One of the achievements of the 2016 Colombian peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) was the holistic integration of gender and women’s rights into the accord. In a new report by WOLA and LAWGEF that recounts the road to inclusion, battles thereafter, current state of affairs, and future recommendations for a gender-based approach to peace implementation, the case for a differential gender approach has never been stronger.
The 2016 peace accord is the first in the world to include such an extensive transversal differentiated gender approach. This was only possible after civil society organizations mobilized and advocated to include the voices of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and ethnic communities including indigenous and Afro-Colombians. As a response, the Gender Sub-Commission was installed in 2014. This commission “not only focused on women’s rights, but also on how the conflict affected individuals based on their sexual and gender identity.”
And so a gender-based approach was conceived—Intended to establish stipulations and measures to help overcome the violence and inequality that have long marked Colombian society, it would become one of eleven guiding principles of the accords.
However, much of the progress achieved toward the inclusion of women and the LGBTQ+ community in the peace process has yet to become a reality on the ground.
After the accords were narrowly rejected in the October 2016 plebiscite, the political backlash from conservative and evangelical minorities in Colombia led to the removal of the phrase “sexual orientation” from the accord. The lack of implementation of gender-specific stipulations is a major setback to the sustainability of peace in the country. According to a 2018 Kroc Institute report, of the 130 stipulations with a gender perspective only 4 percent have been completed. Comparatively, of the 578 total stipulations in the accords, 22 percent were complete as of the same time. In other words,stipulations without a gender perspective have been completed at 5 times the rate of stipulations with a gender perspective.
The authors of the report interviewed leading civil society organizations and advocates from all stripes championing women’s rights and a gender differentiated approach to peace in order to identify these key issues impeding the advancement of a gender-sensitive peace implementation:
- Lack of political will
- Lack of meaningful participation of women and the LGBTQ+ community
- Issues regarding security
- Lack of access to justice
- An increased vulnerability and exclusion of the LGBTQ+ community and Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples.
In response to the issues threatening the lives, rights, and autonomy of these marginalized communities, this report makes necessary recommendations in order to safeguard their rights as stipulated in the peace accord as well as the peace accord itself:
1. Support the full implementation of the Colombian peace accords, including and especially the gender-based focus.
Colombian civil society representatives emphasized the immeasurable influence that the United States and the international community can have on the Colombian government. Therefore, political pressure to make the accord’s implementation a priority is crucial. A concerted action and concrete commitment to women’s rights in peace building from the U.S. government would be the creation and implementation of a National Action Plan in order to comply with both UNSCR 1325 and the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017. Hand in hand, aid for peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction must be increased despite the efforts of the Trump administration to decrease it.
Special attention must be given to supporting the implementation of racial justice mechanisms in the peace accord. A largely neglected aspect of the accord, mending historical and intersectional inequalities perpetuating conflict is unequivocally necessary for the establishment of a durable and lasting peace. Likewise, implementation of the gender-based focus of the peace accords must be seen as indispensable to achieving true peace in Colombia. Research shows that when women participate in peace processes the resulting agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years, and durable peace is more likely in countries with higher levels of gender equality that allow for women’s political participation.
2. Support Colombian civil society organizations
The work and research of organizations here consulted, along with others, has already identified the problems and outlined solutions for many of the issues raised in this report. Providing moral, political, and economic support to these organizations is crucial to ensuring the full implementation of the peace accords in general. Specifically fund women’s rights and LGBTQ+ organizations to work on peace accord implementation, implementation monitoring, and other efforts to defend women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.
3. “Don’t abandon Colombia”
Peace is a process. It is a road with many necessary stops and turns and roadblocks. Although it will take time, we must not relent. The authors, therefore, urge the United States and the international community at-large to continue supporting Colombia on its path to positive peace.