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The envoy

A government “peace pedagogy” session in Colombia’s transition
Gwen Burnyeat
Traduction(s) :
L’émissaire [fr]


In 2016, Colombia said “No” to peace in a referendum, after a staunch misinformation campaign. Responding to society’s calls for official information on the Peace Accord, the government employed a strategy called “peace pedagogy” to counter the “No” campaign’s “myths” with “realities”. But can we really know which is which? Based on ethnographic research in the government’s peace office, this narrative article invites us into the shoes of a government official and a conflict victim during a peace pedagogy session, to imagine what it means to bear, and receive, this official message. In our global concern for post-truth politics, peace pedagogy offers a tool for government–society communication in contexts of misinformation and polarisation.

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1The old man sits on the steps of the sports stadium and stretches his bad leg out diagonally. His knee hurts if he keeps it bent for too long and he expects this meeting to go on for a while – too many years climbing cacao trees and carrying the heavy harvest in a basket, unevenly, over one shoulder. The damp had got into the knee joint. His wife had always told him not to go harvesting when the mist was gathering in the valley, but he always went anyway: they needed each kilo of cacao beans for their son’s school fees. Now she wasn’t there anymore to tell him, God rest her soul, but still he hears her voice in his head when he leaves for the cacaotera, slinging his wicker basket over his shoulder, machete in hand.

2The birds are singing outside, bells are ringing in the village church, and other people’s knees are digging into his back. He wipes a spot of mud off the top of his boots; he had missed it when he cleaned them in the stream outside the village. He likes to be impeccable when he comes to town. Around him, he recognises people from other rural settlements near the town. They had been shuttled in on buses hired by the government, but none of the buses passed his house: it was too far off the main track, and he didn’t have the money to pay for a moto-taxi, so he had walked, refilling his water bottle at the stream. He can see a strange blonde woman two rows in front of him with a computer; she’s not from around here. Perhaps she’s one of those United Nations people trying to help the country make peace.

3His neighbour said he was wasting his time. “What are you gonna go listen to the government for? If there was a bus passing I would go, sure, I’d take advantage of the free trip to town, buy some supplies and visit my niece, but walking three hours under the hot sun and missing a day’s work? You’re crazy.”

4“I want to hear about the peace process.”

5“What peace, man? You know that’s all a load of crap.”

6“I heard the FARC are demobilising.”

7“The FARC can demobilise, but that don’t mean peace. There’s paramilitaries still, and the army is no better. There’ll never be peace in Colombia.”

8“I just want to know.”

9“Ain’t no peace process that can bring back the dead, don Filimón.”

10“I know, mijo, I know.”

11“Safe journey, my friend. Bring me back some cooking oil?”


13On the sports hall floor in front of them are four plastic tables in a row, flanked by two large loudspeakers. He can see the mayor’s staff fussing about with cables and a computer, which suddenly projects a weak image onto a screen. They’re milling around a girl - is she the government representative? Surely not, she’s so young, can’t be more than 25 – the age his son was when they killed him. But she must be. She’s pointing to things on the computer, and the mayor’s staff are calling her “doctora”; they always call important people that. She’s so white. They’re always white, the ones who come from Bogotá. Not browned by years of work outdoors under the tropical sun. The conflict happened here, in the rural areas. What can she possibly know about war?

The anthropologist

14You have probably heard about the peace process between the Government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). It was widely talked about in the global media. A country infamous for cocaine-trafficking, guerrillas, kidnapping, and violence was finally making a transition to post-conflict after three previous failed peace processes. Over the course of the negotiations, which took place in Havana over four years from 2012, violence de-escalated, the country became safer, tourism increased, and The Economist named it “country of the year” in 2016, the year that President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for leading peace negotiations.

15You might also have heard that in 2016, the year Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” word of the year, Colombia voted “No” to peace. The Havana Peace Agreement was put to a national referendum on 2 October, and the results—50.2% “No”; 49.8% “Yes”, and 63% abstention—were unexpected, even for “No” campaigners, as polls had forecast a win for “Yes”. In between Brexit and Trump’s election, Colombia’s “post-truth” moment involved a strident “No” campaign, spearheaded by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of Colombia between 2002 and 2010, and his political party, the Democratic Centre. Their campaign demanded changes to the deal, and spread misinformation about it in traditional media, on billboards, and via social media: if “Yes” won, the FARC were going to take power, turn Colombia communist, and destroy the economy, making it “the next Venezuela”; there would be impunity for crimes against humanity (despite the International Criminal Court’s praise for the deal); and the Peace Agreement contained “gender ideology” that would teach children to become homosexual in schools and destroy the traditional family unit. The “No” campaign manager revealed afterwards that they had purposefully sought to make people “go to vote angry”, designing different campaign messages to provoke “indignation” among different social and regional groups. Colombia’s highest administrative tribunal later ruled that the “No” campaign had been based on “generalised deceit”.

