Historic Peace Event Held at Westminster
British NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers’ rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.
MPs, diplomats, academics, peace campaigners, trade unionists, conflict resolution specialists, human rights activists, lawyers, and members of the UK’s Colombian community attended a packed meeting at Westminster on Tuesday night to witness a live discussion on the ongoing peace process.
The event, chaired by the Guardian’s Seumas Milne, was the first time during the current talks that the Colombian government and the FARC insurgency have shared a public platform outside of the formal peace process events. The government was represented by Colombia’s ambassador to the UK, Nestor Osorio; the FARC by its leading negotiator, Ivan Marquez, who spoke through a live videolink from Havana.
The event began with JFC director, Mariela Kohon, describing JFC’s peace campaign and the effort to strengthen the Colombian negotiations by providing experience-sharing with former negotiators and civil society leaders from Northern Ireland. She was followed by Mark Durkan MP (SDLP), Jeffrey Donaldson MP (DUP) and Conor Murphy MP (Sinn Fein), who introduced some of the relevant lessons from their own experience of negotiating an end to conflict.
These observations were followed by His Excellency Mr Osorio, highlighting recent achievements in the talks and explaining the government’s desire to achieve peace after decades of conflict. Mr Marquez then gave the position of the FARC, underlining its commitment to the process and highlighting the many unilateral gestures that the insurgents had made – such as the indefinite ceasefire and the agreement to help with de-mining.
The discussion was then opened up to questions from panellists and the audience, with the ambassador and Mr Marquez taking turns to respond.
Several of the speakers highlighted the historic nature of the event and congratulated the panellists, the Parliamentary Friends of Colombia, the All Party Group on Conflict and Justice for Colombia for having organised it. The event has received widespread coverage in the Colombian press, making headline news on television and radio.