A wonderful experience today, I met Kofi Annan, Nobel peace Prize in 2001:
“We must be ambitious enough to pursue both justice and peace, and wise enough to know when and how to do so. When peace comes, all Colombians will benefit from it”
Mr. Kofi Annan, in his Keynote Address to conference participants this morning, reflected on the compromises and trade-offs that must accompany a peace process. However, he stressed that justice cannot be traded for peace – in the short or long term. “From my own experience with countries as different as Rwanda, Bosnia and Timor-Leste, we have learnt that justice is not an impediment to peace, it is an essential partner.” “I believe that when we abandon justice to secure peace, we are most likely to get neither. My advice is that we must be ambitious enough to pursue both, and wise enough to know when and how to do so.” Mr. Annan’s visit to Colombia this week has generated a great deal of attention, helping to bring to the fore broad, ongoing demands for justice in relation to the peace process. In this regard, he expressed his support for Colombia’s “collective struggle” to close the long cycle of violence and “foster the virtues of reconciliation, solidarity and peace.” “This effort has become an exciting national project, which should mobilize all sectors of society in the service of peace. For when peace comes, no Colombian citizen will be exempt from its impact.” As the former UN Secretary-General and a Nobel Laureate, few figures in the world are as well situated to address issues of peacebuilding and justice. Since leaving the United Nations in 2006, Mr. Annan has actively pressed for policies that will meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.
Today, Mr. Annan recognized the more than 200,000 people who have died as a result of the conflict, the great majority of whom were civilians. He reminded us that behind every statistic “there are families and friends who have lost loved ones.”
He stressed, “Victims are owed the right to the truth. They also want justice.” Indeed, the Government of Colombia and the FARC guerilla group are now working to address the needs and rights of the many victims of the conflict as an essential element of the peace process in Havana.
Turning to an issue continuously raised in relation to official truth seeking here in Colombia, Mr. Annan addressed the criminal accountability of the many armed actors in the conflict. In forceful terms, he cautioned that “truth seeking cannot substitute for criminal justice” because both are building blocks in the reformation of the state and the healing of society.“Truth seeking should, of course, help determine the accountability of individuals. But truth seeking is not only about individual responsibility; it’s also about society, about the state and its institutions.”As Mr. Annan explained, a truth commission has several functions, including giving society important facts. “With this truth you can move forward based on a shared understanding of the past and a common vision for the future.” In recognizing that the experiences of truth commissions established in other parts of the world can help contribute to Colombia’s important national discussion on truth seeking, Mr. Annan underscored that truth commissions must reflect local realities and “not blindly follow a global template.”He made example of the Argentinian truth commission, which famously used the phrase “Nunca Más” (never again) as the title of its report. What is now so unique about this commission is that it dealt with only one issue: the disappeared.Mr. Annan explained, “Since those days, the mandate and reach of truth commissions have expanded quite dramatically, sometimes creating unrealistic expectations and in, some cases, disillusionment with the peace process itself.”
PHOTO: Presidencia Republica