16You may not have heard, however, about “peace pedagogy”—a term that emerged during the peace process in Colombia to describe the act of explaining the Peace Agreement to different publics, to encourage people to take an informed decision with their vote, and to counter the “No” campaign’s “myths” with “realities”. The Agreement itself was a complex, 300-page document. It comprised six points: (1) rural reform to address inequalities in the countryside, a key structural driver for the FARC’s armed struggle; (2) political participation of the FARC and broadening democracy more generally; (3) ending the conflict, disarmament of the FARC, and their reincorporation into society; (4) tackling the drug-trafficking which had fuelled and degraded the conflict since the 1980s; (5) redressing the rights of over eight million victims of the conflict (including over six million internally displaced people) to truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition, following standards in international law; and (6) implementation and verification mechanisms, including the fateful decision to seek citizen endorsement via a referendum. In the run-up to the Referendum, hundreds of civil society organisations, universities, journalists, international organisations, and grassroots community organisations worked tirelessly to disseminate this information, via face-to-face talks, informative pamphlets, videos, social media, radio programmes, public forums, and myriad creative strategies, from rap lyrics to graffiti.

17From early in the peace negotiations, varied sectors of Colombian society—from academics, to the business sector, to grassroots communities—lobbied the government to inform citizens about negotiations. This term, “peace pedagogy”, filtered into government discourse, and a designated peace pedagogy team was created within the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, the branch of the presidency that provided technical support to the government negotiating team in Havana, led by High Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo and chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle. Other world peace agreements have been put to referenda, but there is no precedent for government peace pedagogy, in Colombia or globally. The government peace pedagogy team was sent all over the country, bearing official information to share with Colombians in different regions and from different social sectors.

18As Uribe’s opposition and misinformation campaign grew, the concept of peace pedagogy consolidated, seen as the rational, technical antidote to emotional, populist, political campaigning. The peace pedagogues were envoys, carriers of authentic information from the Havana negotiating table to society. But can we really know which is which? As an anthropologist, I was trained to bear witness in one place and transmit what I saw there in another—another kind of envoy—but always to recognise the subjectivity inherent in my account, and not to try to pass it off as an objective account of facts. Yet have we really got to the point globally where we cannot speak about a difference between truth and lies? Is “truth” so problematic a claim?

19After the Referendum, a criticism began to circulate among different groups of Colombians: “The government didn’t do enough peace pedagogy.” Those who espoused this view believed that those who voted “No” did so because they were duped and because they had not read the Peace Agreement, or any of the short pamphlets, videos, images, infographics, or radio summaries produced by the government and by civil society organisations. The Peace Agreement was complex; therefore it was the government’s duty to explain it accessibly. The Constitutional Court, which had set the rules for the Referendum, had even stipulated that the government had a duty to inform, but was not allowed to campaign. It had to do pedagogy, but not politics. But what is the difference, and who gets to decide where the distinction is drawn?

  • 1 IFIT, Los debates de La Hababa. Una mirada desde adentro, Bogotá, Instituto para las Transiciones (...)

20After victory for the “No” vote, the government spent five weeks meeting with “No” campaigners to receive their objections and proposals to modify the deal. They then renegotiated the deal with the FARC, and signed a new deal on 24 November 2016 which incorporated almost all the “No” campaign’s demands. Instead of risking a second referendum, President Santos decided to put the new Peace Agreement to Congress, which ratified the deal, and implementation began on 1 December 2016. However, the loss of the Referendum, which was meant to confer social and political legitimacy on the Peace Agreement, led instead to a “legitimacy deficit”1 which haunted implementation. Uribe and the Democratic Centre refused to back the new deal; they abstained from the ratification vote in Congress and decided to build on their success in the Referendum and continue opposing Santos’ peace process to garner support for the 2018 congressional and presidential elections. Government peace pedagogy continued, informing citizens about the contents of the Agreement, but also about advances in implementation—the disarmament of 13,000 FARC members in 26 camps around the country; the creation of agencies to implement land reform; and the setting up of transitional justice institutions.

