A commitment to peace

Building lasting peace requires changing the way people think and really engaging and involving them in the peacebuilding process. “Once you realize this, you also recognize that this cannot be done in a matter of days. In fact, it is a matter of years,” explains Ana Glenda Tager, Interpeace’s Regional Director for Latin America.

“Some people think that the peace process ends with the signature of a peace agreement. For me, that is when the peacebuilding process really starts,” shares Ana Glenda.

Accordingly, Interpeace’s engagement in Guatemala began right after the signature of the peace agreement in 1996, ending the 36-year-long civil war. The programme initially focused on supporting society in defining the role of the military in a democratic governance system. “Ten years later however, the reality and the context had changed completely. The priorities and threats had shifted and were different from the issues during the transition phase,” Ana Glenda tells us as she looks back on the history of the programme in the region. “It is important to understand that the context is constantly changing and therefore, you cannot design a peacebuilding process as something static – you need to know the context well to be able to react to changes on the ground.”

Ana Glenda elaborates that the issues in Guatemala today are related to structural violence. “In societies without social cohesion, we observe different types of violence, for example violence related to youth gangs, the use of small arms and guns, human trafficking and also domestic violence.”

Ana Glenda goes on to explain the focus of the Central American peacebuilding programme: “We analysed which type of violence affected the state and its institutions the most and realized that both society and the state had defined members of youth gangs as their enemy. However young people are the future of our country and society. By criminalizing them and denying them the opportunity to be part of our society, we are criminalizing our own future.”

Today Interpeace is approaching the problem of youth violence in a regional way and encourages the countries in the region to work together on the issue and learn from each other. “Our extensive expertise of the context allowed us to look at the problem of youth violence from a regional perspective,” says Ana Glenda.

Ana Glenda also tells us how important long-term commitment is for building trusting and lasting relationships with local partners in the region. “Our partners know that they can rely on us and that we are not just launching a two-year project and then not continuing the process of change that we started once the issue is not making the international headlines anymore. We have demonstrated our dedication and strategic interest in the Central American region, even after the attention of the international community and the international media has shifted to other areas of the world.” “We believe that the issues related to violence that societies in our region are experiencing are also relevant to the rest of the world – even if the world is not looking our way,” explains Ana Glenda. At the end of our talk, Ana Glenda stresses the role that Interpeace is playing in these processes.

“We are facilitators. We are strengthening societies to deal with new challenges and accompanying them as they explore ways to move forwards – even if it is not a straightforward process.”

Source: Interpeace

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