Colombia and the Gender Perspective


“Y” Am I Excited About President Obama’s Visit to Cuba?

Today I want to extend my best wishes to President Barack Obama for his historic trip to Cuba this Sunday — the first for a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years. The visit is an important step toward a new approach to Latin America and a significant step toward to normalization process in Cuba.

Just as we are witnessing a thawing of the U.S. – Cuban relationship, we are also eyeing an end to the armed conflict in Colombia, after more than 50 years of human suffering.

The peace talks have been facilitated jointly by Norway and Cuba since October 2012. The Colombian conflict has had serious humanitarian consequences and caused terrible suffering among its civilian population. The talks are providing an opportunity to reunite a society torn apart. The peace process is now at an important stage, and hopefully entering the last lap.

Since becoming Norwegian Ambassador to the United States over two years ago, I’ve noticed that there is great interest in the Colombian peace process here in DC.

Norway has been fortunate enough to cooperate closely with several organizations that have a deep understanding of the conflict, in particular the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Colombian peace process has already proved unique because of the way gender perspectives have been incorporated into the negotiations. On International Women’s Day, March 8, I had the privilege of speaking and participating in a panel at the United States Institute of Peace on this issue. I would like to share some of my thoughts on this part of the Colombian peace process with you.

“Y” a Gender Emphasis in Peace Processes?

Norway is actively engaged in peace processes throughout the world, and we are always guided in these efforts by our values and attitudes toward gender issues. Listening to and adopting women’s perspectives has played a crucial part in Norway’s engagement in peace processes in countries as varied as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nepal, and Colombia.

“Y” Have Women Played Such a Central Role in the Colombian Peace Process?

In Colombia, women generally play a large role in social movements, and the peace process has been no exception. When shaping the peace process, it was women who proposed that women be included in all aspects of the process: that they be involved in making decisions affecting their future and that inclusive language be used in the peace accords. These proposals were well received, and thus the leaders of the delegations showed strong commitment to including women in the process.

One concrete result that has been achieved through increased gender awareness is the mandate for the Truth Commission, which states that a gender perspective should be fully integrated into the work of the Commission.

Experience in other countries illustrates the challenges of reintegration: While in the field, women in guerrilla groups experience relative equality with men, but after the peace agreements are signed, they are expected to return to traditional gender roles. In my view, reintegration programs should allow women to reorient themselves and find a new way of life.

Ultimately, the main challenge is the implementation of a peace agreement. A strong agreement is not enough on its own. Political will and the capacity to implement the agreement are essential. The international community will continue to have an important role to play in this, including the significant perspectives of women. Norway will do its part in this consequential effort.



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