21I spent 13 months accompanying the government “peace pedagogues” in this context, and I saw the increasing difficulties they faced in being the mouthpieces of the Santos government before distrustful audiences, as the peace process was contaminated by political polarisation arising from the Referendum. It later became the central issue that the 2018 elections hinged on. Peace pedagogy, in this context, was still trying to be “rational” and “technical”—aiming to inform, and by informing, encourage Colombians to vote for a president who would implement the Peace Agreement. However, Uribe’s opposition grew, and his candidate, Iván Duque, by promising to make substantial changes to the Peace Agreement, won the elections.

22As I write this, Duque has been President of Colombia for nearly two years. Although implementation continues, with many challenges, multiple Colombian and international organisations and observers have criticised Duque for undermining the peace process, and allowing a new cycle of violence to emerge, as hundreds of FARC ex-combatants who disarmed have been assassinated, as well as hundreds of social leaders who had campaigned for peace. In fact, these assassinations began after the peace referendum. Just as after Brexit, there was a spike in hate crime in the UK, the Referendum seemed to legitimise people’s hatred against the FARC and against peace activists, and this has consolidated under Duque.

23Might things have been different if the Santos government had carried out more peace pedagogy, or done so earlier, or better? Might the 2016 Referendum have been won? Or might a different president, more committed to implementing the Peace Agreement, have won in 2018? Perhaps, perhaps not. I want to zoom in now on a single peace pedagogy session, to try to put ourselves in two quite different pairs of shoes in order to understand the complexities of carrying, and receiving, the government’s message of peace.


24They finally get the PowerPoint working. She can do without, but it’s harder to remember the order of her presentation and she thinks it makes it look more official: the slides have the names and numbers of decrees and things. Yes, it’s a lot of information for people to take in, but she tries to explain it simply, as if talking to her grandmother, who doesn’t follow politics much. Yes, she realises it’s a lot of technical language, but she believes it’s important for everyone to know the truth. There’s been so much misinformation, the Democratic Centre Party spread such lies during the Referendum. People thought they were voting against communism, against homosexuality, even against abortion—but they were voting against peace. The record needs to be set straight.

25How many people are in front of her? Two, three hundred? She was promised six hundred. All this effort, visiting all these towns—all the costs, her flights, hotels, and the buses—they’re probably visiting their relatives instead of coming to the talk. People don’t understand how important it is to know what’s actually in the Peace Agreement. They complain the government didn’t do enough peace pedagogy and that’s why people voted against the Agreement in the 2016 Referendum. But she and her team put in so much effort for the Referendum, and were doing so again now, under implementation, travelling the country spreading the message. Yet people don’t come. Of course there’s mistrust. Not just the government but the whole of the state has abandoned these conflict regions for years. There’s a lack of development, no roads. Sure, that’s why the FARC got so powerful. They were the state in these places. But she’s so tired of all the criticisms. People need to realise this is an opportunity, but only if we all work together. It’s urgent to get people to support the peace process – if we don’t, the Democratic Centre will carry on spreading lies and fear and hatred against the peace process, and they’ll win the 2018 presidential elections next year. Then we’ll be screwed.

26It’s so hot here. She’s sweating already, her shirt sticking to the back of the plastic chair, and she’s dizzy from lack of sleep; she got up at 3 a.m. to take the first flight to Medellín, then a car drove her five hours through roads too winding and potholed to doze through. The British anthropologist who’s shadowing her team says that this peace pedagogy is a global innovation, that nowhere else in the world has the staff of a government administration engaged society with informative strategies in parallel to carrying out a peace process. She glances at her notes. First, overview of the peace process. Then each of the six points of the Peace Agreement: land reform, political participation, ending the conflict (ceasefire and disarmament), drug-trafficking, victims’ rights, implementation, and monitoring. Then, explain progress in implementation so far, and remind them it won’t all happen overnight. Make sure they know why it’s important for them to learn the six points, so they can participate. Then Q&A, lunch, jump in the air-conditioned car, and on to the next town; repeat, then sleep in a scruffy hotel somewhere and do it all again tomorrow.

