Peace means going beyond the absence of armed conflict. It means promoting and implementing a reconstruction model that overturns injustice and inequality, thereby promoting social transformation and inclusion. Peace, for Colombian women, meant addressing gender and sexual violence, as well as social, economic, cultural and political inequalities.
From the start of the Peace Talks Colombian women struggled to ensure their participation at the negotiating table. Official Talks started in August 2012, but it was not until April 2013 when the first woman was appointed to a frontline negotiating team – Victoria Sandino for the FARC. The government followed in November 2013 with the appointment of Maria-Paulina Riveros and Nigeria Rentería.
This achievement, along with the creation of a Gender Sub-Commission (GSC), was due to the tireless and sustained advocacy and campaigning work of Colombian Women’s civil society organisations (CSOs), supported by the International Community.
The international normative framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), along with the signing by 122 countries, including Colombia, of the UK-promoted Global Declaration on Eliminating Conflict Sexual Violence generated international expectations, and provided a conducive environment for the inclusion of women and support for no amnesties for conflict sexual violence in transitional justice.
The idea of the GSC was inspired by UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), which emphasise the importance of women’s participation in peace processes; that tensions are exacerbated by exclusion; the clarity that an analysis from a gender perspective can offer in substantive matters of an agreement; and that special measures are needed to protect women and girls in situations of conflict violence in terms of sexual violence and other affectations derived from the condition and situation of women in the conflict.
“The sub-commission was given the mandate of reviewing and making sure that the agreements reached as part of the negotiation would incorporate a gender focus that recognised the important role of women in the construction of a democratic and inclusive society, and the basis for the consolidation of a stable and lasting peace.” Germán Espejo, Colombian Embassy UK.
The Cuban and Norwegian Governments each provided a gender expert to the GSC, women’s CSOs from their specific areas of expertise provided advice and support to Maria-Paulina Riveros and Victoria Sandino and their five-person teams. This support came from the Cumbre Nacional de Mujeres y Paz (made up of 9 network organisations: Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, Red Nacional de Mujeres, Alianza Iniciativa de Mujeres por la Paz, Casa de la Mujer, Mujeres por la Paz, Colectivo de Pensamiento y Acción Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad, Coalición 1325, Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afrocolombianas and the Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas, Negras e Indígenas de Colombia), Alianza Cinco Claves as well as other networks and organisations of women victims, including LGBTI, rural women and women from ethnic minorities.
Indigenous and Afro-descendant women contributed to both the GSC and the ethnic perspectives chapter of the Final Peace Accord (FPA).
The Sub-Commission also received additional advice and support from some governments and UN Women, who recognised the importance of an intersectional approach to gender and ethnic inclusion.
“When women participate in political life, policymaking is more inclusive”. UK Government NAP 2018
The inclusion of gender equality, non-discrimination and the rights of the LGBTI population in the FPA was a historic event. For the first time, a peace agreement addressed gender in a comprehensive and intersectional manner, recognising the differential experiences of LGBTI people, women and ethnic communities in the context of the conflict.
Despite the gendered agreements being a unique achievement globally, they were made one of the most controversial aspects of the Peace Accord in the 2016 plebiscite. Lessons can be learnt from reflecting on this process: whilst peace talks are central, there are other contextual factors to consider during the negotiating process.
Whilst some CSOs and victims participated in Havana, and a much wider number in the preparation of proposals, there was a lack of transparency regarding the full agreements that the parties were reaching at each stage of the Talks.
The slogan that ‘nothing is agreed till all is agreed’, whilst an understandable stance, created a secrecy around the detail of the agreements being made. This was a major disadvantage when it came to the plebiscite.
Despite the tireless work of CSOs in the dissemination of the information at the local as well as the national level, it was impossible in the time available to ensure that people were familiar with its content. Lack of transparency increased insecurity, making it easier for the ‘no’ campaigners to succeed.
One of the key aspects of the ‘no’ campaign was centred around – the so called – ‘Gender Ideology’ in the FPA.
This played to patriarchal attitudes and contributed to the rejection of the Accord by 50.2%. The loss of the plebiscite weakened the democratic weight of the Accord and opened the agreements up to renegotiation and changes before signing the “Final Peace Accord” in November 2016. The impact of losing the plebiscite meant that instead of passing quickly through Congress aided by the ‘fast-track’ procedure, the opposition to the FPA, led by the Centro Democrático, were able to debate and win further changes.
This has profoundly shaken the confidence of the FARC.
The Presidential election campaign of 2018 left many extremely concerned – especially the FARC – that the new Government would not proceed with the implementation of the FPA.
However, since taking office, President Iván Duque Márquez has announced that the FPA will be implemented by his government. (Photos: Pixabay)