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The Colombian Peace Process

Does Peace need to be rethought? 

How many times throughout the day, do you say the word “peace?” and how many times do you hear it around you? This is a question that needs to be paid closer attention to when exploring the ontology of peace. Substantial scholarship has been contributed to this field of study, but where does it boil down to? 

What can scholars such as Paris, Shani, or even Gandhi, Kant, King, Mandela and Galtung teach us about rethinking peace today? Furthermore, how do we apply their teachings to today’s pressing societal issues and attempt to see them from another “angle?” For instance, is Paris or Shani’s stance on liberal peace too narrow for issues relevant to human mobility? Is Gandhi’s non-violence resistance mentality still a reality in today’s Catalonia independence or Brexit response? Is Kant’s perspective on forgiveness, stating that it is a “duty of virtue” applicable to the colonization post effects of countries like the Philippines? Furthermore, Galtung’s view on peace research is that it is research into the conditions for moving closer to peace, or at least not moving closer to violence. Therefore, negative peace “is the absence of violence, absence of war” while positive peace “is the integration of human society” (1964, p. 2). Is this view on peace too polarized when it comes to issues around peacebuilding efforts in the Middle East? Some may argue that these ideas around peace are still useful while others may disagree and call for a rethinking approach. Nonetheless, the framework of every single scholar and principle mentioned above are crucial, in one way or another, to tackling today’s current conflicts and ones that must be rethought.


Overall, scholars and international relation experts across the globe have spent more time and efforts studying and identifying causes of war than they have studying peace. One might think that they go hand in hand, that an all-encompassing definition of peace could also explain the causes and catalysts for war, but does it have to be that war is a result of the failure of peace? Or perhaps is it more of a question of why peace fails to break out? John Orme has asked these kinds of questions when addressing peace and conflict and has generated insights about both the structural factors that contribute to peace, and also the general effectiveness of various diplomatic strategies that contribute (Schweller, 2005).
When thinking about peace through an international relations lens, Orme’s theories align with the idea that discourse alone can never create peace, only true action will. His argument suggests that peace is unattainable when leaders and lawmakers decide to wait instead of taking action. He labels this political tactic “Micawberism,” after the Charles Dickens character Wilkins Micawber who holds the belief that he will gain fortune in some unforeseen way, without taking any action. 

Micawberism is an optimistic ideology that leaders may use to put off making peace today under the conviction that something will happen in the future to bring this peace. “The Micawberist proclivity to delay is reinforced by ambiguity and unpredictability, which allow leaders to continue to look forward to a day when something good will turn up” (Schweller, p. 145, 2005). This mislaid optimism can become the greatest enemy of peace, to which Orme suggests strategies of action. Orme states that, “In many instances demonstrations of strength offer the best and perhaps only hope of breaking a diplomatic deadlock and opening a path to peace…Pessimism, not trust or goodwill, is the most important precondition for success in diplomacy and nothing is more effective in creating it than a credible threat of force” (Schweller, p. 208, 2005). This suggests that it is not the idea of general accord that creates peace, but rather action itself. This is the paradox of peace; the idea that “the threat of war, or [even] war itself can be required to start the process of peace through compromise (Schweller, 2005).  Galtung is one for the first that aims to rethink peace by coining the terms positive and negative peace in the mid 1900s. He defines positive peace as “cooperation and integration between major human groups” and negative peace as the absence of conflict [and organized violence] (Galtung, 1969; Braddon, 2012). In this context, positive peace differentiates itself considering by actually being a process that is by no means easy to achieve and requires high amounts of cooperation and selflessness. In fact, both act as metaphors for capturing the complexity of peace. Both definitions also explain peace in terms of what it is not, rather than what it is. In this way, peace begins taking the shape of a verb rather than a noun. However, rethinking peace analyzing discourse, memory, translation and dialogue in depth, in this exact order (Shani, 2017). Thus, they are all rooted within the principles of hypostasis, teleology, normative and enterprise (Shani, 2017). 

