A delegation of figures from the political, private, and academic sectors involved in the Colombia peace process visited the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE) campuses in Trinity College Dublin and Belfast last week as part of a study trip designed to explore the Irish experience of peace-making.
The ISE, which is Trinity’s only cross-border department, teaches postgraduate courses in peace, conflict, and inter-religious studies.
During the visit the delegation met with Eamon Gilmore, former Tánaiste and current EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process. The ISE also arranged a programme of expert contributors including Lord Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance Party and member of the Independent Monitoring Commission.
Assistant Professor in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation and co-ordinator of the Trinity programme Dr David Mitchell said:
“We were delighted to welcome this group and play a role in facilitating understanding of the Irish experience. In the Irish peace process, contact with actors in other contexts helped stimulate new thinking at key junctures. Colombia is a very different arena. But given that the negotiated settlement of conflicts is relatively rare, the Irish case at least shows that the transformation of intractable conflict is possible. We will continue to watch developments in Colombia with interest and hope at this crucial time in the country’s history, and look forward to building on the links created through this trip.”
In August 2016, after decades of conflict in Colombia, which killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions more, a historic peace deal was reached between the FARC guerrilla movement and the Colombian government. However, doubts still surround the deal’s implementation and sustainability.
In November 2016, Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, visited Belfast and spoke of how Northern Ireland had inspired him that peace could be attainable in his own country.
The lead organiser of the visit was INCORE in Ulster University, in partnership with Trinity, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the International Fund for Ireland. In Colombia, partners included NGOs, COMFAMA, Proantioquia, and EAFIT University.