Skip to main content

The Colombian Government and the ELN Rebels Are Negotiating Again. Women Need a Seat at the Table

January 26, 2023
Shauna N. Gillooly


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Shauna N. Gillooly, a postdoctoral fellow at the Global Research Institute housed at William & Mary, analyzes what women’s participation in peace negotiations reveal about the durability of peace.

The last time the Colombian government and the leftist rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) began negotiations in 2018, they were disrupted by a car bomb set off in Bogota, which killed 20. The ELN claimed responsibility for the bomb, which immediately ended negotiations. Now, the government and the rebels are back at the negotiating table.

The ELN formed in the 1960s, and has since established a transnational presence across Colombia and Venezuela, and controls much of the illicit economies along the border of the two countries. A peace accord with the group could significantly improve security in both Colombia and Venezuela, but the obstacles to peace are significant.

Official peace negotiations tend to reflect the ways that war is waged, and ownership of these processes often reinforces pre-existing power structures and dynamics in a society. Social inclusion and integration can have positive consequences for the sustainability of peace accords and their implementation, but peace processes often exclude rather than include. Past research shows that women’s exclusion in peace processes can be seen as the canary in the coal mine—“a highly visible marker of the broader exclusivity of such processes, and the complex dynamics of elite capture in war and peace processes.”

Women’s participation in peace negotiations and peace processes creates more durable and lasting peace, and peace deals signed by women have higher rates of implementation. Yet, women continue to be primarily excluded from these processes. Between 1992 and 2011, only 2 percent of chief mediators and 9 percent of negotiators in peace processes were women.

With many Colombian citizens unhappy with the implementation of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC, another leftist rebel group), the negotiations with the ELN face a new challenge—skepticism. What can experience from the peace negotiations with the FARC tell us about the likelihood that women—and other groups—will be involved in this new round of negotiations with the ELN—and thus, about the durability of the negotiated peace?

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.