7th Conversatorio de Paz, 12 June, 5.30pm, UCL Institute of the Americas


The seventh seminar to discuss the latest developments in the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC.

The participants will have the opportunity to draw up a report from each discussion to be published on the webpages of the sponsors.

Structure of the Conversatorios:

Introduction and presentations (30 minutes)

Discussion and questions (45 minutes)

Conclusions and selection of points to be drafted into report (15 minutes)

Tea and coffee reception (30 minutes)

Moderator: Andrei Gómez-Suárez (University of Oxford)

Guest speaker: Rosa Emilia Salamanca (Pacto Ético por un País en Paz, Bogotá)

Date:                12 June 2014

Time:               5.30-7.45pm

Venue:             UCL – Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN.

This event may be of particular interest to Colombians, but it’s open to all members of the public. Space is limited: please register beforehand. Before registering we recommend reading the background details from earlier conversatorios (in Spanish): http://www.canninghouse.org/images/Conversatorios_de_Paz-Spanish.pdf

To register, please send an email to: rodeareldialogo@gmail.com.


British Academics for a Colombia Under Peace (BACUP) :

Canning House


Rodeemos el Diálogo

UCL-Institute of the Americas


Seventh Conversatorio on Colombian Peace Talks

London, June 13 2014

The Seventh Conversatorio was held at the Institute of the Americas at UCL on 12 June 2014, three days before the runoff of the presidential elections, with the purpose of analyzing the statements made public by the negotiating table in Havana on June 7 regarding Point 5 of the agenda: victims. Twenty-two Colombian and British citizens participated in a discussion facilitated by Andrei Gómez- Suárez (associate researcher at Oxford University) and which had as guest speaker Rosa Emilia Salamanca, a committed human rights defender, with emphasis on the rights of women, and director of Coorporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE).

It took as starting point the ten points proposed by the negotiating table, and these revealed immediately the symbolic value and practical and critical importance of this fifth point, as it takes into account the shortcoming of the negotiations thus far: the lack of direct participation by civil society at the table. Without a doubt, the topic of the victims becomes the humanizing theme in the negotiations, turning the victims into political actors engaging in the dialogue; a dialogue that is difficult but beneficial and necessary in order to reveal the truth, which is a pivotal element in order to “win the peace.”

The transition of the dialogue from the Fora to the Tables, and the complementary impact thus generated, deserves special mention, as it underlines the need to give the victims their very own, direct voice – those victims who are occasionally seen but unknown, who become victims once again through being turned invisible by sectors of society who do not trust them and single them out as liars, insisting that the victims “do not exist.” The need thus becomes evident not only to know these victims but also to acknowledge that they are victims, which implies recognizing the dimensions of the conflict and addressing practical issues such as their protection, which in turn promotes trust among them and respect toward them. Only through such basic criteria as trust and respect can Colombians begin to talk about truth, which establishes how the victims came about, prevents that the actors involved in, and accountable for, the victimization “get away with it” – in short, truth without impunity. This effort to create trust will inject new life into the mechanisms already in place, making it possible for the process to go forward efficiently and with the support of essential actors.

With regard to the mechanisms beyond the Fora mentioned above, the participants also discussed the importance and the impact that a Historic Commission on the Conflict could have, a space that would include participation of external experts, and that would complement of the National Council for Peace and set up the path for the Truth Commission. The participants welcomed the proposals and considered that these mechanisms complement other processes that strengthen the peace process as a whole. However, the faith in these mechanisms clashes with the threat that the candidate Zuluaga represented and the possible actions he might have taken against the process. In the discussion, in which the participants did not turn a blind eye to what could be called Santos’s opportunism, there were different opinions. A minority felt that the process would have continued regardless of who won the elections on 15 June, thanks to the strength of social movements and to the mechanisms already in place. A majority perceived a critical threat not only to the peace process but also to the security and stability of the country if Zuluaga should have become president. This “fear” had its roots in the “campaign full of lies” surrounding the peace process. The discussionturned to whether the fear that this campaign generates is synonymous with the fear that some sectors of society feel when confronted with the truth.

However, the obvious attempts to sabotage the process were not what motivated the conclusion of the discussion. Spaces for dialogue must be inspired by empathy and trust; that is why the participants placed their bets on the challenge of a framework for peace that is able to administer the process of revealing the truth. Furthermore, they felt that such a framework serves as a basis for generating public policies developed within a comprehensive concept of human rights: civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, guaranteeing non repetition of the conflict. Rosa Emilia and CIASE are evidence of this option: the power of dialogue and truth has been a key element during their long struggle. This is why the participants congratulated Rosa Emilia and looked forward to the next point in the agenda, the most important one: the one about the victims.

PDF available here



Report: Sixth Conversatorio on the Colombian Peace Talks, London, 14 April 2014

Sixth Conversatorio on the Colombian Peace Talks

London, 14 April 2014

PDF available here.

