Colombia: Their conflicts and their efforts towards peace
By Belle Garcia-Hernandez
Posted 17 July 2010
conclulding pose after the successful Philippine visit to
Colombia, with the Philippine delegation, some of the
Colombian delegation and Kristian Herbolzeimer of Concilian
Resources who provided support to the program, with the
assistance of the Norwegian Embassy.
Colombia and the Philippines
have so much in common. Apart from being Spanish colonies in the
past, having a presidential system and with newly installed
presidents, both have strong varied ethnic and linguistic peoples
and communities but with centralized governments.
Furthermore, both countries
have long histories of internal violent conflicts characterized by
strong inequity, unequal distribution of land, discrimination of
indigenous peoples, lack of institutional development set up by the
state, militarization and the presence of diversified armed groups
as well. No doubt that both countries have made efforts in peace
negotiations with rebel groups, set up government peace panels and
have let the international community play roles, though in varied
levels and intensity.
These are among the shared
general concerns observed and learned by a Philippine delegation
composed of 10 people who went to Colombia for a weeklong study or
exposure from June 6 to 13, 2010.
The delegation is on a Peace
Practitioners’ Exchange Program which was crafted by
non-government institutions both from Colombia and Philippines and
supported by a London-based organization, Conciliation Resources,
that serves as an international institution looking at peace
negotiations and processes and promoting conflict resolutions and
other peacebuilding initiatives in various countries.
meeting with NGOs in Colombia.
This program aims to improve
peace practices through sharing and learning between peace
initiatives from the Philippines and Colombia. This venue serves to
provide peace practitioners the opportunity of research and learning
from peers in a different country with common challenges.
It has three parts. The first
was when the Philippine delegation went to Colombia. The second part
is the Colombian delegation’s turn to come to the Philippines,
which is about to close as of this writing. The third will be the
production of the outputs of the whole delegation after having been
to the other country. At the onset, each delegate has identified a
specific research theme she or he wanted to focus on during and
after the visit – land issues, human rights, peace negotiations,
security, civil peace society groupings and the like.
The Filipino delegation has
acknowledged that in both countries, civil society organizations are
strong and dynamic yet diverse but play special and crucial roles in
peacebuilding, conflict resolution and peace negotiations.
While they concede to this,
the peace movement in the Philippines has more democratic space to
advocate and influence key stakeholders to push for social, economic
and political changes as well as promote for peacebuilding
approaches. Though there has been exhaustion for some time brought
about by the frustrations in the negotiations in the past
administrations, the new Aquino Presidency somehow brings a positive
look in the continuation of the peace talks with a newly designated
head of the government negotiating team from the academe and civil
In Colombia, there was a long
lull of formal peace talks between the Uribe government (since it
came to power in 2002) and the rebel groups. His government has been
winning in marginalizing the rebels in far-flung areas and in
dividing public views to sympathize with the government.
Civil society groups have
been frustrated in this situation given too that the Armed Forces of
Colombia has been very militaristic in dealing with the people in
general and with activists in particular. Both the armed forces of
the government and the rebel armed groups are not abiding by the
International Humanitarian Law. Colombia is globally known for its
abductions, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and
Philippine delegation: standing (L-R): Belle Garcia, Raissa
Jajurie, Ariel Hernandez, Lulu Tison, Lysander Suerte,
Charmaine Baconga, Tonette Raquiza, Ednar Dayanghirang;
sitting (L-R): Marco Puzon, Bong Montesa