Discourse are stars that give us the opportunity to make up thousands of constellations. Peace discourse in particular has its own sets of constellations, which began in the twentieth century “as a critique of the hegemonic trend in the theory, and practice of international relations” (Shani, 2017). Discourse has made it so that people are continuously skeptical, optimistic and genuinely curious about the direction peace is headed. There are thousands of new findings each year that add to our understandings of peace but the problem becomes if it turns into passive discourse, meaning it lacks action. For instance, somebody interested in this area of scholarship can decide to talk share their research findings by publishing books and writing articles for top leading journals. This is a way to move discourse forward but who actually reads this? It is often a particular set of people – professors, academics, doctoral students and even graduate students. However, what about the “normal” everyday person who has a blue-collar job or one that we pass down the street? What about people who do not have the time or resources to read an 80,000 word PhD thesis but whose findings can tremendously impact their lives and those in their community? How can their thoughts be included in discourse as we rethink peace? Helping discourse become fluid and move beyond one channel is key. Furthermore, when this happens and people are left out of the “discourse” of peace it becomes unequal and therefore contributes not to peace itself but to the opposite of peace-creating limits and separation. This separation feeds into inequality and oppression, which are catalysts for anything but peace. If peace research is to truly contribute to building and enhancing peace, there must be a way for it to be all inclusive, and to focus on those marginalized populations that suffer the most from the absence of peace. Peace scholarship can easily be expressed through art such as a painting, a performance or even poetry. Currently, opera has become a way to shed light on mental health issues, theater has become a channel to criticize structures of power in Spain and a child’s painting has build a space for conversations around the struggles of street children in Bolivia. Initiatives like these among others are powerful platforms that add to the discourse of peace. Memory is the second pillar. Arlberg (2017), Professor at the International Christian University, begins by stating, “I remember something I never knew or I was given a new memory about someone who before had been not only nameless but also without a place” (p. 6) showing how a memory can easily be imprinted in someone and this is especially true when it comes to history. Non-state actors, religion, gender, environmental issues play a big role in creating these memories. Nonetheless, “memory can be a means towards peace or towards further conflict” (Alberg, 2017) especially when they painful, repressed or not fully processed and we see some play out today. For instance, in a study (Cohen, 2004) related to peace, forgiveness was explored among Holocaust survivors. 

Findings indicated that some of the survivors felt comfortable among German people. Whereas, others stated “that they would never [even] take a ride in a German car” (par 5). And when they were asked if forgiveness were ever to be possible, most emphasized the importance of memory. They all stressed the importance of remembering the Holocaust. In this case, not only do we see how memory holds great value, but also the idea of honoring memories as a path for peace. It is also a channel for vulnerability and one that should be further explored. Despite there are painful memories “connected to defeat and justice” (Alberg, 2017), they should not stay as wounds but should heal through the spark of new memories and dialogue. One example of this possible disparity in opinions of peace is the assassination of a previous four-time Prime Minister of Japan by a Korean-independence activist by the name of An Jung-geun. This historical example carries controversy because in Korea, Jung-geun is seen as a hero, with Korea on the verge of annexation by Japan at the time of the assassination. Jung-geun was given several awards for his efforts towards Korean independence. However, while he is considered a hero in Korea, to the people of Japan, he is considered a terrorist. This is a prime example of how historical efforts can look different depending on citizenship, and how an action can look like one of peace to one population, and an act of violence to another.  

Translation follows memory as an important step for mutual understanding. Though it is not initially apparent, it is a crucial part “of war and cultural studies since one has to translate identities” (Alberg, 2017. p. 3); and as Alberg states, “we cannot ignore those who deserve a place at the table but do not understand the language being spoken at that table” (p. 6). And in the context of peace, is translation really that useful? For instance, in Japanese, Hewa’s [peace] kanji consists of equality and harmony. However, in Quechua, the Inca indigenous language, peace translates differently. It is known as Sonqotiaykuy, which has a peace and love connotation to it. Sonqo is love, and qotiaykuy covers both spiritual and physical aspects of one’s well being (Zavala, 2014). Furthermore, qotiaykuy is also the word for land, showing how peace and sacred land interconnected in a different context. In Hebrew, the word peace translates to a sense of completeness and welfare which is also used for both their hello and goodbye. In other languages like Spanish, French and Arabic, it may hold a different meaning but the levels of translation despite its flaws aims to “message through, preserve identity and allows for communication to continue especially in the field of peace. It is a noble and yet, at the same time, a mundane task” (p. 5).  Last but not least “active” dialogue, is the last pillar for rethinking peace. It is a word that is often overused when solutions are proposed by top organizations such as the United Nations and smaller scale non-profits as well so what makes it valuable in the eyes of both? The fact that it is assumed that “dialogue has powers that provide a path to peace, overcoming silence and repression, founts of conflict” (Hinton, 2017) makes it an important channel. The idea that dialogue will lead to conflict resolution is just the surface. In Hinton’s words, it unpacks ontological assumptions and focuses on approaches instead. It is supposed to be fluid and liberal peacebuilding is a great example of moving dialogue. 

