Politicians from Northern Ireland travel to Washington in support of peace in Colombia

Politicians from Northern Ireland travel to Washington in support of peace in Colombia

Washington, 10th March 2014

A delegation of politicians and civil society leaders from Northern Ireland, all of whom participated in the Good Friday Agreement peace negotiations, will be visiting Washington this week in order to meet with US politicians, civil society and representatives of the government. The meetings will have the objective of building up support for the Colombian peace process, recognising the significant impact of the work carried out in the United States in support of peace in Northern Ireland and sharing peace building experiences as well as impressions on the current situation in Colombia.

The delegates visited Colombia and Havana at the end of 2012 and in May 2013, meeting with President Santos and the government negotiating team as well as the FARC negotiators. The delegation also travelled to conflict regions, met with imprisoned guerrillas, and met with representatives from civil society and victims of the conflict. The group will be in Washington until March 12, in meetings with members of congress who supported the Good Friday Agreement process, and with those who have an interest in human rights, Colombia and Latin America.

Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Democratic Unionist Party:

“I was a soldier and I lost two cousins during our conflict. I saw men fall, and I witnessed the destruction and the hatred that violence sowed. Peace demands concessions from all. The Colombian conflict is far bigger than ours, but I believe there are parallels. I spoke with President Santos and with the FARC negotiating team in Havana. It is fundamental that this peace process has international support.”

Mark Durkan MP, Social Democrat and Labour Party (Good Friday Agreement negotiator and former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister):

“Building peace is a long process that demands an acceptance that there are no winners and losers. Peace is not reached by winning a war, everyone wins with peace. In Ireland everyone had to make concessions that often caused bitter debate, but that had massive international support, in particular from the United States, the media and civil society, and we were open to establish the foundations of a new political system which would allow future disagreements to be resolved pacifically. I sincerely hope that by sharing our experiences with our colleagues here, we can strengthen the peace process in Colombia.”

In addition to meeting with Members of Congress, the delegation will also meet with representatives from the State Department, with the National Endowment for Democracy, will participate in a reception hosted by the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, and will meet representatives from civil society, NGOs, and the church.

The delegation is being organised by Justice for Colombia, a British human rights NGO with the support of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the US trade union United Steelworkers of America (USW).

For more information contact Mariela Kohon at mariela@justiceforcolombia.org