Colombian Civil Society Participation in the Peace Process and “Paz Total”: Myth or Reality?

Gustavo Petro’s Government came into office in August 2022 promising to put a strong emphasis on citizen participation. ABColombia organised an event with Colombian human rights defender Ricardo Jaramillo, who visited the UK to speak about the state of the civil society participation in relation to the Government’s flagship policy of “Paz Total” and the implementation of the Colombian Peace Accord signed in 2016.

Ricardo Jaramillo came to the UK as part of a speaking tour where he is representing the Alliance of Social and Related Organisations for International Cooperation for Peace and Democracy in Colombia (Alianza de Organizaciones Sociales y Afines por una Cooperación Internacional para la Paz y la Democracia en Colombia – La Alianza). La Alianza is a coordinated network of 125 Colombian social organisation.

In his talk, Ricardo highlights how Colombian democracy is still at risk due to a series of circumstances including, generalised corruption, delays in the implementation of the 2016’s Peace Agreement, undermining democratic values and political culture, and insufficient guarantees for civil society participation. He then explores how the current government can, or is, seeking to address these.

Jaramillo explains that the Peace Talks with ELN and other political groups under the policy of Paz Total is going to operate differently to the Peace Talks with the FARC, where “nothing was agreed until everything was agreed.” Paz Total plans to make agreements and implement them immediately rather than wait until there is one final document. This is why it is essential to promote Civil Society Organisation and victims participation now, at the beginning of the talks, and to strengthen civic spaces for dialogue. The Colombian government should improve mechanisms to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression such as the proposed Article 77 in the National Development Plan.

Jarimillo highlights that victims must remain central in all peace processes. Outlining how citizen participation should be incorporated at every stage in the peace process, not just at all levels of the negotiations but also in its implementation.

He also looks at models of dialogue that have worked in addressing social conflict and which could be expanded. He points out that Colombia needs to develop a Culture of Peace, this includes new citizen participation mechanisms, which are incorporated in law, in order that conflicts have established tools to be managed via dialogue, rather than violence.

He goes on to discuss how some of these mechanisms for citizen participation are being envisioned, one of which is currently being put to Congress in the National Development Plan, that of Public Popular Alliances, were State and Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) work on joint enterprises at the local level.

Among the recommendations proposed by Ricardo Jaramillo, as a spokesperson of 125 Colombian organisations represented in La Alianza, is the creation of a new model of social dialogue that offers the possibilities of negotiation, consultation, and exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, civil society, and other actors from the Colombian society.

Listen below to Ricardo Jaramillo’s full presentation (Translated to English)

Event co-organisers