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Hope and expectation as Colombia peace talks begin

Displaced Colombian farmer Alejandro Guzman

‘In our country violence is common. For this reason, international support is so important,’ says Alejandro Guzman Pedroso, a Colombian farmer who has been forced from his land far too often.

Every time he plants a crop, he cannot be sure he will be able to harvest the fruit. In a country with the highest number of internally displaced people worldwide, an estimated 5.2 million, Alejandro’s story is just one among millions.

In the last decade, the waves of displacement have targeted regions rich in natural resources. All armed groups, including the army, paramilitary groups and guerrillas, have been responsible for uprooting people from their land.

The 50-year-old conflict has been notorious for its large-scale human rights violations and high levels of impunity.

Opening a dialogue

It is within this context that Christian Aid welcomes the start of peace talks between the Colombian Government and the FARC guerrilla group due to start formally on 18 October. We believe that a lasting and sustainable peace can only be achieved through negotiations.

In these talks, it is imperative to address the root causes of the armed conflict, including the concentration of land, inequality, widespread and systematic human rights violations and high levels of impunity.

Likewise, it is important for the talks to be inclusive and that a strong voice and say is given to the victims of the armed conflict, especially women’s groups, indigenous people, Afro-Colombian communities and rural marginalised communities.

According to Danilo Rueda from our partner organisation Justice and Peace: 'Dialogue does not create peace in itself, but it opens the scene for political and, hopefully, economic agreements, too.'

Opportunities and challenges

The peace process could be an opportunity to transform the conflict but it is unlikely that violence will cease in the short term. Paramilitary groups continue to commit widespread atrocities, control businesses and maintain ties with public security force members and local officials, partly due to the decentralised nature of economic and political power.

Community leaders, trade unionists and human rights defenders, including many of our partners, are witnessing an increasing level of attacks, threats and illegal detentions.

The peace talks are a positive step in the right direction. Despite the many challenges ahead, one thing remains true: the wish of most Colombians to live in peace.

Click on the arrows below for more information about the situation in Colombia.


We asked Danilo Rueda about the implications of the peace talks for our partner organisation, Justice and Peace, and the people it represents:

What is the role of Justice and Peace (J&P) in the peace talks?

A slum in Bogota We are an expression of civil society supporting State victims and victims of armed conflict. Nobody knows yet how civil society will be allowed to participate in the talks between the FARC guerrillas and the government.

What we are trying to achieve is to ensure that participation mechanisms are put in place and that civil society’s proposals are listened to and debated in the space of the negotiations.

How will the peace talks affect your organisation and the communities that you work with?

The talks will be important to strengthen citizens' understanding, to include communities’ voices on land and environmental protection in humanitarian and peace initiatives, and to promote their proposals for a Truth Commission.

What is J&P’s position regarding the negotiations?

Dialogue and a non-military solution is the best way out of the conflict, which has its roots in social, economic and political exclusion.

The negotiations should allow basic agreements and rights not just for armed groups to make the transition from war to civilian life, but also to allow the voices of all victims and communities to be heard.

Opening dialogue does not create peace in itself, but it is a start and opens the scene for political and, hopefully, economic agreements, too.

What is J&P's hope for the negotiations?

We hope for a bilateral ceasefire so that communities can express and mobilise themselves freely. We hope for greater civil society participation in public policies in favour of citizens' rights.

How do the people and communities that you work for see the peace talks and what do they expect from them?

Some are sceptical as they suffer the effects of bombardments, militarisation, economic blockades and crossfires.

Others hope that the process will allow them to participate, to present their proposals and to receive answers to their demands for truth. They hope that the talks will show respect for their land, development and environment.

Which do you think will be the biggest challenge to achieve peace?

The biggest challenge will be for those with economic power to give up in their endeavour to accumulate money. For example, it will be a challenge for multinational companies to accept new rules for their investments and for the army to lose their privileges.

It will be difficult to achieve the right to truth and justice for the victims of State crimes and socio-political violence, and to gain greater access to information so the voices of victims can be heard.


An interview with Judith Maldonado Mojica, the award-winning director of Christian Aid partner CCALCP - a human rights organisation that provides support to farmers and displaced populations in Colombia. 

In this video from December 2010, she explains why she continues her work, even in the face of assaults and death threats.


Since the 1980s, Christian Aid has been working with the people affected by this 50-year internal conflict.

These images starkly show the challenges faced by displaced communities and relatives of those who have been 'disappeared'.

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