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Controversies of Inclusion in the Colombian Peace Process: The Balancing Act of Introducing New Norms and Gaining Popular Support

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Isabel Bramsen

Executive Summary

Brief Points

  • The Colombian peace agreement is one of the most inclusive, progressive and comprehensive in history, not least when it comes to gender inclusivity.

  • The peace agreement was rejected by a small majority in a referendum in 2016 with the no-campaign among other things expressing fears that the “gender ideology” in the agreement threatened traditional family values.
    While a revised version of the agreement was later approved by the congress, the initial rejection of the peace agreement illustrates a dilemma between peace and inclusion.

  • First, it raises the question of how comprehensive gender-equality promoting measures a peace agreement should have vis-à-vis the risk of losing public support.

  • Second, it raises questions of whether to put peace agreements to vote. While a referendum may increase the legitimacy of an agreement it can also polarize a population in a fragile post-accord situation.

The question of justice versus peace has long been accepted as a core dilemma in peace studies and practice – should conflicting parties be granted amnesty in the name of peace? Another controversy that has gained less attention is that of peace versus inclusion. Contrary to the peace/justice dilemma, inclusion and peace are often seen as intersecting unproblematically and even being co-dependent. In recent years, the truism in much peace research has been that the more inclusive the peace process, the better – particularly the inclusion of women, minorities, victims, or even the greater public. This piece argues that inclusion is in fact a controversial issue with several dilemmas in relation to peace processes. It does so by taking the Colombian case as its point of departure: a peace process that has been praised worldwide for its inclusivity, especially when it comes to women, but that also exemplifies some of the controversies regarding inclusion. Having unfolded the context of the conflict, this case brief discusses the interrelated controversies of the inclusion of women in the peace process and referendum about the peace agreement.