Peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the FARC formally began in Havana in November 2012 after months of secret talks. In the nearly year and a half since their inception, the negotiating parties have reached preliminary agreements on two of the most challenging issues: rural development and political participation of the FARC. As the talks have evolved, it has become increasingly evident that the United States has an important role to play, adjusting both its policies and aid packages to support Colombia’s transition toward peace.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, the British NGO Justice for Colombia connected representatives of the parties to the Northern Ireland conflict with the actors in the Colombian negotiations to share their experiences in conflict resolution and peace building, as well as learn about the reality of the Colombian conflict.
As a result, in November 2012 a delegation of political and social leaders from Northern Ireland, including members of the Good Friday Agreement negotiating teams, former British army soldiers and former IRA combatants visited Colombia to share their experiences with President Santos and his negotiators, as well as with representatives of civil society, victims’ groups, retired military personnel, former FARC hostages, imprisoned guerrilla combatants and the media. Following this visit, in May 2013, a similar group travelled to Havana to meet directly with the FARC negotiators, becoming the first international delegation to meet with the FARC since the talks began.
Their visit to Washington comes as they plan ongoing exchanges with Colombia, and aims to build a transatlantic alliance of influential supporters of the peace process. Recognizing the crucial role played by the U.S. administration, politicians and wider civil society in supporting the achievement of peace in Northern Ireland, the delegation will report on their experiences and look at ways to build similar international support for the Colombian peace process
The panelists, who include members from all sides of the Northern Irish conflict, have a unique perspective to offer on the support needed to help Colombia achieve a lasting and sustainable peace.