A message to our deferred students
Today you should be in Colombia starting your Peacebuilding in Colombia summer course. COVID-19 has represented obstacles, difficulties and great sadness for many people around the globe and we hope that soon we can find a safe way to deal with it and to be able to meet personally. This crisis also invites us to rethink our situation and the additional challenges in building peace in Colombia, and other parts of the world.
As you all know, a peace agreement was signed in November 2016 between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the largest remaining guerrilla group in Latin America. The conclusion of a peace treaty is an important step towards lasting peace and a more just society, but it is only a first step. The challenges Colombian society is facing today are diverse and sometimes overwhelming.
Although the levels of violence have dropped to historical lows, the transition from war to peace has been all but smooth: the peace agreement has stirred debates about the limits between justice and peace, the prospects for reintegrating thousands of former fighters, the fiscal and institutional constraints involved in providing promised reparations to millions of victims, and the possibilities of addressing historical inequalities among the many Colombian regions. In addition, the drug trade, which has fueled the Colombian conflict and crime since the 1980s, has not ceased, explaining the existence of ongoing violence in some regions. Also, one more guerrilla group, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN)—now the oldest remaining guerrilla group in Latin America—is still due to negotiate a peace agreement. The change of government in August 2018 has partly called into question the negotiated path to peace, but at the same time it has shown that the transitional process is on its way. Finally, the health and economic crisis produced by COVID-19 brings with it a series of challenges that we are just beginning to dimension, but which will undoubtedly have significant impacts. So, the greatest challenge at the moment is probably that society, despite some setbacks, must not lose confidence in this process and must strengthen its back.
Strengthening confidence in the peace process is, among other things, an educational task. To this extent, courses such as the one you will take next year are an important input in reflecting together on how we can all contribute to this continuous construction of peace.
Know that here we are waiting for you with the certainty that we will be able to overcome this difficulty that we face.
We hope that for the moment all of you are safe and taking great care of yourself.
Best wishes from the former Director of the Master of Peacebuilding, Tatjana Louis and the incumbent, Laura Betancur-Restrepo