Colombia: Agree or Disagree, You’ll Probably Learn Something

In early April, I attended a discussion on Colombia’s post-civil war future hosted by the Canadian International Council. For those who don’t know, the Colombian government recently ended a five-decade-long war with one of the country’s prominent rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC, in Spanish).

Overall, it was a great discussion. I was impressed by the level of interaction between audience members and the moderators.

But even more importantly, I was impressed with the quality of ideas exchanged during the discussion. I was reminded that peaceful disagreements can exist in political arenas which are known for mud-slinging.

For instance, while there were disagreements on how to ensure the smooth transition from war-time to peace, there was common ground found between all camps in that 1) the peace treaty is important for Colombia to move forward (even if it contains clauses of contention), and 2) Colombia’s infrastructural needs cannot be ignored, particularly the need for roadways to connect Colombia’s rural areas with its urban ones–roads connect people, literally and figuratively. Roads help drive the economy. Roads are good for peace.

But those were only a few ideas exchanged at this discussion. For the most part, disagreements outnumbered the agreements, but I was reminded of how fruitful these civilized, educated discussions could be. I walked away with a better understanding of how Canada can play a role in the peace process. I also left with a sense that all could play a part in the discussion, whether it’s actually sharing ideas or just being informed of current events.

It seems as though we are constantly bombarded by sad news—countries being bombed, social injustices, violent crimes. In the midst of the negativity, it’s refreshing to hear the promotion of peace in a country that saw fifty years of war.

I heard one professor remark that she had stopped researching the armed conflict because she thought she would never see the end of it. I think all sides in attendance were pleased that she was wrong.

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