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FEATURE STORY

Colombia: The Experience of Promoting Development and Building Peace

October 31, 2012


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Aura (left) is part of Narrar para Vivir (Tell to Live), a group of women, victims of the armed conflict that help other victims.

Isabelle Schäfer/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The project Peace and Development, co-financed by the World Bank, supported the most vulnerable communities that were looking for alternatives in the context of violence.
  • Present in six regions, it promoted alliances between the organizations that work in the communities and public and private institutions.
  • For many victims of the Colombian conflict, telling their story already represents a big help.

Wearing a bright green and blue shirt, Aura Camargo Mercado, of the region of the Montes de Maria, in the north of Colombia, chats and laughs with her friends during lunch.

But the 23-year-old young woman is serious when she talks about her story: when she was small, she had to flee from home with her mother to save her life. Moreover, she lost her uncle and two cousins because of the violence generated by the armed conflict that has affected Colombia for more than 50 years.

However, despite of everything, Aura dreams of peace. “We started to have our dream, our hopes, in the middle of the conflict. We were dreaming of a region in peace, where we could live peacefully.”

A dream that started in 2004 with “Paz y Desarrollo” (Peace and Development), a program of the Colombian government co-financed by the World Bank, that supported local development, together with civil society organizations that were seeking to build peace starting from the communities.

Aura, for example, is part of Narrar para Vivir (Tell to Live), a group of 840 women, victims of the armed conflict that help other victims. She explains that telling her stories and listening to others, helped her a lot. “Just that they listen to us is fundamental for us,” she says.

Narrar para Vivir is one of the groups that are part of  the “Red Montemariana” (The Montes de Maria Network), a meeting space for civil society organizations from the region of the Montes de Maria, that –with 9,000 members – seeks to break the circle of violence by working in networks.

“Armored” leaders

The “Red Montemariana” seeks to strengthen the organizations that work directly in the communities and their leaders, so that they are protagonists of their own development, less vulnerable to violence and so that they can overcome poverty.

At the beginning of the Peace and Development project, many of the community leaders were forced to be silent or hidden because of the armed conflict. Because of that, the Development and Peace of the Montes de Maria Network Foundation (Fundación Red Desarrollo y Paz de los Montes de María) started to promote peaceful coexistence between them.


" The fact that the program exists, that there is an institutional presence and international cooperation in the territory, this armors us.  "

Aura Camargo Mercardo

participant "Narrar para Vivir"

The participants of Narrar para Vivir, for example, were trained in public policies and women’s rights, and have managed to win important spaces. “We were in Congress when the Law of the victims (of the armed conflict) was discussed,” explains Aura with big gestures.

“Before the program, there was leadership, there were organizations, but they didn’t have the strength that they have now,” she adds, “The fact that the program exists, that there is an institutional presence and international cooperation in the territory, this armors us.”

A path to peace

The objective of the Peace and Development Project was to promote a decent life and lasting peace by accompanying the inhabitants of the regions most affected by conflict, and seeking the collaboration of the local institutions regarding training, education, work, income and psychological and social help.

Today the Development and Peace Program is implemented in 19 regions of the country, inspired by the first experience of development and peace in the region of Magdalena Medio (1998), under the leadership of the Development and Peace Program of that region.

The success of that project allowed to consolidate a national program that today is recognized in all the country and supported by the government, the European Union and the United Nations Development Program.

The keys to this success are the communities, organized so as to be protagonists of their own development, as well as the alliances with public and private institutions, that have allowed to move forward in terms of peace consolidation, reparation to victims and land restitution.


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