27The mayor starts speaking, welcoming the communities to the town. Pilar’s mind wanders. Will she get paid on time this month? She hasn’t paid her rent yet and she’s getting angry WhatsApp messages from her landlord. But she needs to spend the money she’s got left on transport round these villages; the reimbursement of her expenses takes longer than her salary. Nothing works properly with the state. She’s been wondering about moving to the private sector; her aunt could get her a job in her cosmetics company. But she believes in the peace process, she believes in the effort that President Santos is making to end the 50-year armed conflict with the FARC; she wants to be part of the transformation of Colombia, and the only way to improve the state is for more good people to go and work for it. People always criticise the state – it’s easy to criticise from the outside, she tells them. But try doing things as the state; see how hard it is. You’ve got to be on the inside to make change happen. She studied political science at a private university in Bogotá; she knows she’s privileged and she wants to use that privilege to make a difference. It doesn’t help that there’s so little incentive to stay in her job. And who knows what will happen to the peace process if the Democratic Centre wins the elections? Their opposition to the peace process is the cornerstone of Duque’s presidential campaign. We can’t let them win, she thinks. We have to make sure the country elects a president who will continue implementing the Peace Agreement. Any of the others will be OK. Just not Duque. Please not Duque.

28The national anthem starts playing over the speakers. She and the audience stand. It’s followed by the departmental anthem of Antioquia, and the town’s anthem. The number of people in the audience who know the words is fewer at each song; she suspects only the mayor is actually singing the anthem of the town. Then they sit, and the mayor gives her the microphone.

29“Thank you all so much for coming. It is with you, the communities, that peace is built. As you know, the government and the FARC signed a peace agreement in November. But implementation will take 15 years, and involves everyone, not just the FARC and the government.”

30All eyes are on her.

31“Now, we cannot sign an agreement and expect all those transformations overnight. Obviously it doesn’t work like that. The negotiations in Havana were about ending a conflict between the government and the FARC. In Havana, they didn’t sign peace. Peace is built in the territories, with the people. We cannot sit and wait for the state to wave a magic wand and do a load of transformations. We can’t say it’s the state that has to provide everything. No. We, as citizens, have to participate in the process, and work hand-in-hand with the state.”

32She hopes she’s getting through to them. She hopes they will see that they have to mobilise, to participate, in order to build peace.

33“International experts say peace-building can last even longer than the conflict. So it could take us more than 50 years.”

34She always mentions the international experts. The audience needs to realise that there are other countries that have done this, transitioned away from war. People always say, “In Colombia there’ll never be peace”, but other countries have done it.

35Next come the six points, each one with a PowerPoint slide. It’s a 300-page agreement; she can’t go into detail. The script the government peace pedagogy team agreed on presents the points and highlights a few key elements of each.

  • 2 Although it had been agreed in the Peace Agreement, Congress later rejected the law enabling the c (...)

36On land reform, she highlights the land bank that will be created to give people land if they haven’t got any, the rural development participatory planning schemes, and the updating of the land registry. On point two, political participation, she explains the statute of opposition, the commission of experts who will make recommendations on electoral reform, and the 16 special peace constituencies, to enable greater representation in Congress of the regions most affected by the conflict. This region is going to be one of the constituencies, so these people will be able to vote for a representative.2 On point three, she tells them about the 26 disarmament and reincorporation zones, in which 13,000 members of the FARC are currently laying down their arms with UN supervision. On drug-trafficking, she mentions the crop-substitution programmes for people currently growing illegal coca crops, the plans to dismantle the drug-trafficking groups, and the new health policy for treating drug consumers.

37She knows many people in this audience might be victims of the conflict, so she spends more time on point five, explaining in detail its judicial component, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and non-judicial components, the Truth Commission and the Unit to Search for Disappeared Persons. She explains that the international community has praised this system for balancing peace and justice, and reminds them of what President Santos always says: that the victims are at the centre of the peace process.

38Finally, on point six, she lists and explains the commissions that will monitor implementation. She wants her audience to know there’s a serious methodology to ensure compliance by both sides; it’s not just one more promise.

39She takes a swig of water. She can see the anthropologist in the audience, laptop balanced on her knees, writing down everything she’s saying. She hopes she’s got everything right. She glances at her watch. She’s been talking for an hour already, and she’s got to leave time for the Q&A before lunch, so she speeds through her last slides, on implementation.

40“Sometimes people in the territories get desperate when they do not see the things in the Agreement happening straightaway. But first it’s necessary to create commissions, set up institutions, and create new laws in order to implement the points.”

41She tells them about the process of passing the laws in Congress, some statistics about the FARC’s disarmament progress, abbreviations for the new institutions that have been created to implement the land reform, and finishes with her boss’s anecdote about the pilot demining programme. How when the FARC and the army were working together, clearing land mines, two men recognised each other’s faces. They had shot at each other in combat a decade earlier; now they were working together for peace. Important to tell anecdotes, her boss says, because we have to connect with people’s emotions. Pedagogy is not just about facts.

