GIWPS Award Recipients Discuss Colombian Innovation in FARC Negotiations

Former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented eponymous awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security to four Colombians who shaped the trajectory of the negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on March 31. The ceremony provided the recipients with a platform to discuss the role and rights of women in the agreement as well as the innovative successes of the Colombian model of negotiations in peacebuilding. The 2017 awards, presented by Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS) celebrated this historic feat. The recipients included Humberto De la Calle, chief negotiator for the Colombian government; Maria Paulina Riveros, deputy attorney general of Colombia; Elena Ambrosi, a key member of the Colombian government’s negotiations team who promoted gender inclusion; and Jineth Bedoya, a journalist and advocate for victims of sexual assault and peace. 

The Colombian people narrowly rejected the first version of the peace deal on October 2, 2016, showing public discontent with the initial agreement to terminate the conflict between the government and the FARC. However, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos continued to urge for peace; his labors were rewarded with the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The Colombian Congress approved a revised agreement between the government and the FARC on November 24, 2016 that concluded the longest-running single conflict in Latin America. The agreement officially transitioned the FARC from an active guerrilla organization to a left-wing political party. With its ratification, the agreement marked a watershed in the history and trajectory of Latin America, serving as a definitive achievement of Latin American peacebuilding.

Despite controversy within Colombia surrounding the deal and its perceived shortcomings, De la Calle emphasized the significance of peace in the long-term, urging the audience to not get caught-up in minor details such as amnesty. Instead, De la Calle pointed to the dual historic nature of the agreement: first, in bringing the FARC to the negotiating table and ensuring disarmament and, second, in being innovative by involving previously-excluded groups, such as women.

This spirit of innovation manifested itself in the shared goals of the award recipients, regardless of race, gender, and economic class, and in the shaping of a more global, unifying spirit.

Clinton illustrated this idea in her opening remarks when she called for more peacemakers to devote themselves to “bridging divides, bringing people together, and trying to find common ground.”

In an effort to give a voice to those who are unheard, the peace agreement solidified strides toward gender equality, acknowledging the prevalence of sexual violence against women during the conflict and establishing appropriate systems to resolve these injustices.

Spotlighting the impacts of sexual violence, Bedoya used the opportunity to send a message to governments around the world.

“Those people in office can never forget that sexual violence against women is a crime,” she said.

De la Calle invoked the image and words of Bedoya throughout the ceremony as a model for inclusivity and the ability to reconcile the horrors of the past with the promise of a more secure future. Through this language, he highlighted the importance of diversity, empathy, and looking beyond circumstances in order to achieve mutual goals.

This continued emphasis on the importance and value of women’s perspectives in the negotiation process culminated in the creation of a Gender Subcommission championed by award-recipient Ambrosi. The result of these measures contributed to a “sustainable peace.”

Bedoya credited the peace process for providing platforms that ensure visibility to victims of abuse in Colombia and, in the long-term, the world.

“Women are no longer invisible,” she explained.

The peace agreement, according to De la Calle, ensured accountability for all parties involved—both the government and the armed combatants. The accord, for the first time in history, created a tripartite organization by drawing from both sides of the conflict—the government and the FARC—and placing it beneath the umbrella of the United Nations. This mechanism guaranteed the oversight and accountability necessary to secure the FARC’s commitment to demilitarization, reducing drug trafficking, and ending violence.

According to De la Calle, the deal and its techniques set a “new world precedent.”

Ultimately, the awards ceremony created a sense of reflection, not only on the barrier-breaking role of women in the Colombian Peace Accord but also on peacebuilding, bridging socio-economic groups, and diverse political backgrounds and affiliations. In doing so, the speakers emphasized the groundbreaking nature of the agreement: a spotlight on the changing role of women in diplomacy as a means of securing a more lasting peace.

In the end, De la Calle explained, “Peace does not belong to the government. Peace does not belong to negotiators. Peace does not belong to the FARC. Peace belongs to all Colombians.”