Are Colombians ready for a peace process? This was the question which the 30 people who participated in the sixth conversatorio on the peace talks, on 31 March 2014, were left with. Analysis was provided by former student leader and Colombian writer – now Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck (University of London) – Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, with Andrei Gómez-Suárez (Researcher, Universities of Sussex and Oxford) moderating. To try to answer this question, the conversation between the participants went beyond an analysis of the circumstances of the ups-and-downs of Colombian electoral politics.

The starting point is to recognise that many people are deeply committed to peace. However, many Colombians are outraged at the behaviour of the guerrilla, and the Colombian government has not succeeded in persuading them of the legitimacy to negotiate. This demonstrates the validity of asking whether Colombians are ready for a peace process; but besides, four important events throughout 2014 so far reveal the many tensions that exist:

  1. The revelations about the monitoring of the government’s negotiating team and certain members of the State by some members of the Army;
  2. The dismissal of the mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro;
  3. The results of recent parliamentary elections which elected the Congress which will have to implement the peace accords; and
  4. The debate about ownership of rural land in Colombia and illicit crops, which involves confronting the current model of economic development and the traditional concept of private property.

Petro’s dismissal begs the questions whether what we are experiencing is history is repeating itself, thus justifying the violence from the institutionalised extreme right which caricatures the Colombian left as a “Castro-Chavismo” pawn. Consequently, the implementation of a potential peace deal with the FARC requires (1) recognising that the Colombian right exists; (2) that it is neither marginalised nor controlled, bearing in mind the evidence that suggests that sectors of the extreme right exercise power over the Colombian army; and (3) that the war has corrupted Colombian national institutions, making it necessary to reform and purify them.

The decision of Inspector General (Procurador) against the Mayor of Bogotá that resulted in his dismissal has been interpreted by many sectors as an attack on popular will. In this context the left’s poor participation in the recent elections has been noted (the abstention rate in Bogotá surpassed 65%). It will be hard to convince certain sectors of the left that the negotiations in Havana are the gateway to a democratic peace, while elements still exist in State institutions, for whom a political left with real possibilities of gaining power, has to cease to exist, by hook or by crook.

The left’s poor results in the last elections, however, show the importance of creating a coalition between centre-left parties and those on the democratic right who are working on issues of environmental justice, food security and climate change, among others. This is a must for effective implementation of any peace agreements.

Caution was expressed that the peace talks could continue to lack legitimacy insofar as they remain in the hands of exclusively military-economic elites without accommodating Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small-farmer participation.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognise the steps forward; for example, the joint statement at the end of round 22 of the negotiations, according to which the negotiators have “made substantial advances towards agreement about illicit drugs”, demonstrates that the parties are in one mind when it comes to re-evaluating the military approach to a social problem, which needs to be addressed on a global scale through to the local. Furthermore, the decision of President Santos to revive the National Peace Council, the declaration of intent to create a Truth Commission after an agreement is signed, and the debate about a model of transitional justice, manifest the willingness to establish State policy of peace.

Thus, there are three major challenges on the background of the current rounds of negotiation:

  1. Security, the fundamental basis to build confidence and secure adherence to the agreements;
  2. Justice, which should guarantee respect for human rights and strengthen the rule of law;
  3. Democratic civilian participation, where civil society may feel it has an active role in peacebuilding.

In conclusion, it is not easy to establish if Colombian society is prepared to accompany the peace process. Consequently it is necessary to generate and strengthen spaces for dialogue so that civil society actors may contribute to the construction of peace, by establishing alternative initiatives. International accompaniment and national support are the keys to success. Additionally, while the negotiating teams agree how to bring the armed conflict to an end, it is necessary to work on implementing structural reforms.

Conversatorio de Paz, 31 March 2014, with Oscar Guardiola-Rivera @ Canning House

Conversatorio de Paz, 31 March 2014

Flyer available here.

An additional seminar to discuss the latest developments in the peace negotiations between theColombian government and FARC

The participants will have the opportunity to draw up a report from each discussion to be published on the webpages of the sponsors.

Structure of the Conversatorios:

Introduction and presentations (30 minutes) Discussion and questions (45 minutes)

Conclusions and selection of points to be drafted into report (15 minutes) Tea and coffee reception (30 minutes)

Moderator: Andrei Gomez-Suarez (University of Oxford)

Guest speaker: Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (Birkbeck, University of London)

Date:        31 March 2014

Time:        5:45-8pm

Venue:      Canning House, 15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PS

This event is principally for Colombians. Space is limited: please register beforehand. Before registering it is recommended to read the previous series’ detailed programme: 


Click here to register: http://is.gd/3Dao3S


British Academics for a Colombia Under Peace (BACUP)

Canning House


Rodeemos el Dialogo (ReD)

Report: Fifth Conversatorio on the Colombian Peace Talks, London 16 December 2013

Fifth Conversatorio on the Colombian Peace Talks

London, 16 December, 2013

PDF report available here.

