The Role of NGOs in Peacebuilding in Colombia By Patricia Abozaglo Jara Abstract This dissertation addresses the topic of the role of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in peacebuilding in Colombia, where for decades there has been ongoing politically motivated conflict between guerrilla, paramilitary groups and the armed forces. As a result of this situation, millions of Colombians have been displaced; thousands have been killed or suffered serious human rights violations, including many women who have been subjects of gender-based violence. Patterns of violence, exclusion, inequality and systematic human rights abuses have been associated with the root causes of the conflict together with the authoritarian and elitist power structures that prevail in the country. This research is based on the perceptions of representatives of fourteen NGOs located in six geographical areas of Colombia: Bogotá, Barrancabermeja, Cartagena, Medellín, Caquetá and Bucaramanga. All of them participate in the Colombia Programme developed by Trócaire, Irish Catholic Development Agency. In addition, representatives of five of the most relevant peacebuilding networks at national level participated. Findings were gathered through semi-structured interviews and a Participation Action Research workshop. This research addresses questions around the understanding of national NGOs of the concept of peacebuilding. It determines if as NGOs, they feel part of civil society and consequently if they feel they could actively participate in peacebuilding negotiations. This dissertation identifies the roles that NGOs in Colombia are currently playing and the challenges they are facing in a context of ongoing-armed conflict. Finally, it suggests the process needed for effective action and meaningful engagement in peacebuilding. Attention is given to the perceptions of national NGOs regarding the role of international NGOs and Development Agencies operating in the country. This research shows that despite the acute level of conflict, NGOs in Colombia play a vital role in peacebuilding by carrying out a wide range of peace initiatives. NGOs feel part of civil society together with other actors such as churches, business sector, trade unions, community based organisations, grassroots organisations, media and political parties. However insufficient integration, cohesion and coordination was found among them in order to actively participate in peace negotiation or dialogues, with a united peace agenda from the NGOs sector, as part of civil society. Lobbying and advocacy, and liaising and networking at national and international level are the main roles identified; followed by awareness creation, education and capacity building. These roles have been useful and relevant to accompany, to assist, to protect and to support the unarmed civilian population affected by the armed conflict. Regarding the role of International NGOs (INGOs) and Development Agencies (DAs) in peacebuilding in Colombia, these actors have played a necessary role supporting lobbying and advocacy initiatives. They have been part of liaising and networking efforts. They have joined their voices along with the national NGOs to express their concerns about the situation in Colombia at international level, for example with the UN, EU and others. They have played a key role in providing the resources for the work done by national NGOs for lobbying and advocacy, education and awareness creation, accompaniment, assistance and protection of civilian population victims of the conflict. The main recommendations stress the need to create a culture of peace, to work towards a common peacebuilding agenda with full participation of all sectors of the Colombian society, with a common vision and a strategy including gender and cultural sensitivity approaches.
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