The first thing I should say is that this article will not be an analysis of the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia. Rather, it will be the testimony of someone who participated in that mission as part of a significant team of professionals from the Americas and from Europe. It is also an effort to value the importance of the people who are directly affected by the violence.
We have known for a long time that we need to listen to the voices of the people who have been injured by the brutal actions of illegal armed groups in Colombia, because they are the ones who can give us a better understanding of what is happening. These men and women, generally from communities located far from state institutions, are the primary protagonists who must be taken into account. Their wellbeing should also be the main concern whenever actions are taken to decrease the effects of violence and to recover territories and communities in order to build peace. It is rare, however, that their voices are reflected in programs and actions or in the images transmitted by the media.
As the show of paramilitary men turning in their weapons ended, many people came to believe that it was all over in Colombia and that the work was done. But that is not so. These are precisely the moments when a critical phase in peace-building begins. And we don't always see it. We don't always notice the population, which is usually on the periphery of these acts of disarmament, observing the events without completely understanding them. And we don't always think about what will happen to them in the future. The topic isn't included much in the manuals or the books written by experts on demobilization processes. But it is fundamental.
It is only when we make an effort to discover and begin communication with this forgotten, marginalized reality that we begin to learn about and understand the tree nature of violence. If we have enough humility to listen, we will also begin to learn about some of the ways forward out of hell and into a place of hope. The tools and the direction we must go to build peace are often right in front of our eyes. In fact, many communities and their natural leaders are working anonymously every day to build peace in extreme conditions.
So my reflections are about these things: on the one hand, the attitudes, work methodologies, and programs that we bring from our particular experiences as university trained professionals...