42She asks if there are any questions. Hands go up. The mayor’s secretary takes a roaming microphone to the audience.

43A woman asks, “What’s going to happen with security in the areas the FARC left? The Agreement says that the zones the FARC leaves will be occupied by the state, but so far we haven’t seen any state presence. How long do we have to wait?”

44“Implementation isn’t going to happen overnight,” she says. “I don’t have a date for you, but the Commission on Security Guarantees has been created and is working on this.”

45A man asks, “When will this rural reform begin? Can we already go and ask for land? Where is this land?”

46This is the remit of a different institution. “The land bank will last twelve years and has 3 million hectares,” she says. She has answered these same questions dozens of times. “It’s the job of the National Land Agency. They will send representatives here when they’re ready to start, and you can go and speak to them.”

47Another man says, “It all sounds lovely, but we are used to politicians not fulfilling things. Here, the candidates for mayor organise parties, make promises, and then forget us. Who is going to make sure all of this is fulfilled?”

48Everyone laughs and claps. This often happens; people use public forums as an opportunity to criticise the mayors. So much local electoral politics is clientelism and corruption. She understands the mistrust, but she thinks people need to change their attitude. Less complaining, more doing, as her mum always says.

49“Well,” she says, “I told you about the different monitoring commissions that are going to ensure compliance. But we shouldn’t be thinking it won’t be fulfilled. We have to think about getting things done. Because it’s not an option for it not to happen. We have to make it happen. Yes, historically, there have been deficiencies in the state, but we have to participate. We cannot carry on with the idea that the state never fulfils. We have to demand compliance.”

50She signals the cardboard boxes she’s brought from Bogotá, packed with a few hundred copies of the blue and white informative government booklet, “The Final Peace Agreement: The Opportunity to Build Peace”.

51“I invite you all to study the Agreement. We have to do our own monitoring, not just think, oh, the internationals are going to monitor. No! We, the citizens, the people in the territories, we are the ones being affected, we have to monitor the points.”

52She says there’s time for one more question, and the roving mic is handed to an old man in a straw hat, who stands up with some difficulty, straightening his leg slowly.

53“I don’t want there to be any more war, ever again.” He’s mumbling slightly, people around him encourage him to speak up. “I lost my son and my wife in the war. My son and I, we were out working, and the FARC came to my house. They asked for water, that’s all they wanted. My wife gave it to them. She was alone, she couldn’t say no. Then the army came, and killed her for collaborating with the guerrillas. My son, he got resentful, so he joined the FARC because he wanted revenge. But they captured him, and killed him. I don’t believe in the state. You, the state, killed my family. I was heavier before. Look how skinny I am. But if you’re going to make peace now, that’s good. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone in Colombia, ever again.”

54She has heard so many stories like this in these sessions. She’s used to people addressing her as “the state”, as if she were responsible for what the army did to his son. She has learned not to take it personally, but she wishes people wouldn’t use this space for venting. She knows it’s important to listen, as the state. But it would be better if people focussed on asking questions about the Peace Agreement. Because now she’ll go away, and they’ll have to take the message back to their communities, and this is their opportunity to get all the facts straight. But there is no time for more questions. She thanks the audience, shakes the mayor’s hand, and ejects her USB stick from the slow municipal laptop.


55He’s glad he got the chance to say his piece. He wanted the girl to understand what happened to people here, and take his story back to Bogotá, to tell her bosses, the people in charge, why it’s so important to make peace. He doesn’t like this President Santos, who was Minister of Defence when the army killed his wife, but he wants to believe peace is possible. He came for his wife and son, to tell the government, to their face, what they had done to him.

56He waits patiently in the queue for the lunches being handed out by the mayor’s staff: rice and chicken stew in polystyrene boxes; cartons of warm juice. He bends his leg in and out a few times, in preparation for the walk back up the mountain.

The anthropologist

57I cringe at first, listening to Pilar. Her urban middle-class demeanour clashes with that of people from the communities. Telling them why peace matters, when she obviously comes from a family that has not suffered in the conflict, when this town, this region, over the last 40 years has suffered massacres, forced displacement, and repeated violent takeovers by both guerrillas and paramilitaries.

  • 3 Joel Robbins, "Beyond the Suffering Subject: Toward an Anthropology of the Good", Journal of the R (...)