It is often believed that liberal peacebuilding attempts to create space for dialogue. However according to Paris (2010), “saving liberal peace does not mean blindly defending current international practices. On the contrary, the principles and methods of these missions need to be challenged and analyzed continuously. [And despite its] prone to unanticipated consequences, it is too important to lose or abandon” (Paris, 2010, p. 4). Thus, showing that analyzing continuously requires dialogue, not only among those in the field but also those outside the field. For instance, dialogue permits one to acknowledge that liberal peacebuilding is more than just an approach, it is encouraging local voices to come together, reconstructing the economic and security sector of the “package” it represents and encouraging people to gain access to education so that they know their rights and do not get taken advantage of. The local turn also becomes an important component to the continuation of liberal peacebuilding because it calls for a hybrid peace model to address the shortcoming of peace. Due to the failure of peace processes in Cambodia, Rwanda, Nicaragua, and Bosnia, the United Nations has accepted the fact that they need to deal with the locals (Paris, 2010), making it so that hybrid structures themselves are rethought. Dialogue has been a requirement for them to get to this point and one that should continue. 


If the idea of peace is to be effectively rethought, it would require the shedding of all ego and worldly pride; John Rawl’s work begins to address this. His veil of ignorance speaks to the principle of rethinking peace in a very effective way (Zabala, 2014). He states that if we imagine ourselves passing a veil that will make us forget key aspects of our identity, we would become more selfless. Thus, positive peace efforts would flourish because through this veil, one would not know their legal status, income, race, ethnicity, age or even health status. Consequently, anyone would automatically be more just and open to rethinking peace especially positive peace approaches (Steinar, 2015).

Furthermore, through this veil, the more people would embrace a leadership role within the paradigm of peace. And though this veil does not represent current society, we live in a society that is beginning to gradually recognize the value of peace (Ginty & Richmond, 2013). We see peace reports come out every year, we also see a number of University publications proposing a different angle of peace that haven’t been covered yet, we see artwork in the streets of New York and Shibuya shedding light on social justice efforts and we see Rotary Peace Centers around the world trying to tackle some of the most pressing issues of today through fellows. We also see banquets and initiatives by non-profit organizations all over the world raising funds and calling for action in the “name of peace.” In other words, peace, has become a platform for action and for scholarship to continue. However, is it going in the right direction?

Looking at the bigger picture, is there really a direction? and does it matter if we can talk about peace through models proposed from philosophers like Paris or Galtung? Is understanding positive and negative peace, or peace in general, really a key principle to rethinking peace?” It is not. In fact, rather than defining it and learning about the different ways where peace can be measured or debated in, it is important to see peace as something simple, or at least initially. In fact, peace should be about the principles of learning how to get along with one another, learning to forgive the other, having greater empathy, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes, showing kindness to a stranger, and being more holistic about your perspective. It is also becoming more aware about the lens and privileges one holds. It is about going back to the root principles of carrying for thy neighbor, being a good ally, and learning to move on.

Case Study: The Colombian Peace Process

One of the few peace processes that seems to be illustrating the ideas of peace to its fullest is that of Colombia’s, a brief history of the peace deal is needed to understand its significance. In October of 2012, some tentative peace negotiations began with Columbia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), while both sides remained doubtful of obtaining peace due to failed attempts in the 1990s (Gaudin, 2017). However, President Juan Manuel Santos remained hopeful and resolute to make peace and gained the support of many Colombians with his election in 2014 under the slogan “United for Peace”. However, after an FARC attack killing 11 Colombian soldiers in 2015, all negotiations and possibilities of compromise stopped and once again peace seemed highly unlikely (Gaudin, 2015). This critical moment prompted interference from the four guarantor states: Cuba, Chile, Venezuela and Norway, who expedited peace negotiations to make sure this did not happen again. In July of 2015, the FARC announced a ceasefire and later the Colombian government pardoned 30 FARC fighters in hopes to ease tensions and further promote peace (Gaudin, 2017). After this, the United Nations (UN) gave credibility to the peace talks and provided international backing for the implementation of the peace deal and the demobilization of the FARC guerrillas. In September of 2016, the first peace accord was signed between President Santos and FARC commander Rodrigo Londono. However, the accord was opposed by a slight majority of Colombians due to its clauses on transitional justice, leading to a referendum (Gaudin, 2015). This led to a second, revised version of the peace accord and later, the political integration of previous FARC members after their disarmament. Since this, there have been an abundant measures of reconciliation taken and the FARC is now its own political party that is guaranteed five seats in the countries senate and house of representatives.

The peace process between the government of Colombia and the FARC has become globally known and looked at as an example of positive peace negotiations and solutions to conflicts. It is an example of how taking action and implementing well-prepared designs can result in positive outcomes of peace. This process was not simply created and carried out, but was put through multiple phases. When one solution didn’t work or meet the criteria, action was taken again and again to form a process that worked. It withstood many unforeseen challenges that all parties were able to problem solve and create adaptable solutions to. The Colombian peace process illustrates what a well-prepared design can look like and how it can greatly enhance the chances of peace and reconciliation between former enemies. However, the strong resistance to related to transitional justice and victims’ rights, as well as political participation illustrate how difficult it is to implement a peace agreement to a divided society. The divisions that exist amongst society mean that there are differences in levels of privilege. This means that peace looks different based on individual human experiences. The peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC illustrates what can be accomplished if both experiences are validated and taken into account when working to move forward towards cohesive living and peace.

