For the first time, Colombia’s civil society has been invited to contribute to peace negotiations between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with the discussion focused on the root cause of the country’s war: land reform.
Hosted by the United Nations and the National University of Colombia, the Forum for Integral Agrarian Development was held in Bogota from Dec. 17 to 19. Not only did the forum place land reform at the center of peace negotiations, at least for the moment, it also has the potential to give the peace process legitimacy in the eyes of a public that, after 50 years of conflict, remains skeptical of negotiations.
“This is a golden opportunity,” says Marina Gallego, the national coordinator of the Colombian Women’s Peace Route, a grassroots anti-violence movement founded in the late-1990s to raise awareness of the war’s effects on women. However, Gallego, who participated in the forum along with representatives from more than 100 other women’s organizations, said that it would take continued vigilance by civil society to ensure the peace process addresses issues like land reform. “If the process is monitored, it can bear fruits,” she said. “If not, it will lead to demobilization alone.”