The peace process in the Basque Country is unique in that since 2006 it has advanced without negotiations between the separatist armed group and the Spanish and French States. In the absence of negotiations, civil society organisations have taken the lead in facilitating the termination of violence and an orderly end to the existence of the armed group. Anaiz Funosas, founder and president of the civil movement for peace, Bake Bidea comments:
"In the Northern Basque Country civil society has been the driving force behind all the initiatives and awareness raising, and it is made up of men and women from across the political and social spectrum. I think we understood how important political courage and risk-taking are for the development of the peace process."
In 2011, Conciliation Resources co-convened an international conference at the Palace of Aiete in San Sebastian that suggested the necessary steps for conflict termination. Shortly after, ETA responded by announcing its permanent termination of armed activities. Following this, ETA disarmed in 2017, through a creative process led by Artisans of Peace
– a social initiative on the French side of the Basque Country.
To support the transition to peace, we have been providing comparative lessons from other peace processes to the various civil society groups involved in this process. As Kristian Herbolzheimer, Director of Transitions to Peace at Conciliation Resources clarifies:
"All peace processes learn from previous experiences and inspire future peace initiatives elsewhere. The Basque peace process is now a reference for the role of civil society in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration."
Conciliation Resources is attending an international event on 4 May in Kanbo, which is being held to welcome the announcement of the dissolution of ETA. Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director of Conciliation Resources who is participating in the conference said:
"The end of ETA is excellent news. One of the most protracted violent conflicts in the world has terminated. However the wounds are still deep. We will continue supporting initiatives for healing and reconciliation."