When the peace deal entered into force on December 1, 2016, four years of negotiations between President Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) came to an end and a new era began in Colombia. Both parties signed an amended version of the agreement on November 24, 2016, after the people of Colombia rejected the first version in a referendum at the start of October. The signing of the agreement resolved one of the world’s longest and most violent conflicts lasting more than five decades and resulting in over 200,000 deaths, thousands of disappearances, and around seven million displaced persons.
It is now time to start implementing the agreement. This does not just require the commitment of the conflicting parties, but also the active participation of civil society. This is why ten Swiss relief organizations and NGOs (ask!, Caritas Switzerland, COMUNDO, Fastenopfer, HEKS, Peace Brigades International, Peace Watch Switzerland, Swissaid, terre des hommes schweiz, Terre des Hommes Suisse), the Human Security Division of the FDFA, and the Swiss representation in Colombia have been supporting the organizations Sembrandopaz and Colemad with the peacebuilding program Semillas de Esperanza since 2014.
These two organizations work in the Caribbean region strongly affected by the conflict. Colemad works to protect human rights, particularly land rights, women’s rights, and gender equality, focusing on network and political lobby work and the organizational development of grassroots groups. Sembrandopaz supports development in the region by establishing community structures and sustainable agriculture, strengthening civil society organizations, and creating dialog forums to promote the peace process at local and regional level. For both organizations, peace is more than just ending the armed conflict. Achieving it requires holistic solutions, everybody’s participation, and persistence.