Ana Teresa Bernal Montañés
This profile was prepared when Ana Teresa Bernal Montañés was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Ana Teresa Bernal is strengthening the citizen peace movement in Colombia by bringing together various isolated local peace organizations of youth, women, and indigenous people to form a strong and unified voice for ending the violence in Colombia. Through the National Network of Citizen Initiatives for Peace and Against War (REDEPAZ), Ana Teresa unites the range of organizations promoting peace to set a common agenda of activities and create their own solutions to the country's problems instead of waiting for the actors of the armed conflict to do so. Their activities include: the creation of peace territories (towns and municipalities that declare themselves peace zones and adopt various measures to ensure that the armed participants in the conflict do not bring violence into their areas); the establishment of public referenda where children as well as adults have the opportunity to express their desires for peace via official ballot votes; creation and lobbying in favor of proposals which forbid armed groups from involving young children in the war; and representation of the unified voice of civil society in peace negotiations with government officials, guerilla representatives, union leaders and academics. In the past, negotiations and general discussion of the Colombian conflict have excluded representatives of civil society, particularly members of youth, women's, indigenous peoples' and farmers groups. Instead they have been limited to representatives of the more powerful sub-sectors, such as unions, universities, and the different religious sectors. By creating a network that provides a vehicle to engage diverse actors of the citizen sector in the movement for peace, Ana Teresa is working to achieve an "integral" or complete peace in Colombia where citizens coexist harmoniously in an atmosphere of social and economic justice, cultural democracy and respect for human rights, life and diversity. Instead of viewing peace as an absence of conflict, Ana Teresa is redefining peace as a way of approaching conflicts differently, where dialogue, non-violent action and negotiation are fundamental components.