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We, the undersigned social and people’s organizations, religious and spiritual organizations, human rights defenders, ethnic groups, women’s groups, trade unions and political movements, hereby call for the construction of a Social Forum for Peace to help solve the social, political, and armed conflict. We invite all those interested in peacebuilding and democracy to help structure this initiative. We share this idea through the following appeal to:

The national government;
Women’s organizations and coalitions;
Indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and peasants;
Colombian social organizations;
City dwellers;
Young people, athletes, and artists;
Environmental and human rights organizations;
Trade unions;
The academic sector and the students;
The Churches and faith-based communities;
Economic associations;
Political parties;
Insurgent organizations;
The media;
The Colombian diaspora and exiled Colombians;
All of Colombia, as well as the people of the world in solidarity with this country.

The need and opportunity for Colombia to deepen its democracy are on the agenda. For this to become a reality, the country requires a sweeping political reform whose essential components are the realization of social and economic rights, the elimination of social inequity, and the adoption of institutional and cultural transformations to break with the long cycle of political violence and intolerance we have experienced. These imperatives can only be brought to fruition with the direct, binding, decisive participation of society and the commitment of the country’s key actors.

With the government and the insurgents involved in dialogues to put an end to the armed conflict, the success of which depends in large measure on the successful completion of structural transformations, the moment is opportune to resolve some of the country’s conflicts. But it is equally clear that the main weakness of this process is the limited allowance it has made for civil society involvement. We all sense this weakness and understand that civic participation will be decisive in giving impetus to the process with the FARC in the Havana, creating the conditions for success in the upcoming talks with the ELN, and empowering social agents to lead the necessary transformations towards peace with social justice.

Societal participation: a necessary condition for peacebuilding progress

The talks between the government and the FARC are at a decisive phase when crucial subjects must be discussed, including deciding on how to address the so-called "safeguards" imposed by the FARC at the negotiating table and the matters “pending agreement.” It seems clear to us that societal participation will be necessary for this process to make strides, for such participation has proven effective in overcoming certain impasses in the negotiations. One example concerns the rights of victims, whose direct participation has been decisive in the search for justice, truth, reparation, and non-repetition, as acknowledged by both the FARC and the government. To fill this need for participation, various political actors – not just the FARC – have pointed to the need to form a Constituent Assembly to address these issues and ratify the accords.

On another note, the upcoming talks between the national government and the ELN demand a new push for civic participation. This insurgent organization has insisted that the active participation of civil society in the process will facilitate its talks with the government. It believes that society, in all its diversity and plurality, should have a primary role – here again, through dialogue and negotiation – in resolving the social and political contradictions generated by the armed conflict. Information in the media and statements from the parties directly involved suggest that the national government and the ELN have agreed to give civil society decision-making input into these peace talks.

The Social Forum for Peace

We, the undersigned community and people’s organizations, religious and spiritual organizations, human rights defenders, ethnic groups, women’s groups, trade unions and political movements, understand that our responsibility to help end the armed conflict and build peace compels us to address this explicit appeal from the peace process and the historic demand for a new democratic pact for Colombia. We therefore lend the support of our organizations and our political will to the design of a scenario that can make a decisive contribution to ending the social, political, and armed conflict.

In the search for this scenario, we believe that it is time to formalize a national forum for dialogue and negotiation in favor of peace and democracy, which we are calling the Social Forum for Peace. This is a scenario in which the popular social movement will meet face-to-face with the institutional and economic powers to debate the problems plaguing the country, agree upon effective solutions for emerging from the sociopolitical conflicts underlying the armed conflict, and lay the basis for a just, peaceful, and democratic society.

We believe that the Social Forum for Peace and the talks between the armed insurgency and the government are complementary, since the root causes of the armed conflict are social, political, and economic. However, these processes are not mutually dependent: while agreements reached at the Social Forum for Peace will obviously translate in favor of ending the war, these results cannot depend on those emerging from the talks between the government and the armed insurgency.