These are the skills that we should invest in when rethinking, learning or putting peace into practice. We are not saying that understanding peace dynamics is invaluable, but one should move past the equation of peace and really aim to find middle ground with the “other.” Forgiveness and truth are key principles that challenge us to see the “other” (Shani, 2017) in a different light and ones that we should all work towards. Peace is an attitude, not something that you can quantify necessarily or observe to accuracy. Some may say that believing in peace is utopian. Without this mindset and aspiration though, we cannot get rid of war. Despite we may overhear or see the word “peace” in our everyday life, the value still stands and should not be overlooked. At the end of the day, if peace is understood through this basic lens and continuously rethought, then it is a good starting point to foster strong peacebuilding efforts and rethink peace to its fullest potential.

Peace means to dismantle pride and the idea that one human experience is more valid than the other. Instead, it means to acknowledge and validate the uniqueness and individuality of the concept of peace across the globe. It is not to force one definition of peace onto all people, but instead to learn how to live cohesively with fluid definitions, and to practice peace as an attitude. Acknowledging this diversified reality is the first step to living unified despite differences in privilege and definitions of peace.

Works Cited

Braddon, D. (2012). The Role of Economic Interdependence in the Origins and Resolution of Conflict. Revue d'économie politique, vol. 122, 299-319.doi:10.3917/redp.218.0299. 

Crameri, K. (2016). Goodbye, Spain? The Question of Independence for Catalonia. Sussex. Academic Press. ISBN 9781845196592. Retrieved from 

Cohen, A. (2004). Research on science of forgiveness. Greater Good Science Journal. University of California Berkeley. Retrieved from 

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, peace and peace research. Journal of Peace Research, 9, 1   p. 167-191 Retrieved from 

Galtung, J. (1964). An Editorial. Journal of Peace research, 1(1), 1-4.

Gaudin, A. (2015, September 18). Positive Progress in Colombia’s Peace Process. NotiSur-South American Political and Economic Affairs. 

Gaudin, A. (2017, December 8). Colombia’s Peace Process Sputters on First Anniversary of Historic Accord. NotiSur-South American Political and Economic Affairs, 26(44).  

Ginty & Richmond (2013) The Local Turn in Peace Building: a critical agenda for peace. Third World Quarterly, 34, no.5,763-783. 

  Roland Paris (2010). “Saving Liberal Peacebuilding” Review of International Studies 36, no.2:337-365. 

  Steinar Andresen (2015) International Climate Negotiations: Top-down, Bottom-up or a Combination of Both?, The International Spectator, 50:1, 15-30, DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2014.997992 

  Shani, G. (2017). Saving liberal peacebuilding? From the local turn to post western  Peace.  

Schweller, R. L. (2005). The Paradox of Peace: Leaders, Decisions, and Conflict Resolution.Political Science Quarterly, 120(1), 145. 

  Zavala, V. (2014). An ancestral language to speak with the "Other": Closing down Ideological spaces of a language policy in the Peruvian Andes. Language Policy; 13,1 p1-20. Retrieved from 

Date Published

May 15, 2019
3:30 pm Wednesday, Tokyo (GMT+9)


Colombia, Peace, Micawberism

About the author
Elizabeth K. Gamarra
21 years old, holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Utah specializing in Global Women’s Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment. She has mainly worked with veteran and indigenous communities recovering from trauma, depression, and substance abuse. With these interests, she sits on the Board of Pax Natura, an international foundation advocating for peace and nature. Elizabeth is also a TEDxSaltLakeCity speaker on the topic of “Human Mobility: A Journey of Perspectives” shedding light on tribalism in context of integration and identity politics. For the last 6 years, she has worked with Amnesty International as an Activist Coordinator in the area of mobilizing human right efforts in Salt Lake, Chicago and St. Louis. She has also worked in London (England), Geneva (Switzerland), Thessaloniki (Greece), and Cusco (Perú) deepening connections between policy and local NGO practices.


About the author
Kathryn M. Brown
is currently completing her Bachelors of Social Work from the University of Utah and will be beginning graduate school pursuing a Masters of Social work specializing in Global Social Work and Leadership, Justice, and Community Practice beginning the summer of 2019. She has extensive experience working with children and families who have experienced trauma, and is currently moving towards macro level social work. Her passions and research interests involve advocating for children and families, and social justice.


International Christian University
3 Chome-3-10−2 Ōsawa, Mitaka-shi, Tōkyō-to 181-8585