summit on the Peace Process that was held in Bogota in October 2013 such as: the need to create mechanisms for indigenous women’s involvement in decision making; a recognition of the different contexts of conflict across indigenous territories; ensuring that violence against indigenous women is not tolerated at any time; and establishing a Truth Commission with the inclusion of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean women. In her conclusion, Ms. Vanegas Tique called on the Colombian government to develop a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and 1820. “This is of great importance to the government and in promoting the rights of indigenous women,” she stated.

During the question and answer session, Ambassador Osario affirmed that the Colombian government is expecting a comprehensive peace agreement including many of the integral components underlined by the panelists. Ambassador Osario also stated that the government is active in analyzing the root causes of the conflict and is involved in the post 2015 agenda in New York. Ms. Vanegas Tique added that many indigenous women are unaware of the Colombian government’s policies and structures including the parliament. She called on Ambassador Osorio to convey their request to the government for training to build knowledge and capacity especially among indigenous communities. In terms of steps taken by civil society with regards enhancing women’s participation in peace talks, Ms. Salmanca noted that civil society are not in direct contact with FARC, due to which public platforms are used in order to urge women’s inclusion as negotiators. Ambassador Pederson praised the ongoing work being undertaken by the Colombian panelists and urged them to continue their efforts.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator or GNWP stressed the organization’s commitment to supporting women’s organizations in their peacebuilding efforts and their demand to be included in all peace processes at all levels. She also pointed out that it is not only important that women are part of the peace negotiations, but that this involvement extends to monitoring of peace agreements as well as subsequent discussions around the division of power and resources and setting of development priorities.

In a recent development, the Colombian government announced the appointment of Maria Paulina Riveros and Nigeria Rentería as the first female chief negotiators to join the Colombian government’s negotiating team with the FARC. GNWP and its members and partners in Colombia welcome this development and recognize it as a result of women’s collective lobbying for women’s representation in the peace talks.
By Subashini Perumal