Winchester teams up with Oxford to host Colombia peace forum

28 Apr 2023
Two girls holding up placard calling for an end to violence in Colombia

The University of Winchester’s Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace has helped organised the first public event in the UK to discuss the ongoing peace process in Colombia.

Bringing together academics and practitioners, the event, at Merton College, Oxford will explore the talks between the government and the ELN guerrilla group.

Among the panel member will be the University of Winchester’s Andrei Gomez-Suarez, a Colombian writer, international relations scholar, and peace practitioner who is a senior fellow at Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace.

Andrei regularly visits his homeland and is optimistic that President Gustavo Petro’s ‘total peace’ effort to dismantle Colombia’s many armed factions  ­– criminal and political – is starting to work.

 “I see a government fully committed to non-violence and a negotiated solution to armed conflict,” said Andrei.

In 2016 the Colombian government made peace with the Marxist–Leninist guerrilla group FARC but now has to deal with the many other armed groups, including powerful drug cartels. An estimated seven million Colombians – almost 15 per cent of the population – reportedly live in areas controlled by one or more armed group.

Andrei explained that President Petro unlike his predecessor, Iván Duque, is more interested in protecting Columbia’s law-abiding communities than killing armed insurgents.

“He is trying to offer the guerrillas and drug dealers an incentive to disarm,” said Andrei.  “If they do so they can keep some of the money they have made. They will receive shorter prison sentences but they must pay reparations to their victims and meet with people in the communities so they can learn the realities of the damage their violence has done.”

Challenges and Prospects for "Total Peace" in Colombia takes place on 3 May from 4pm to 6pm. It is a collaboration between the University of Winchester's Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace, Rodeemos el Dialogo, Merton College Oxford and Oxford University Colombian Society.

The discussion will be chaired by Dr Gwen Burnyeat, Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology at Merton College, University of Oxford and the other panellists are Jenny Pearce a Research Professor at the London School of Economics’ Latin America and Caribbean Centre, Ivan Briscoe, Program Director at the Latin America and Caribbean, International Crisis Group, and Dr Jeremy Hobbs, a research analyst on Latin America from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The discussion will be available to view on line at Challenges and Prospects for “Total Peace” in Colombia - YouTube 

Picture of peace campaigners in Colombia by equinoXio.

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