The Colombia project is currently evaluating different initiatives with both our current and potential partners to identify projects aligned with MBBI’s current objectives to:
- Develop the peacebuilding skills and practices of women;
- Strengthen local trauma-informed peacebuilding initiatives; and
- Work in partnership with local Rotary clubs in their service efforts to promote peace.
Project Team Leaders
Board Liaison: Charlie Pillsbury
In June 2017, Colombia Project team members, who were trainers at the Andean Region International Training Institute, had the opportunity to meet with Fundacion Mencoldes and Rotary Districts 4281 and 5240, to partner on a project which will begin in late 2017.
The project recently reorganized under the leadership of a Colombian lawyer and mediator living in Canada, a Spanish mediator and trainer living in the UK, and a North American mediator and law professor living in the US. Two of these project leaders made an assessment trip to Colombia in December 2015, with two other team members, to explore how best to build on the work that MBBI volunteers did between 2010 and 2013, establish connections with other potential partners and begin contacting local Rotary Clubs. A second assessment trip took place in May 2016.
Project, 2010 – 2013
In early 2009, Ricardo Esquivia, the founder and director of Sembrandopaz, located in Sincelejo (Sucre), invited MBBI to work in Caño Berruguita in the Montes de Maria region. Caño is a community comprised principally of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people, who had been displaced by armed groups in 2000, and had begun returning from Sincelejo to their land in 2006, with support from Sembrandopaz and Remanso de Paz, a local evangelical church.
After two assessment trips in 2009, MBBI and Sembrandopaz signed a Memorandum of Understanding in April 2010, which set three project goals:
- Work with Caño’s community leaders to identify a culturally appropriate conflict resolution model and then train community leaders to use that model to resolve conflicts in the community;
- Offer workshops and activities to various age groups to address psycho-social issues in the community and advance the community’s healing process; and
- Replicate this work in other communities in the region through the Citizens’ Reconciliation Commission of the Caribbean of Colombia, a network created by Sembrandopaz in 2007.
By the end of 2013, MBBI volunteers had trained 13 community leaders in facilitating restorative justice circles, which the leaders adapted to meet local needs and capacity. From 2010 – 2013, these leaders facilitated more than 30 restorative circles, dealing primarily with conflicts involving adolescents, as well as several involving land disputes. We recruited a volunteer Nicaraguan psychologist and mediator to direct the project’s psycho-social work in the community. The primary focus of that work was with community members, men, women, children and adolescents, who did not participate in either the circle facilitator trainings or the restorative conferencing circles. The purpose of doing this was to be as inclusive as possible, by at least inviting, if not engaging, other community members in the project. In our opinion, it’s an excellent example of MBBI’s trauma-informed approach to peacebuilding.
After more than 50 years of conflict, the government of Colombia initiated public conversations with the guerrilla FARC in Cuba on September 4, 2012, looking for an agreement that would end the longest armed conflict in Latin America. The two parties established an agenda to address the following five points:
- Agricultural policy,
- Political participation,
- Ending the armed conflict,
- Ending illicit drug trafficking,
- Identifying victims of the armed conflict.
The peace talks are being mediated by the governments of Cuba and Norway and supervised by the governments of Chile and Venezuela. The negotiators have already reached agreement on most of the five points, with the understanding that nothing is final until agreement is reached on all points.
Many are convinced, however, that lasting peace is not attainable by simply signing a peace agreement in Havana. Peacebuilding has to take place in local communities. The prospect of this historic peace agreement thus offers a unique historical moment to develop new initiatives and establish new alliances.