Basque Country – social forum to promote the peace process

The Social Forum is an example of how a citizens’ initiative can generate new ideas and solutions to overcome impasses and find new ways to progress in the consolidation of the peace process. 

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Conflict Background


By Lokarri

At the end of June the Social Forum to promote the peace process organised a further round of working sessions, in which new themes related to the peace process were discussed with the aim of giving civil society a high profile in the process. One of the sessions focused on citizens’ participation – more specifically, the citizens of Navarre – while the other went into greater detail on one of the sets of recommendations, i.e. aspects related to the reintegration of persons in prison or on the run.

Driving the consolidation of peace and peaceful coexistence

The Social Forum started its activities in March 2013 with the clear objective of giving a boost to the peace process through citizens’ dialogue and participation. Our society has a great challenge facing it: to consolidate peaceful co-existence based on respect for plurality and the human rights of everyone. Major progress has been made over the last few years but considerable obstacles still remain that have to be solved to consolidate an inclusive peace process. For this reason, initiatives such as the Social Forum are necessary in order to reflect, share and define new solutions.

Raising the profile of civil society in the peace process

One of the main objectives of the Social Forum to promote the peace process has been to promote citizens’ participation. This commitment has been adopted based on the conviction that society should have a high-profile role to play in the construction of
peaceful coexistence.

Society cannot be a mere spectator on the side lines in the peace process, with only a secondary role. Its voice and opinions should be heard and taken into account, because the sustainability of peace and peaceful coexistence depends, to a large extent, on society feeling involved and active in the search for solutions. It is the way forward in achieving peace and peaceful coexistence that is really person-centred.

The Social Forum is also an example of how a citizens’ initiative can generate new ideas and solutions to overcome impasses and find new ways to progress in the consolidation of the peace process.

To this end, the Social Forum prepared these new initiatives in order to continue strengthening the profile of civil society and offer new spaces for participation.

June 20th. Pamplona-Iruñea – citizens’ participation in the peace process

This session of the Social Forum focused on citizens’ participation in the peace process. The objective was to learn about experiences and tools that can facilitate citizens’ involvement and strengthen civil society’s profile in the construction of peaceful coexistence.

At the same time, and more specifically, the matter of the participation of the citizens of Navarre in the peace process was examined.

Navarre has been a part of the problem and should be a part of the solution. Navarre has experienced all these years of violence directly, in a climate of confrontation, social tension and violations of human rights. The effects of these years of destructive conflict have also been seen in the relations between the different identities and political sensibilities in the region. Then there is also a clear reflection of all this in relations on a local level.

There is now an opportunity to improve social harmony and lay the groundwork to create an inclusive, peaceful and reconciled social coexistence. In this sense, it is also an opportunity for Navarre. However, one difficulty that this objective is faced with is that the Government of Navarre has passed up an opportunity to play an active and proactive role.

One of the sessions of the Social Forum was held in Pamplona-Iruñea in March 2013. More than 300 people took part, providing a clear example that a large proportion of the people of Navarre wants to play an active role in the peace process.

For this reason, a space for dialogue and reflection was opened up in this session of the Social Forum around the possibilities that exist for the citizens of Navarre to have a space and a role in working towards peace.

June 21st. Bilbao – the reintegration of persons in prison and on the run

This session of the Forum made a detailed examination of the content of each of the groups of recommendations (made in May 2013) on the reintegration of persons in prison and on the run.

The recommendations proposed by the Social Forum on this issue were as follows:

4. – We recommend that a consensus is found on a comprehensive solution to the issue of prisoners and people “on the run”. This is essential to building a stable and lasting coexistence. To do this, we consider it necessary to adapt the law to the new reality and implement a transitional justice that helps society to consolidate coexistence. At the same time, and as a starting point, aspects of the prison policy that contravene human rights or that go against the humanitarian treatment of prisoners must be modified, eliminating exceptional prison policy measures that oppose the international standards. In particular, the situation of those who are seriously ill, the refusal to allow the release of prisoners who have served their sentence, and the dispersion of prisoners, which punishes their families.

5. – We recommend that the process of reintegration be done through legal channels, accepting that it – being comprehensive – may take place in an individualised, staggered manner and within a reasonable timescale. This process requires that prisoners show their commitment to the new scenario of peace and renounce violent means. Furthermore, as the case may be, there should be recognition on their part of the harm done as a result of their actions.

6. – We recommend that prisoners be active agents of the process of peace and normalization. Therefore, it is important to facilitate contacts and the exchange of opinions between prisoners and Basque society and the competent institutions, in order to promote coexistence for a future in which no type of violence takes place.

7. – We recommend examining the situation of people on the run, exploring ways for their integration into society and providing solutions for them.

Each of the recommendations represents a major challenge within the objective of reintegration. This is why this new edition of the Social Forum dealt with them to define new ideas and proposals.

This session of the Social Forum addressed the following issues:

  • Respect for the Human Rights of Prisoners
  • Prisoners as active players in the peace process
  • A comprehensive reintegration process

Preparation of conclusions

The conclusions of the Forum will be presented in public in July, taking into account all the contributions received as well as the interventions of participants on the different panels.

Lokarri is a citizens’ network that works for peace, consensus, consultation and reconciliation. To learn more about their work, please click here.

If you are interested in contributing to the debate on conflict in Spain, particularly the Basque Country or Catalonia, then please contact TransConflict by clicking here.

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