Planting seeds for peace in Colombia

The peace agreement between the government and FARC is the beginning of a long process of building bridges in a country deeply divided. Development projects supported by Sweden focuses on the crucial role women will play in the peacekeeping work.

29. Sep 2016

After 52 years of war between government forces and FARC-revolutionaries a tremendous peacebuilding process awaits in Colombia. From Sweden the peace process is supported with 950 million SEK of development aid from 2016-2020. The aid will in particular be focused on women's participation in conflict resolution and prevention, peacekeeping and humanitarian work.

A specific initiative funded by the Swedish Embassy in Bogota is a national training program, which aims to promote awareness of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security particularly in regions of Colombia outside of the capital. The program was initiated in the fall of 2015 and has brought together 28 participants representing state institutions, public forces, NGOs, civil society, media and academia.

“The idea of the course is to provide knowledge and tools for organizations already working with gender issues and peace. Although already working with these issues, people in Colombia are not conscious about concepts like UNSCR 1325. In that sense the program contributes to dissemination of knowledge about international conventions,” says project manager Alicia Borges Månsson.

A new hope

The many years of war have resulted in no less than six million internally displaced persons in Colombia. When the peace agreement was finally signed on the 26th of September, a new hope was lit for the many victims of the conflict. However the hard-won peace is based on a fragile foundation. For instance there is the risk of criminal organizations to take over where FARC draws back.

“Many will be the challenges facing Colombia after the peace agreement. However these will be solved in a peace environment and should be seen as opportunities to build a more inclusive society,” says Alicia Borges Månsson.

This is exactly the purpose of the program, which is conducted by NIRAS-Indevelop. By means of participatory and action-driven workshops, group study, coaching, designing and management projects etc. the carefully selected course members will be equipped to continue development of their own projects for peace.

A peacebuilding forum against all odds

"One of the founders of the organization ‘Conciudadania’ was selected for the course. At that time Gloria Alzate was already working out of Medellín to promote gender-issues and peace in the entire region of Antioquia. People like Gloria are key figures, because they are already engaged in capacity development of other women organizations.”

However the program has also faced difficulties, explains Alicia Borges Månsson from NIRAS-Indevelop. To begin with it was quite a challenge to bring together people from a society as divided as the one of Colombia to work for one common purpose. These are diverse people from different sides of the conflict - and several of whom have experienced the loss of relatives in the war.

“The course itself is a peacebuilding forum among the participants. This is quite an achievement actually. Although working in different sectors the participants recognized after a while, that they are working towards the same objective, which is peace.”