This proposal is therefore intended to complement the talks with the insurgency. It can legitimately and consensually address and resolve issues not addressed in the talks between the national government and the FARC, as well as being one manifestation of the decisive participation of civil society within the frameworks being discussed between the ELN and the national government. However, it is the government and the insurgencies who must determine the practical scope of the social agreements ensuing from their own negotiations. The Social Forum for Peace will have to maintain ongoing influence over both parties in order to coordinate these specific forms of complementarity.

We hope that in this way, an autonomous and transformative process can be carried on between the social movement, the business sector, the universities, the faith-based communities, the political parties, and the national government with a view to building peace and moving forward on the necessary societal transformations.

The scope, composition, and agenda of the Social Forum for Peace have to be agreed upon by all sectors acceding to this appeal. The social movements have been building a historic agenda of their own based on the transformations necessary to effect the transition to peace. We believe that it is fundamental that this be the basis of our negotiations, since these matters are integral to the social and political conflict.

We are inviting the national government, the Colombian and transnational business sector, the armed forces, retired military personnel, the commercial media, the political parties, the regional governments, universities, and the churches and faith-based communities to this Social Forum for Peace. The insurgencies should have a place in this participation and peacebuilding forum, as should those foreign governments that have had a significant impact on the armed conflict or can play a key role in peacebuilding efforts. These last could play the role of facilitators of the process.

We think it is viable to bring all these agendas and interests together and, in so doing, to reach firm and durable political consensus and agreement within Colombian society in support of a new democracy. This consensus should be stated in the form of political agreements for the transition, proposals or consensus statements on public policy that can be implemented as part of the peace process itself and during the democratic transition. The agreements, pacts, and consensus statements achieved at the Social Forum for Peace could adopt the spirit and format of a pre-constitutional space, without taking away from any pacts and agreements that may be implemented in the immediate term.

In building this social forum for dialogue and negotiation in the interests of peace, the undersigned are preparing to take the Grand National Dialogue to the next level, with the participation of the broadest possible spectrum of social and political actors, including the national government and the insurgencies. Together, we can map out the path to peace with social justice and equity – the path to a new nation. A commission designed to lay the groundwork for this dialogue hereby opens its doors to all parties interested in peacebuilding and democracy in Colombia.

Initial signers:

Congreso de los Pueblos.
Marcha Patriótica.
Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC).
Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN).
Central Unitaria de los Trabajadores (CUT).
Coordinación de Movimientos Sociales de Colombia (Comosoc).
Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria Petrolera (USO).
Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz.
Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores Mineros, Energéticos, Metalúrgicos, Químicos y de Industrias Similares de Colombia (Funtraenergética).
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte de Cauca (ACIN).
Coordinador Nacional Agrario (CNA).
Casa de la Mujer.
Sindicato de Trabajadores y Epleados Universitarios de Colombia (Sintraunicol) seccional Valle.
Mesa Ecuménica.
Comisión de Justicia, Paz e Integridad de la Creación de los Misioneros Claretianos.
Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Educación del Valle (Sutev).
Red de Universidades por la Paz (Red Unipaz).
Movimiento Político de Masas del Centro Oriente Colombiano.
Red de Lucha contra el Hambre y la Pobreza.
Proceso Nacional de Identidad Estudiantil.
Minga Juvenil Nacional.
Tejido Juvenil Transformando a la Sociedad (Tejuntas).
Confluencia de Mujeres para la Acción Pública.
Sindicato Único Nacional de Mototrabajadores (Sumcol).
Corporación Claretiana Nórman Pérez Bello.
Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano (CIMA).
Comité de Integración Social del Catatumbo (CISCA).
Comisión de Interlocución del Sur de Bolívar, Centro y Sur del Cesar.
Movimiento Político Poder y Unidad Popular (PUP).
Asociación Minga.
Instituto Nacional Sindical (INS).
Observatorio de Movimientos Sociales Suroccidente (Omsapt).
Censat Agua Viva.
Colectiva Antonieta Mercury.
Colectivo Profes Nuevos 1278.
Colectivo de la Salud Epitelio.
Corporación Ensayos.
Rocaso Estudiantil.
Zona Pública.
Instituto de Investigación Acción en Procesos Educativos y Sociales “Orlando Fals Borda (Iapes – OFB)

Mesa social para la Paz