How do peace negotiators turn confrontation into collaboration—and lead the way to peace?

The Possibility of Peace

How do peace negotiators turn confrontation into collaboration—and lead the way to peace?

Sergio Jaramillo Caro revealed his strategy behind the historic peace accord that ended more than 50 years of violent conflict in Colombia, during The Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Inaugural Lecture at the University of Chicago. As the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, Jaramillo served as the Colombian government’s chief strategist throughout the peace process, spending six years in intense negotiations with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Jaramillo explained how he built an agreement that seeks to restore democratic participation, strengthen institutional accountability, and allow citizens to live free from fear.

Jaramillo’s remarks, entitled “The Possibility of Peace,” reviewed the 10 steps negotiators took to create the “space” for peacemaking. As examples, they established an agenda that gave the talks focus and structure. They created a narrative that included disarmament and a definitive end to historical cycles of political violence. And they put victims at the center of the process, introducing a comprehensive system for justice but also providing paths forward for victims and aggressors alike. 

In a lively yet respectful question and answer session, faculty and students raised a number issues—some of which directly challenged the referendum, reparations and the reintegration of the FARC into Colombian society. Jaramillo emphasized that each conflict is different, and that the process must reflect the true motives, interests, and value systems of all sides. In this case, negotiators had to overcome the inherent tension between peace and justice. The tribunal system they established holds aggressors accountable while also preserving their dignity and allowing them to participate in the country’s transformation. 

Careful strategizing and patience can end even apparently intractable conflicts but they also have to address the contextual factors that allowed conflict to flourish. These include centrally what Jaramillo called the "Territorial Peace" which is a strategy to construct state authority in remote regions where people have lived outside of the government's security sphere. As part of the agreement, the government agreed to expand the access of citizens to the political process and sought their input into structural reforms that included building a much-needed rural development plan. By giving citizens a greater voice, negotiators hope to restore faith in the government and enlist broad support for the peacebuilding process.

The Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson lecture series provides an opportunity to hear directly from leaders in international policy who have worked in peace and conflict. This was the inaugural lecture hosted by The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts


Originally posted by The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.