Entitled “The Colombian Peace Process: A Human Rights Perspective,” our trip sought to grapple with the peace accords between the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) within the context of the international human rights regime. Since formal negotiations re-launched in 2012, preliminary accords on rural develop-ment, drug policy reform, political participation for the opposition, and a truth commission have been reached. However, some of the most difficult issues remain unresolved, including reparations to victims; the nature of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of FARC combatants; the punishment of human rights abusers on both sides of the aisle; and the ratification of the treaty.
During our time in Colombia, we explored al of these issues from multiple vantage points, considering both the roles and responsibilities of the government, the FARC, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the Colombian public, and the host of relevant international stakeholders, particularly the United States, Cuba, Norway, and Venezuela as well as non-state actors like the Organization of American States (OAS), the Human Rights Council (HRC), and human rights NGOs (e.g. Amnesty International). In addition, an underlying leitmotif of the trip concerned the political and artistic representations, that is, the “words and images,” of the Colombian conflict and of the peace process. By taking in the street art of Bogotá and visiting the Center for Memory, Peace, and Reconciliation, we gained insight into how the historical and social memory of the conflict will carry over in the post-conflict period.
As part of our educational experience, we met with the following individuals:
- Michael Reed Hurtado, Professor at Yale University and human rights lawyer
- Gonzalo Hernández, Chair of the Economics Dept. at the Universidad Javeriana
- Horacio Serpa, Colombian senator, three-time presidential candidate, and peace negotiator
- Leonardo SanMiguel, Congressional adviser and campaign strategist
- Angelika Rettberg, Professor and head of post-conflict Masters Program at the Universidad de los Andes
Throughout each of our encounters and activities, we often asked our contacts and ourselves the following questions: What sets this peace process apart? After five decades of war, what will a post-conflict Colombia look like? How will the process be remembered and historicized? In what ways will a peace treaty with the FARC impact the country’s role in the region? Below are our answers to some of these questions. Though there is still much ground to cover, we hope that our thoughts and experiences can be a starting point for a more in-depth conversation not only about Colombia’s particular situation but also about conflict resolution in the 21st century.