Colombia's Peace Accord: Philanthropy Must Not Miss the Boat

Colombia's Peace Accord: Philanthropy Must Not Miss the Boat

The peace deal and disarmament of FARC in Colombia is a remarkable milestone, but it is still not clear to what extent Colombians are ready to effectively transition from peacemaking to peace building. If it is to be successful, that process must result in full implementation of the accord andthe enabling of environments conducive to sustainable peace over the long term.

The historic accord itself does not guarantee peace. While the end of the conflict has created the necessary conditions for peace building and reconciliation, a successful conclusion to the process will require creativity, long-term thinking, and all sectors of society to work together. The good news is that the end of violence means other sectors of society are now able to take part in creating a fairer and more equal Colombia.

In an attempt to engage the philanthropic sector in Colombia in the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16 (promote peace, justice and strong institutions), AFE Colombia and the SDG Philanthropy Platform have issued a report, Peace and Sustainable Development in Colombia: The Role of Philanthropy in Building a Shared Future, that aims to serve as a catalyst for new thinking by and dialogue between key stakeholders in the peace process. The report also provides concrete recommendations that local and international philanthropic organizations can act on to support Colombia's transition toward peace.

The current landscape

Colombia is a deeply unequal country. As such, it needs philanthropic organizations and actors to bring their resources and expertise to conflict-affected regions. More often than not, these are underdeveloped rural areas in dire need of social investment. To make the peace deal a reality on the ground will require stakeholders to come together and rethink the ways in which different actors and sectors in these areas interact and cooperate with each other.

At the same time, philanthropy itself must rethink the way it operates, taking into account its unique power to convene and provide a voice to underrepresented people and communities. Philanthropic actors currently operating in Colombia must also encourage new actors to engage with stakeholders in conflict-affected areas through partnerships designed to strengthen the impact of projects and activities already taking place and/or in replicating them in other areas of the country.

Ensuring a gender perspective

Several philanthropic institutions in Colombia are following UN recommendations and working to ensure that women play a key role in peace-building efforts and that their voices are heard. One of them, the WWB Foundation supports and educates women interested in setting up their own businesses. Philanthropic organizations like Fundación Belcorp and the Mujeres de Exito Foundation promote the development of women through education. And still others are providing legal services to women and girls who have suffered violence.

Taking into account the perspective of women was a key focus of the peace process, and the accord states that women's rights and needs (Goal 5) must be addressed by Colombian society as a whole. Philanthropic organizations looking to support the peace process are critical to this effort and should take it upon themselves to support and strengthen local women's groups so that they are able to play a meaningful role in peace-building efforts.

Taking the lead

Philanthropy itself is uniquely positioned to play a leading role as Colombia navigates this critical moment. Long-term vision and a willingness to take risks can be difficult for governments and businesses to embrace given budget constraints and fiduciary obligations. But philanthropy, acting as a catalyst for innovation and collective action, can become a key player in efforts to create the conditions needed to forge a sustainable peace.

The Colombian peace accord is a once-in-a-generations opportunity to improve the lives of Colombia's poorest citizens and communities. Philanthropy must not miss the boat.

Juan David Ferreira is a consultant for Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales y Familiares-AFE Colombia. Merybell Reynoso is an international communications consultant for the SDG Philanthropy Platform.

The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that helps philanthropy engage in the global development agenda and informs and catalyzes collaboration between those working in the philanthropy sector and other key actors.