Understanding the Peace Process, a Space for Trainers of Trainers

Understanding the Peace Process, a Space for Trainers of Trainers

by Carolina Serrano, volunteer and student from Notre Dame University

posted on August 5, 2016.

On Saturday July 30th, a workshop to train Trainers took place in the city of Montería, Córdoba whose objective was to discuss and explain the peace process between the Colombian government and FARC-EP as well as each of the points in the negotiation agenda that have been agreed on to date.

The workshop was carried out by Común Acuerdo and sponsored by Sembrandopaz and the Córdoba Citizen Commission for Reconciliation and Peace (CCRP). With the strong conviction that it is through information and participation that real social change can be accomplished, Sembrandpaz and the Córdoba CCRP encouraged, on this occasion, the training of leaders that make part of the CCRP. The workshop was designed to open a space for discussion and dialogue among the participants, doubts were cleared out and concerns, questions, fears and expectations were expressed.

The activity started at 8:30 am in one of the kiosks at the Casa de Convivencias Villa Nazareth. Once there, each of the participants shared their name, the organization they represent and posed a question they had about the peace process . This first activity helped “break the ice” as well as expose concerns these leaders had regarding the peace process, which varied from the challenges posed by comprehensive rural reform and access to land to how to recover trust between communities and the State and even among each other.

Training started with a review of the political nature of the peace process and its different stages. The trainers also went through the principles that guide the negotiation such as confidentiality, negotiating while still in conflict and, the famous “nothing is agreed on until everything’s agreed on”. The methodology provided ample space for participants to form questions, complement information, give feedback and talk about the specificities of the armed conflict and its impact in the region.

After a detailed explanation of the negotiating table’s structure, the trainers from Común Acuerdo initiated a discussion about “Comprehensive Rural Development”, the first point in the negotiating agenda. With a fun and artistic methodology, the group was divided into four subgroups and each had time to make a drawing with tempera, wool, markers and cardboard. The drawings responded to the following questions: where has the Colombian armed conflict primarily taken place, in urban or rural areas? And why has the impact been different in each place?

This was a really fun activity that put into practice, among the participants, the use of dialogue and negotiation to reach consensus about the causes of a 50-year old armed conflict. Agreeing on these causes and the places where armed conflict has taken place and had its most humanitarian impact is not an easy task! However, each group presented its drawing and got feedback from the rest. This exercise made it very clear that the Colombian armed conflict and its origins are not “black and white” “good or bad”, “rural or urban”, it just cannot be understood under an “either-or” paradigm. On the contrary it has been and still is a complex process that involves a wide array of causes and impacts. This activity was the perfect first step to start discussing land issues.

The workshop continued and the rest of the points of the agenda were explained and discussed. Throughout the day and as the discussion advanced one concern in particular became evident, that of lack of information and the overwhelming amount of misinformation in the media regarding the peace process and all that it entails. As participants expressed it, misinformation is perpetuating a well-founded and deep- rooted skepticism and mistrust in Colombian society. However this is precisely what needs to change. Colombians need to believe and have faith again, faith in themselves as a whole and a community as a society. Believe that unity and participation will translate into real change.

Participants showed a lot of interest in the idea of peace being a result of active participation from the communities and civil society in general. The idea that participation starts with each one of us and that it is essential to embrace the public arena so that all of us participate, become informed and have the capacity to plan, foresee future conflicts and at the same time, oversight the State.

For some of the participants, reconciliation is a means to an end, the end being peace. This provokes a reflection about what we, as a society, understand as reconciliation, how does the government understand it and how do the different territories envision it? Is it necessary or even important for these understandings to be the same? Should we all understand the same for reconciliation? Is it not important that we all have clear what the goal is? Is it our goal? How do these understandings fit into the implementation of the peace accords? And to what extent does our understanding of reconciliation can obstruct or pave the way for the upcoming referendum and subsequent implementation of the accords?