29/09/2016 News / The Peace Deal is a Starting Point, say Colombian ‘Alternative Nobel’ Laureates

The Peace Deal is a Starting Point, say Colombian ‘Alternative Nobel’ Laureates

29/09/2016

Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award call for a ‘Yes’ vote at the 2 October referendum on the recently signed agreement between the Colombian government and FARC.

The deal is not the end but rather a starting point on the journey towards lasting peace, which is now in the hands of Colombian citizens, they stress.

After 52 years of civil war and four years of peace negotiations in Cuba, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño signed the historic peace deal on 26 September, which will be put to public vote next Sunday.

With the eyes of the world firmly focused on Colombia, the Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award — widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ — say the ‘Yes’ vote is the only way towards lasting peace in the country.

“For more than 30 years we have demonstrated that wars and conflicts can only be resolved through negotiation,” says Cristina Serna from the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Carare (ATCC), established in the guerrilla-controlled rural region of Carare in 1987. ATCC has championed non-violent opposition to the armed conflict in Colombia, and received the Right Livelihood Award in 1990 “for its outstanding commitment to peace, family and community in the midst of the most senseless violence.”

“Finally, after many decades, the country is able to embark on the road to peace without leaving an ominous blood trail. The first step in this direction is to give the agreement a resounding ‘Yes’ – although this short word has powerful foes,” cautions Fernando Rendón, co-founder and director of Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, created in 1991 to reclaim the streets of one of the most dangerous and violent cities in Colombia and the world at the time through public poetry readings.

“Those who urge a ‘No’ vote question the parties to the peace agreement: they argue that the traditional justice system does not penalise FARC rebels as many had hoped; that former guerillas should not participate in the political system they spent 50 years undermining and attacking; that the rebels might end up better off than those who had behaved and worked honestly; that none of the parties will respect the agreement, and so on. But ‘Yes’ is the only way,” explains Martín von Hildebrand, President of Gaia Amazonas foundation which works with indigenous communities in preserving cultural and biological diversity of the Amazon rainforest.

Peace and other rights

“Peace is not only the absence of gunfire. Peace can only be achieved when other fundamental and related rights – decent life and work conditions, education, health and nutrition for all — have been satisfied,” says Gloria Ochoa, Colombia Coordinator for the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), which received the Right Livelihood Award in 1998.

ATCC’s Serna agrees: “We must walk our forests without fear of stepping over a landmine, live without fear that our children will go to war – be on the side of the government or the rebels. We must ensure that rule of law reaches the most remote corners of our country, without the excuse that in war zones investments in health, education or roads can´t be done.”

“A ‘Yes’ vote is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Cristina Serna concludes.

For the agreement to be approved, the ‘Yes’ votes must account for at least 13% of the electorate, that is around 4.5 million votes, and outnumber the ‘No’ votes.

Many other Right Livelihood Award recipients from around the world supported  fellow Colombian Laureates and their ‘Yes’ campaign. In 2013, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation organised the first-ever regional conference in Bogotá as a show of solidarity with Colombian Laureates.


For more information:

Spanish-speaking media: Nayla Azzinnari, Comunicación en Español, Fundación Right Livelihood Award, mobile/whatsapp: +54 9 11 5460 9860, e-mail nayla@rightlivelihood.org

International media: Xenya Cherny-Scanlon, Director of Communications, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, mobile: +41 76 690 8798, e-mail xenya@rightlivelihood.org