58It’s easy to empathise with the audience I am sitting among: the “suffering other”,3 the victims of violence, living amidst armed confrontation. In many ways, a government trying to make peace is more “other” than a victim. But, I remind myself, my back aching from keeping upright in this heat, that anthropology means giving the same interpretative dignity to all. I have to see things from Pilar’s perspective, too, and working in her office, I’ve seen the pressure she’s under, and how difficult it is to get anything done as the state, with all its bureaucracy and internal politics. The challenge is to take seriously the experiences of the government peace pedagogy team, while not losing sight of either their structural privilege and power in Colombian society, or the responsibility of the government and its members in Colombia’s future.

59Peace, in the end, is about the state. It’s the state that implements a peace agreement. Mistrust in the state is common in post-conflict societies, and in communities like this one, discourses about “state abandonment” are deeply rooted. The state has been an actor in the conflict, and there is extreme historic distrust of the state. I can see all this being projected onto Pilar, when she stands in front of the audience. It is not her fault that the structural inequalities of Colombian society are imprinted on her face, her clothes, her accent. She is just a human being, a product of the context that shaped her. It is not easy for her: the peace pedagogues have no power to act; their only role in the government is to fly in from Bogotá, deliver a script, and leave again. Pilar is right. To protect the peace process, state and society need to work together, yet peace pedagogy reveals a chasm in the government–society relationship, which, while having specific dynamics in the Colombian case, perhaps has global echoes.

  • 4 As of 9 April 2019, according to the Kroc Institute in charge of monitoring compliance: https://kr (...)

60You may be wondering about the current state of the peace process. It’s fair to say it now hangs in the balance. Gains were made that are not so easily reversed, notably the disarmament of 90% of the FARC and their transition to a political party, and the creation of a transitional justice system. But the power vacuum left by the FARC has been filled by other non-state armed groups; talks with the remaining guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), broke down under Duque; and Duque has favoured a return to forced eradication of illicit coca crops instead of the crop-substitution promised in the agreement, devastating poor farmers and increasing violence in coca-growing territories. Duque’s government has also drastically cut the budgets of the transitional justice mechanisms, and made repeated attacks on the legislature governing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the court created to investigate, judge, sentence, and sanction those most responsible for grave crimes committed in the conflict on both sides. With a reconfiguring of armed groups across the territory, the assassination of over 500 local community leaders and over 150 FARC ex-combatants, some influential FARC commanders have returned to arms. Altogether, only 35% of the Peace Agreement has so far been fully implemented.4 Under Duque, Pilar and her colleagues have left, because government personnel are changed with each administration. Peace pedagogy is no longer the priority, and if it were, the message would be quite different, given the new government’s line on peace.

61Could a stronger government–society alliance have prevented this tragedy? The Santos government carried out hundreds of different peace pedagogy projects between 2012 and 2018, travelling all over the country to inform people and answer their questions. I believe there were many problems with how they did it; not least, a case of too little, too late. Ultimately, “peace pedagogy” is just one element in the government’s communication to and relationship with society. Yet this “policy pedagogy”, as we might call it more broadly, may offer a blueprint for conveying relevant information to societies in other contexts marked by political polarisation and disinformation. A form of diplomacy from government to society, perhaps, but one that requires close attention to the broader government–society relationship, and the problematisation of the idea of rational, technical, objective “truths”, without deconstructing it into oblivion.

62The future of the peace process depends on continued support from the international community, and on the thousands of Colombian citizens and organisations who courageously continue to lobby the Duque government for implementation of the Peace Agreement, as it was agreed, with equal attention to all six points. My role as anthropologist, as I see it, is to transmit this message, with all possible caveats about truth versus post-truth, but standing by my belief in the need for a negotiated solution to armed conflict in Colombia. Perhaps this is also, in its modest way, a form of peace pedagogy.

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1 IFIT, Los debates de La Hababa. Una mirada desde adentro, Bogotá, Instituto para las Transiciones Integrales, 2018, p. 24.

2 Although it had been agreed in the Peace Agreement, Congress later rejected the law enabling the creation of these constituencies.

3 Joel Robbins, "Beyond the Suffering Subject: Toward an Anthropology of the Good", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute no. 19, 2013, pp. 447–462, online  : [last access, October 2020].

4 As of 9 April 2019, according to the Kroc Institute in charge of monitoring compliance: [last access, October 2020].

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Gwen Burnyeat, « The envoy »Terrain [En ligne], 73 | 2020, mis en ligne le 09 octobre 2020, consulté le 29 mars 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Gwen Burnyeat

University College London

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