Colombia: Case Study on Resistance to Peace
From the beginning of its function in November 2018 and during its three-year mandate, the Truth Commission has taken up
The complexity of the Truth Commission’s mandate is very high and demonstrates the intricacies of an internal armed conflict that started more than 50 years ago and has left almost 8 million victims (Cespedes & Jaramillo 2018). They include as many as 6 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) (Garzon 2017), about 170,000 direct and indirect victims of enforced disappearance, and numerous victims who were subjected to other war crimes committed during the armed conflict such as kidnapping, extortion, forced recruitment, sexual and gender-based violence. Besides its function of unveiling the truth, the Commission must also establish the collective responsibilities of armed and unarmed actors in the course of the conflict, among them guerrillas and paramilitary groups, the state, and other sectors including the entrepreneurs.
Gender Perspective: An Opportunity for a Transformative Peace
Disagreements over whether or not to include a gender perspective throughout its implementation, exemplified in the initial quotation of this article, are just the tip of the iceberg. And, the Commission is not the only peace institution that has been targeted by critics or acts of resistance. Indeed, against the odds, the whole Peace Accord, which provides for the creation of the Truth Commission, was rejected in a referendum held in October 2, 2016. After a month of negotiations with representatives of population groups who cast a NO vote in the so-called referendum for peace, President Santos secured congressional approval of the peace agreement. However, this has not spared peace institutions from being challenged and facing recurrent opposition (Garzon 2019). This included an attempt from the current government of President Duque to pass a law that would prevent the Commission from accessing specific official archives. Given this context, and due to its non-ability to prosecute, the transformative power of the Truth Commission depends on its possibilities to make public its outcome, the extent to which its recommendations are implemented or followed, and on whether or not its work finds echo among the general Colombian population.
Despite the support of victims’ movements, there is a risk of disappointment of the victims which might postpone the possibilities of achieving social reconciliation. But in addition, the result of the referendum might illustrate the Colombian population’s disinterest in the work of peace institutions or might actually be the signal of a lack of legitimacy. To overlook this signal might be a missed opportunity for the building of sustainable peace. The IPAP project’s focus on the work of the Colombian Truth Commission seeks to provide a sense of the possibilities for peacebuilding institutions to not just reach the people and population groups who have struggled for them to become real but also a wider civil society. To clarify the truth about conflict, violence, and the harm they have inflicted on the lives of the victims is a hug task. But the actualization of transformative peace is also about the future and the creation of spaces of possibility for the coexistence of difference.