Within the same month, one of Colombia’s principal guerrilla groups, the FARC, release ten hostages and an international conference is called in Switzerland to discuss a political solution to the country’s internal conflict. Though both have highlighted the complexity in finding such a resolution, it has also become increasingly clear that President Juan Manuel Santos is not the only one with ‘the key to peace’ within reach.
Santos’ polemic metaphor, that he has the key to peaceful dialogues with other political groups buried in his pocket, was frequently discussed by the panellists taking part in Alba America’s conference, taking place from the 23rd – 25th of March in Lausanne, Switzerland. Those invited ranged from local Swiss government to Colombian campesinos whose daily existence is tempered by the conflict. There was also a healthy cross-section of academics and NGO representatives to provide all possible perspectives on the conflict.
That at least was the idea. Noticeable above all for their absence, and although explicitly invited, not a single representative of the current Colombian State administration arrived. Their message was clear. As for the armed actors themselves, although the FARC did not send any videos in time, the commander of the ELN sent an articulate video message detailing his hope for peaceful reconciliation with the Colombian State. With the group’s flag in the background, he called on the international community to facilitate dialogue and to encourage the peace process. The sincerity of such a statement, or whether anyone outside of the conference will bear witness, are questions that do not have a single answer. What cannot be denied is the goodwill and degree of engagement of the participants at the event, whose wealth of information was nothing short of inspirational, all driven by their desire to bring about peace in Colombia.
Over the next few posts, the reasons as to why the conflict perpetuates, as well as possible solutions that were offered, both at the conference, will be detailed. Further information, photographs and press releases of the event itself can be found at http://www.albamerica.ch/colombia/.