His Excellency Nestor Osorio recently addressed a capacity audience in the Long Room Hub. The event entitled ‘The Colombian Peace Process: Opportunities and Challenges’, was organised by the Irish School of Ecumenics and the Centre for Post-Conflict Justice, in conjunction with the Long Room Hub.
In his remarks, the Ambassador described the background to Colombia’s decades-long conflict between the government and the left-wing FARC rebels, and explained the approach and commitment of the government of current President Juan Manuel Santos to bringing the conflict to an end.
He also described the significant challenges that have faced and continue to face the peace process, in particular, the narrow defeat of the peace agreement in a referendum in September 2016. He stressed that the government had taken this result very seriously in renegotiating the deal and that it was committed to the accord’s implementation.
Ambassador Osorio also paid tribute to the contribution of people involved in the Irish peace process who worked on sharing experiences, expertise and advice with various actors in Colombia.
In November 2016, President Santos of Colombia, recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, visited Belfast and spoke of how Northern Ireland had inspired him that peace could be attainable in his own country
Other speakers at the event included former Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, the EU’s Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process, who spoke of the EU’s roles in supporting peace efforts in the country. Sorley McCaughey, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Christian Aid Ireland, described his organisation’s work on the ground in Colombia, highlighting the ongoing violence against human rights defenders. Finally, David Mitchell, Assistant Professor in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at the Irish School of Ecumenics at Belfast, spoke on the wider issue of comparative learning in peace processes, and the image of the Irish peace process as a model for other conflicts.
The event was chaired by Linda Hogan, Professor of Ecumenics and former Vice-Provost of Trinity.
Jude Lal Fernando, Director of the Centre for Post-Conflict Justice and one of the organisers, commented: ‘Progress in ending Colombia’s long running conflict has been welcomed around the world but we know that many challenges remain and that peace implementation will be difficult. We are delighted to host this event which will provide an up to date briefing from both government and civil society on the Colombian peace process, and on Ireland’s ongoing support for peace efforts there’.