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Pluralism and the Importance of Territorial Voices in Colombia

Learn about our work with CODHES to increase visibility of those impacted by low levels of pluralism.

Rajvir Gill

The most exciting part about sharing the Global Pluralism Monitor and its findings with countries around the world is seeing the unique ways it can be used and implemented to advance pluralism. In keeping with the Global Centre for Pluralism’s (the Centre’s) commitment to follow the lead of local partners and stakeholders, engagement activities in Colombia highlighted the need for increased visibility and support for those most affected by low levels of pluralism in a society.

The Global Pluralism Monitor report for Colombia focuses on the diverse groups of Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, Campesinos (Peasants) and Roma. When brainstorming about the best way to engage in Colombia, the Centre looked for ways to share the report directly with these groups to ask for feedback and if they felt represented in the overall findings. The answer was found in a partnership with  Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES)  an independent, not-for-profit research and advocacy think tank, working to advance democracy, good governance and inclusive economic growth in Colombia. CODHES’ mission is in line with the objectives of the Monitor report as CODHES currently works on peacebuilding, displacement and creative solutions to foster positive approaches to ethnic and cultural diversity in Colombia.

Pluralism and the Guarantees of Non-Repetition

After reviewing the Monitor report, CODHES found opportunities for collaboration with the Centre. This collaboration focussed on activities discussing and applying the findings and recommendations for Guarantees of Non-Repetition (GNR) identified in the final report of Colombia’s Truth Commission (CEV). The Truth Commission’s measures for GNR are related to pluralism and inclusion. The GNR understands the need for structural change and democratic participation for ethnic peoples. These changes in Colombian society would help to advance respect for diversity and pluralism.  Furthermore, the recommendations for GNR also prioritize gender issues by examining ethnic, cultural and political factors that would promote women’s equality and rights. This is a more holistic approach to advancing women’s rights which integrates women’s family, gender and generational perspectives.

To this end, two workshops with social leaders self-identified as representatives/leaders/spokespersons of regionally/territorially-based women’s rights organizations, communications organizations, and Afro-descendent and Indigenous community organizations were organized by the Centre in the Pacific and Caribbean territories.  A high proportion of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants reside in these regions. Workshops were interactive and collaborative, with social leaders working together to apply the Global Pluralism Monitor methodology to their context and offering critiques on the Monitor’s national level assessment. Both workshops acknowledged normative gaps even among the vulnerable communities themselves. For instance, there exist greater protections for Indigenous people in some circumstances than for other diversity types in the country.  It was discussed that levels of recognition, respect and protection of diversity are extremely low, even with the presence of legal and constitutional protections and commitments. For all participants, pluralism is not just a guarantee. Pluralism is about autonomy, unity among and between diverse groups, and self-governing mechanisms to ensure their issues are prioritized. They do not want to solely participate; they want to lead and bring about implementation of the GNR.

Applying the Global Pluralism Monitor

After these workshops, Afro-descendant, Indigenous and Peasant organizations of the Pacific and Caribbean regions proposed a monitoring framework to measure the GNR created by their own communities. This framework measures progress in their territories on the GNR and uses their own methodological approaches grounded in their experiences. The Global Pluralism Monitor’s approach resonated with these organizations because of its ability to account for various groups and indicators related to the status of pluralism. Social leaders in the workshops believe that the only way to improve the living conditions of those in the territories is with accurate, community-driven data and with community participation. Therefore, monitoring pluralism at the territorial level can provide a more accurate baseline to measure the effectiveness of the GNR. Participants in the Caribbean workshop echoed the usefulness of the Monitor’s framework at the territorial level, but pointed to factors that make their situation different from those in the Pacific. For instance, Afro-descendent participants in the Caribbean workshop noted that their experiences are invisibilized in comparison to Afro-descendants from the Pacific, and this exclusion needs to be accounted for when assessing pluralism in the country.

To share the recommendations and observations from the workshops with policy leaders and decision-makers, CODHES organized a national forum in Bogota, bringing representatives from both workshops to present their thoughts on the Monitor, its applicability to the GNR and their work in the territories.  They also conveyed the support required from the government to make territorial monitoring a reality.  The Centre can continue to assist in connecting those from the territories to the policy makers in the country’s capital, as this support is critical. The workshops and the forum demonstrate that guaranteeing peace and equitable development in Colombia will absolutely require territorial input.