Colombians participate in the peace process

Colombia participates in the peace process
A view of indigenous children from the Embera people, displaced by armed conflict. Indigenous culture is closely linked to the land and displacement often led to the total collapse of traditional authority and cultural patterns. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

Uffyunu, a Wayuu indigenous woman, has witnessed two massacres in her life, when paramilitary groups invaded her village, killed dozens of people and left hundreds without a home in 2001 and 2004.

"It was terrible," says Uffyunu, who lives with her 5-year-old son in the southern part of La Guajira. "We have been hoping for peace for decades and yet we are again and again tormented by the ongoing conflict."

Highlights

  • In 2012, the Colombian government and FARC-EP guerrillas began peace talks to end the 5-decade-long conflict which has killed more than 5 million people.
  • UNDP-supported forums allow members of civil society, communities and victims' groups to submit proposals to contribute to the peace talks.
  • More than 6,000 people have contributed with proposals for the peace meetings.
  • Budget: $1.024 million

Uffyunu is one of millions who have suffered from Colombia’s nearly five-decade-long civil conflict, but today, her future and the future of her country are beginning to appear more hopeful. After several failed attempts, the Colombian government and FARC-EP guerrillas have been engaged in peace discussions since signing an agreement in 2012 to end fighting.

And, in one of the first examples in Latin America, communities, victims and representatives of civil society organizations have been given a role in seeking justice, protecting their rights, and voicing their needs and priorities within the peace talks.

With UNDP assistance, more than 6,000 people from more than 2,000 community organizations have contributed to the peace talks by submitting proposals about rural development, political participation, illicit crops and victims’ rights. As land rights and distribution have been at the heart of the conflict, a majority of the population has been calling for a radical transformation of Colombia's rural and agrarian reality.

"I lost my brother in the conflict," says Josefina Fonseca, a 55-year-old activist who is campaigning to seek justice for the victims of the conflict, which claimed the lives of more than 5 million people. "He disappeared. My brother's family has no means to support themselves. We waited for 10 years to hear the truth about what happened to him and now we want justice for his wife and children."

Others are still waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones.

To further the goal of including these and other Colombian voices at the table, UNDP ran three national fora on Rural Development, Political Participation and Illicit Drugs. With the help of UNDP, the National University and other partners, 4,500 representatives from all sectors of civil society have been able to put forward their proposals on land reform and political participation.

Uffyunu has benefited from one of these schemes to get people more actively involved in local politics. Today, she is the leader of an organization representing indigenous women, and a vocal activist. Through a UNDP-supported Colombian Congressional Peace Commission initiative, which collects different proposals from civil society, she has been able to present her ideas for lasting peace directly to those at the negotiating table in Havana.

Uffyunu says that her proposal calls on Colombia’s leaders to create a truth commission to bring the violence and suffering of her compatriots into the open. Her hope is that the commission would also promote justice and reparations, and ensure that such atrocities are never committed again.

Her proposal, along with others from thousands of Colombians across the country, will be taken into account during the peace discussions.

"We have had failed peace agreements in the past, but this time it may be different," Uffyunu says. "For the first time, minorities, indigenous people, victims and families affected by the conflict have been involved in the talks and everyone now has an interest and a stake in maintaining peace."