Colombia will organize a National Peace Congress from April 14 to 22. The initiative has been called by the Peoples’ Congress and several social movements and organizations. These groups have been working together for two years in a road map that includes building popular mandates to come up with a new way to legislate based on the people’s traditional and ancient visions of the world.
The National Peace Congress aims to propose a collective peace proposal based on the convergence of different local and regional views and initiatives. The Congress particularly aims to build a social agenda focused on significant community issues, strengthening the social movement for peace from the grassroots and do advocacy work at a regional and national level.
Colombia has suffered a social and armed conflict for over 50 years. In October of last year a new phase of peace talks began in Oslo, Norway, between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the administration of Juan Manuel Santos.
The talks are now being held in Havana, Cuba. However, and besides the bilateral talks between FARC and the Colombian government, many sectors of the country including social movements and organizations have pointed out the need to understand peace as a permanent process and not only as a cease fire.
“First, peace should be understood as a matter including all aspects of everyday life, so a peace proposal is a proposal for the country to solve not only specific problems related with the armed conflict”, said activist Sebastian Quiroga, of Colombian youth organization Tejuntas, in interview with Real World Radio.
In preparation for this event, “the Peoples’ Congress has aimed to join the building of peace initiatives from different sectors of society. This Peace Congress needs to be built through regional work because there are many different regions in this country, many conflicting views with a common national logic, but with particular aspects in each region”, said Quiroga. The regional congresses took place during the weekend in the southwest of Colombia (Popayán), in Magdalena Medio (Barrancabermeja), Bajo Cauca (Medellín) and the center of the country (Bogotá, the country’s capital city).
About the negotiations that are taking place in Havana that have attracted national and international attention in the past few months, Quiroga highlighted that “the talks need the participation of everyone involved in the conflict. We need insurgent organizations like the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to participate. It is also important that social organizations are recognized and have a voice in this process, as they have historically asked to participate in the peace- building process in the country”.
Regarding the people who have so far met to come up with this grassroots initiative called National Peace Congress in a country whose government is using more and more repression to silence the community’s demands “we have said that we cannot build peace without including the victims of violence”, said Quiroga. “The victims of violence, the Colombian people as a whole, should participate in a peace building process. In this regard, the Peace Congress appears as a scenario that aims to include the voices and speak through them. We will be satisfied if there is a massive turnout at the regional congresses. We hope there will be a good discussion to go beyond the diagnoses, the particular situations and the most interesting outcome will be a political agenda, clear mandates to be able to play a role at this point”.
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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