Tomorrow 3 November 2016 sees the visit of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to Belfast.
The visit takes place in a context whereby the Northern Irish peace process has helped shaped and influence its colombian counterpart through the work of civil society here, notably trade unions, and NGOs who have organised wide ranging delegations and engagements, along with the role of a number of our leading academics. It also takes place in a context where the next steps in the Colombian process are being established following the narrow defeat of the FARC peace accord by referendum.
The visit takes place also in a context where the Northern Ireland process remains starkly incomplete, particually in the context of the failure to implement mechanisms to deal with the legacy of our conflict. A matter which will be subject to a forthcoming report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, a Colombian, Pablo de Greiff.
CAJ over recent years has had the privilege of receiving a number of delegations from civil society in Colombia, encompassing human rights groups, environmentalists, women’s groups, faith groups, journalists, refugees and trade unionists. We have had the privilege of meeting extraordinary people who do similar work to ourselves but in doing so face extreme dangers that we do not. These groups have given us an insight into the Colombian reality that we otherwise would not have.
In this context on the eve of President Santos’ visit we have sent an open letter to Colombian civil society, pointing to how long and obstacle-prone our own process has been, expressing supporting for the peace process in Colombia, and the need to put an end to all ‘wars ‘ in Colombia, including those targeted at civil society. Our message to our counterparts is to keep up their work and hope for the future, and not allow the path to peace to be sabotaged.