After reaching a historic agreement on political participation, the negotiating teams began the discussion of drug trafficking, the fourth item on the agenda, at the seventeenth round of negotiations. 23 people participated in the last conversatorio on the Colombian Peace Talks on December 16 2013. It was moderated by Andrei Gomez-Suarez (Universities of Sussex and Oxford) with the remarks by special guest Samuel Gomez (Retired Professor, University of Nariño and former member of the Unión Patriótica). The discussion touched upon issues related to political participation, drug trafficking and the current political environment.

On the issue of drug trafficking, several points were analysed:

1. The need of alternative crops for coca farmers and planning to recover the land affected by coca planting.

2. It was highlighted that throughout the discussion on drug trafficking FARC have favoured alternative solutions, such as combating those who benefit from the drug-trade rather than the growers, or the legalization of consumption, setting parameters that do not violate Colombian and international law.

3. The role of the United States and the international community is key for reaching a sustainable agreement on drug trafficking issues. Latin American leaders have opened the discussion on the failure of the war on drugs. The overwhelming American support for the peace process, shown during Santos’s visit to the United States, suggest that Obama is considering a change of strategy against drug trafficking that could complement what is agreed in Havana. For its part, the FARC have proposed the involvement of multilateral organizations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to design strategies against money laundering.

4. It was noted that in several regions coca cultivation and processing is strongly linked to paramilitary groups. Several national and international organizations have consistently registered collusion between paramilitary groups and the Colombian armed forces, who at times even pressure civilian population to grow coca. Therefore, it is important to address the involvement of military forces in the regions where this problem persists.

With respect to security two important issues were discussed:

1. The relationship between the military and paramilitaries is a transversal issue in several points on the agenda of the peace process, but it does not receive much international attention. To reach a conclusive agreement, FARC has demanded the government’s commitment to dismount paramilitary groups. Participants agreed that the participation of retired members of the Armed Forces for the first time in the history of peace processes in Colombia can help unmounts such linkages and welcomed the express statement to offer guarantees for the opposition in the political participation agreement.

2. The creation of a comprehensive security system (SIS ) that have several components (including risk assessment, prevention of aggression and personal protection of persons at risk) was considered as a breakthrough in the agreement on political participation. Assurances of political participation will depend on this system. However, the problems that have arisen in the implementation of the National Protection Unit for Human Rights Defenders reveal the challenges ahead and the need to learn from past lessons for the SIS to be effective.

Finally three topics were discussed regarding the current political environment:

1. A marked difference between the communication of government and the FARC is perceived. FARC constantly report on what they propose in Havana, while the government maintains more discretion. This could be related to the fact that the rounds of negotiation are the only space for FARC to act as political actors and communicate their proposals to Colombians and the world , while the government uses several spaces, such as diplomatic meetings or political events, to explain what is being negotiated.

2. Forgiveness has acquired a central symbolic role in the Colombian political process. The act of forgiveness by President Santos to the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó for the slanders made by former President Alvaro Uribe in 2005 and the request made a few days previously by Aida Avella, presidential candidate of the Unión Patriótica, that the state apologises for the genocide of the UP, are two examples.

3. The future of the negotiations will depend to some extent on the outcome of the electoral process in 2014, whose outlook is unclear. This is particularly evident in the wake of the dismissal of Mayor Gustavo Petro by the Investigator General Alejandro Ordoñez.

The foregoing has generated some scepticism about the negotiations amongst some sectors of Colombian society. Scepticism and indifference are important aspects that Colombians will have to overcome. If there is not a general effort to believe that peace can be achieved, then it will indeed be difficult to achieve. Therefore, it is important to find common ground in the context of discussions of drug trafficking, the implementation of the SIS and the political situation so as not to polarise differences amongst Colombians and to imagine a Colombia in peace.

Invitation: 5th Conversatorio de Paz, 16 December 2013

Conversatorio de Paz, 16 December 2013

The fifth and last in a series of 5 seminars to discuss each round of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC (August-December 2013).

The participants will have the opportunity to draw up a report from each discussion to be published on the webpages of the sponsors.

Structure of the conversatorios:

Introduction and presentations (30 minutes) Discussion and questions (45 minutes)

Conclusions and selection of points to be drafted into report (15 minutes) Tea and coffee reception (30 minutes)

Moderator: Andrei Gomez Suarez (Oxford/Sussex University)

Guest speaker: Samuel Gomez (Retired Professor University of Nariño, former member of the Unión Patriótica)

Date:        16 December 2013

Time:        5:45-8:00pm

Venue:      Canning House,

15 Belgrave Square

London SW1X 8PS

This event is principally for Colombians. Space is limited: please register beforehand. Before registering it is recommended to read the conversatorio’s detailed programme


Click here to register: http://is.gd/FiYYVA