International experience shows that peace is possible in Colombia

29 Apr 2013

imageKey leaders and mediators from El Salvador, the Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay shared their experiences in bringing peace and democracy to conflict-torn societies. Photo: UNDP Colombia

Bogota  – More than one thousand civil society representatives and dozens of international experts kicked off a three-day forum today aiming to involve Colombia’s society in the peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP, in the Spanish acronym).

The Forum organized by the United Nations and the National University of Colombia, 28-30 April, was requested by the Government and the FARC as part of the peace talks that have been taking place since November 2012 aiming to halt the nearly 50 year-long conflict.

“In Latin America we have witnessed massive violations of human rights related to civil conflict and dictatorial regimes, but we have also seen important and successful experiences that show that it is possible to leave behind such a terrible past,” said Heraldo Muñoz, United Nations Assistant-Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, who chaired the panel on the international experiences in peace processes.

“Our region showcases significant progress in this area—and democracy has been consolidated,” Muñoz added, stressing his personal experience “suffering the coup d’etat” in Chile nearly 40 years ago and “living the country’s transition to democracy” decades later.

Key leaders and mediators from El Salvador, the Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay shared their experiences in bringing peace and democracy to conflict-torn societies.

“Peace requires tolerance and dialogue,” said Maria Ofelia Navarrete, Deputy Minister of Interior of El Salvador and former member the FMNL, the organization that played a key role in the Salvadoran Civil War, which became a legal political party following the peace accords signed in 1992.

Globally, 15 prolonged conflicts have ended in recent years—13 of them through negotiation, according to Kristian Herzbolheimer, Director of the Philippines and Colombia Programme at Conciliation Resources and member of the Government of Philippines-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Observation Group. 

Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a video message: “We South Africans lived through many years of conflict and violence and there were times when it seemed impossible to stop the hatred and the killings. But we continued to struggle for the inclusiveness and reconciliation. And we prevailed.”