Graffiti in Bogotá, Colombia. Image credit: svenwerk Graffiti in Bogotá, Colombia. Image credit: svenwerk

The political side of the peace process taking place in Havana is becoming increasingly complicated, and Colombians are coping with confused feelings around the promise of peace.

Despite these complications, civil society continues to be actively involved in peacebuilding activities and the number of post-conflict initiatives is increasing at national level. This, however, is not new. For decades civil society and non-violent movements in Colombia have promoted and implemented peace initiatives, even in the midst of armed conflict.

Nowadays, the peacebuilding movement has been revitalised through innovative approaches to activism and civil resistance. Hundreds of initiatives are promoting peace and reconciliation and are implementing interesting proposals that include football, social entrepreneurship to create business opportunities, cultural work and artistic projects that encourage the role of ethnic minorities as peace-makers, and other initiatives that have been endorsed by youth and women’s movements as part of a culture of peace.

This is the first part of a series of articles that will highlight that sustainable peace is above all a job for civil society.

Pacifista: peace culture and the media revolution

In Colombia it is difficult to find neutral information about armed conflict
Pacifista is a platform developed by a group of young people whose main objective is to produce articles, documents and information about peacebuilding.

The platform was launched at the end of 2014 and the young minds behind its conception are the well recognised media content producers Vice, created in Montreal in 1994.

In Colombia it is very difficult to find impartial media and neutral information about armed conflict. Pacifista is a revolutionary journalist tool that helps us to understand the roots of our violent history as well as the stories of those whose has been experienced war.

Why is it so important to have this kind of platform? The responsibility of traditional media in exacerbating armed conflict and perpetuating radical political views in Colombian civil society has been widely discussed and remains one of the biggest challenges in reconciliation efforts.

The possibility of having access to impartial content about peace and war enhances the debate around role of civil society as a key actor in consolidating a culture of peace.

Nowadays the platform has several videos, interviews, and research with free access.

Minka dev: sustainable businesses for peace

Minka dev is just one of the many pioneers of social entrepreneurship in Colombia. As part of the boom of startups in Colombia, Minka-dev is promoting social labs and business platforms to design new and innovative ways of doing sustainable business, based on the idea that through specific algorithms, tools and mechanisms, the market can be beneficial to everyone: producers, investors, environment and communities.

Minka-dev is a market place where different business opportunities are gathered with the main condition of having a high social impact by reducing poverty and being environmentally sustainable. The development of a business model begins with the identification of specific needs and interests of vulnerable communities, so the design process is inclusive and fully participatory from the very beginning.

Minka-Dev is a co-founder and stakeholder of a bigger private sector initiative called Reconciliación Colombia, whose main interest is to promote the development of inclusive businesses as peacebuilding projects and mechanisms of reconciliation at the local level. Just like Minka-dev, there are a lot of social labs such as Innpactia, Unreassonable Labs Colombia, and Yunus Colombia, among others, who are getting involved with civil society organisations and implementing business opportunities as peacebuilding initiatives.

Now the Minka-dev platform has more than ten business opportunities, a network of promoters, sponsors and investors and this year they opened a new office in Mexico as part of its consolidation plan in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Football with Heart: the game for peace

Dialogue is the main instrument to develop ideas, views and pluralism as principles of coexistence
"We are Football with heart, and we are doing social transformation, we are training peace makers."

This is one of the first messages you find when you visit Fútbol con Corazón (Football with Heart). This social organisation proposes a full methodology based on football as a tool to develop capacities in children and young people to enhance social values and principles of pacific coexistence. Football for peace works with vulnerable communities in order to achieve objectives such as developing values and skills for well-being, and promoting conflict resolution and gender equity.

Their educational methodology has three major moments using the warm up, the match and the dressing room as separate areas where participants develop social skills that can be replicated in real life. During all three stages, dialogue is the main instrument to develop ideas, views and pluralism as principles of coexistence.

FCC has more than 4000 participants and 40% are girls. They are working with 27 vulnerable communities and they also train more than 60 young leaders. At the end of May this initiative participated in an international event called Football, Development and Peace 2016 that gathered all the initiatives promoting peace building through football in order to exchange experiences and build alliances around this peacebuilding methodology.

Choosing peace

These three initiatives, although quite different, have a fundamental similarity: all of them are based on building capacities for making peace within the civil society. This approach is fully in sync with the framework promoted by the government, called territorial peace where peacebuilding capacities are developed at local level through economical, cultural and political strategies, underlining the needs and singularities of each region in Colombia.

Football, social entrepreneurship and access to independent information are just a few of the many instruments that allow us to develop awareness about the importance of peace on a daily basis. As Sergio Jaramillo, one of the peace dialogue advisors pointed out: “We need that everybody in our cities and regions takes a look in the mirror and says to themselves, I choose peace”.