Colombia working group meets with High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo

By: Gabriel Velez and Atticus Ballesteros

Just weeks into the 2016-2017 academic calendar at the University of Chicago, the peace process in Colombia was thrown into flux when the country’s electorate narrowly voted down the accords between the national government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). The agreement that was voted down was part of an effort to end over 50 years of armed conflict between the two parties, and it was built on over four years of negotiations with special attention to international standards of justice, lessons from past transitional justice processes, and the human rights of victims, indigenous groups, and women.  

Just as the failed national vote left many Colombians who supported the process stunned, it also was a moment of uncertainty for those of us at the University of Chicago who follow, study, or are interested in Colombia. Building on that moment, we organized a special interdisciplinary project to study transitional justice and human rights in Colombia, with the support of the Pozen Center. As part of this project, we host an open lunch every month to discuss updates and changes to the Colombian peace process, our own varied interests and perspectives, and next steps to build collaborations and interventions that will make a difference.

In late April 2017, we partnered with the UChicago Institute of Politics (IOP) to host a meeting with Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo. As the top Colombian official at the negotiating table, Mr. Jaramillo was deeply engaged in the peace negotiations with the FARC from the secret talks in 2011 to the formal negotiations he led between 2012 and 2017, as well as the renegotiation process following the failed plebiscite vote this past October.

During Mr. Jaramillo’s visit to Chicago, members of our working group had the opportunity to meet the High Commissioner at the IOP and hear his perspective on the peace process and the challenges that lie ahead for Colombia. According to Mr. Jaramillo, a peace process is a living organism that must be constantly attended to. He noted that the negotiations with the FARC required an immense amount of time and patience, and it was precisely this process that made the negotiations successful.

Over time, as the talks moved forward, the two parties began to acquire trust--not necessarily in each other, but in the negotiating process that they worked together to develop. In the end, Mr. Jaramillo believes that a successful peace process will alter the interests of the negotiating parties such that cooperation is more desirable than confrontation. “Winning” in this scenario, he said, is not about “winning relative to your adversary, but to your value system.”

In addition to the remarks provided by Mr. Jaramillo, each of our participants had the opportunity to ask Mr. Jaramillo questions and receive career advice. Together, we found the experience to be an enlightening and highly productive meeting for our group.

To learn more about events hosted by the Pozen Center's Special Project on Colombia resuming in autumn 2017, please email Gabriel Velez (