Colombia & Guatemala Speaker Tour: Peace & Reconciliation

PBI Ireland will be hosting a visit from two human rights defenders who have been involved in peace processes in their countries. They will be in Ireland from the 2nd until the 6th of March. The first is Marcos Ramírez Vargas from Guatemala, the second is Berenice Celeita from Colombia (see below for more about the HRDs and their work). They will speak about community participation in the construction of peace and connect this in with the real challenges faced during the processes of implementation. They will draw attention to the role that the international community can (and should) play when it comes to ensuring genuine civil society participation in peace agreements and effective implementation of the same.  

Particularly in the case of Guatemala, in some peace processes we have seen excellent agreements on paper but little commitment to implementation by successive governments as the political climate has changed over the last 20 years (Guatemala has marked 20 years since the signing of the peace accords in 1996). In Colombia, we are seeing an alarming spike in attacks on human rights defenders, community leaders and peace activists following the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC in August last year. International attention and pressure has an impact, and it will be interesting to hear their reflections on where best that impact is needed.

We know that both speakers have years of experience in different aspects of peace building and will be able to speak to a variety of issues. One of the objectives of the speaker tour is that they raise awareness about the role of the international community in ensuring community participation and in overseeing implementation.

Some more about our visitors:  

Marcos Ramírez Vargas

Our Guatemalan visitor has had various opportunities to engage in the peace process in his country since the early 1980's, representing the needs of his community and of civil society in general during the peace negotiations and later during different phases of implementation of the peace accords (signed 20 years ago in 1996). His name is Marcos Ramírez Vargas, he is a member of the CPR (Comunidades de Población en Resistencia) of the Ixcan region - the CPRs were displaced communities in Guatemala who live nomadically in the rainforests, and mountains of Ixcan and throughout the Quiche region (some for many years) during the civil war - the CPR Marcos formed part of was displaced from 1982-1994. He later went on to become a leader of that community and to participate in the peace negotiations between the government and the URNG guerrilla grouping as a representative on the Civil Society Assembly (1990-1994). He then participated in the Consultative Assembly for Displaced People (ACPD) and then was part of a Technical Commission created by the Peace Accords tasked with relocating displaced populations (1994-2000). He later went on to serve his community in different roles, seeking justice and historical memory for victims and representing the community's needs at a national, governmental level.

Berenice Celeita

From Colombia we will be receiving a woman human rights defender (WHRD) Berenice Celeita. Berenice began working with victims of the armed conflict in 1985 following the Colombian army's assault on the Palace of Justice in the centre of Bogotá, where in addition to members of the guerilla group M-19 and of the judiciary who were killed, captured and disappeared, 11 members of the public - literally in the wrong place at the wrong time - faced a similar fate. She became involved what is still an emblematic case in Colombia, seeking truth and justice for the families of those individuals. In 1999 she founded an organization called NOMADESC.  NOMADESC is a human rights organization that defends human rights in various ways - they provide legal counsel, educational and investigative work, and political advocacy to afro-descendant, indigenous and peasant communities in south western Colombia. The organization is based in Cali (Valle del Cauca) and works principally in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Huila and Narinho - regions characterized for the particular intensity of the social and armed conflict throughout the country.

In the 17 years that NOMADESC have been working in these regions they have worked alongside communities in the construction of peace and dialogue, and more recently have worked to bring local peoples voices to the ongoing peace process in Colombia. NOMADESC took part in the Congress of Peace, the Pacific Route towards Peace, the Cumbre Agraria - all major civil society-led initiatives demanding peace on Colombia over the last 5 or 6 years. During the recent negotiations with the FARC, NOMADESC gathered information for the Commission for Victims and other input from local communities to send to Havana. They also advocated strongly for the participation of the ELN in the same. Now, during the dialogues that have just officially commenced with the ELN (the first point of which is civil society participation) NOMADESC and other Colombian NGOs can have a strong input into that process.

For more about NOMADESC and Berenice:


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