We, Colombians and the international community, are preparing the first blank page in which we will write a story of peace.
Some may share my tremendous excitement of been at the verge of a new age in which Colombia will finally be positioned to develop its full potential.
Before the kick-off, and with the purpose of avoiding multiple frustrations along the way, we all need to understand that the peace story writing journey will be long, demanding, and will require the involvement of each and every single one of us. We should start defining our role going forward.
I will start by suggesting that we all contribute to Colombia´s post conflict without regard to our personal opinion on the peace agreement process and terms.
I am suggesting this meanwhile I am a wholeheartedly admirer of former president Alvaro Uribe as well as a strong critic of the terms of the agreement. It is worth noting that I not only disagree with the terms but also with the way the entire process has been handled. You may have noticed that I call this a “process” not a “negotiation.”
The reason, is that there has been no negotiation whatsoever. In a negotiation, each party involved gives concessions to the other by accepting some (not all) of the demands of its counter party. Also, each party has gains having some of its demands been accepted.
In the Colombian peace process, no concessions from the FARC have been granted. Rather, the Colombian Government has accepted all the demands from the guerrilla group. That is not a negotiation.
However, I have to acknowledge that the process has taken the Colombian Government and the FARC to a point of no return which sets the stage for a future full of hope.
Having seeing first-hand the positive effects in the rural areas of Colombia which have already stemmed from the peace process, has helped me overcome my skepticism. It has also led me to the conclusion that it is much more conducive to support the agreement than arguing against the guerrilla leaders’ impunity and political participation. What comes next, will ultimately depend on my role in a post conflict scenario rather than on the terms agreed.
Up to the present time, the large majority of the population has had a passive role in the development of the peace agreement. This has been a process entirely defined by the Colombian Government´s and the FARC´s representatives.
Some delegates of the international community, beyond Cuba and Norway, have also played an important role in the achievements to date.
Thereby, no major involvement of the community has taken place. Most of us have been limited to watching or reading the news and listening to the reporters´ commentaries in the radio in our way to the office or back home.
Some, have also had the appetite to gather slightly deeper information of the process and have done some research to better understand what the agreement would entail.
I take the risk of ensuring the former behavior has been the rule for most Colombians and other people around the world that empathize with Colombia. Those widely informed about the components of the agreement, positions of each party, risks entailed, mechanisms to get the popular validation of the agreement among other details, are clearly the exception.
This has to change going forward. This is no someone else´s matter, this is not a Government only matter. To be successful in building lasting peace, each and every Colombian and peace supporter has to take ownership in this process, engage, define the best way to contribute, and take actions accordingly.
Let´s appropriately set our expectations and commit with the peace process. It has taken almost four years to agree upon working together to pave the way for a peaceful Colombia. Hence, we cannot expect to ¨live in peace¨ five or ten years after jump starting the implementation of the agreement.
It will take several decades to rebuild the social fabric, reactivate the rural economy, improve equality, strengthen community trust, and extinguish the illegality and drug traffic. This is just to name a few of the requirements of the peaceful Colombia we all dream with.
Achieving these milestones is a titanic endeavor which no Government is capable to achieve on its own. The private sector, cooperation agencies, and non-profit organizations are already designing projects and allocating sizable resources to contribute to that end but the biggest force of all, will be driven by individual commitments.
Why? Because the peace will only be feasible if 1) we drive peace by example in all we do, and 2) we take individual actions towards addressing the most pressing pain points driving the armed conflict.
There is a myriad of ways to engage with the peace process. Let´s find the one that better adjusts to our context, skill set, and areas of mastery. By doing so, we will embrace our commitment with grit in the long term which is paramount to really make a difference.
We can start by changing the way we conduct our businesses, the way we lead others, the way we hire, the way we react to differences, or the way we allocate our time between work, learning and service. As we progress in simple but powerful behavior changes, we can embark into more challenging commitments that disrupt our status quo.
These engagements are likely to be more demanding in terms of timing, intellect, resources, and risks. The latter, may lead us to fail which surely drives learning and opens a window to try again and demonstrate our bold motivations and tenacity.
Some questions that may lead us to identify the way to commit with a peaceful Colombia may be the following:
- Can you redefine your company´s mission to ensure economic and social objectives are juxtaposed?
- Can you change your company´s strategy so that it serves some of the needs of the conflict´s victims?
- Can you include social impact objectives in your long term investments?
- What career path would help you drive the largest and far-reaching development in rural Colombia?
- Is there a way to directly engage with poor communities´ education and social inclusion?
- How can your product or service help reactivate the rural economies?
- How can we encourage women to take leadership roles in the execution of community projects?
- How can our regulations and laws guarantee that economic prosperity is equally distributed among urban and rural sectors?
A million questions can be asked. As we go through that process, we must look for initiatives that are already underway and relate with the areas we want to work on, before we think of structuring an initiative from zero. In such way, we ensure that all our efforts are optimized.
Two things make me feel particularly hopeful about the peace building process. First, the strong spirit in each Colombian. We have not stopped dreaming, engaging in new entrepreneurial projects, and propelling continuous progress despite the challenging context driven by the conflict for decades. I can only imagine what is about to come in a more stable and secure environment. Second, the millennials´ search of purpose and greater awareness of their impact.
As they will be in leading roles in the decades to come, the community´s involvement in building peace in Colombia is only forecast to grow. Their collective force will be powerful as long as all efforts are geared to work synergistically.
As we get closer to running a plebiscite to have a popular validation of the peace agreement, we should set time aside to define our role.
Let´s not leave these ideas up in the air and please, do not let this be just your narrative. Act.
The ultimate gains are worth our time and commitment. The sustainability of Colombia´s peace agreement lies in each one of us. Where will you make a difference? What will be your role?