September 22, 2013
On Thursday, September 19, the negotiating teams of the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP issued their 24th joint statement as they completed their fourteenth cycle of talks in Havana (for the English version of the statement, click here). They noted that during the cycle, they had made progress in drafting agreements on the second agenda item, political participation, particularly around the following areas:
- Rights and guarantees for the exercise of political opposition, particularly for the new movements that might result with the signing of a final agreement; access to media.
- Democratic mechanisms for citizen participation.
- Effective measures for promoting greater participation, equal opportunities, and security guarantees for all sectors, especially the most vulnerable populations, in national, regional and local politics.
The parties noted that they have been developing mechanisms for citizen participation and social dialogue, and discussing ways to strengthen and provide organizations and social movements with the guarantees necessary to participate effectively within a democratic framework. During this cycle, the FARC continued to issue recommendations on ways to stimulate popular participation in politics.
The negotiating teams have also been preparing the framework for discussing other substantive issues on the peace talks agenda–illicit crop cultivation, victims, and DDR (demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration). They called on the Colombian citizenry to join the forums on illicit drugs being organized by the United Nations and the National University in Bogotá on September 24-26, and in San José de Guaviare from October 1-3, 2013, and to continue to give inputs via the peace table’s website. They thanked Cuba, Norway, Venezuela, and Chile for their “generous support in the development of these conversations,” and noted that the next cycle is set to begin on October 3rd–just shy of the one-year mark since the launching of the peace talks in Norway.
The joint communiqué and statements issued by both delegations at the end of the session acknowledged:
- the shared assessment of the parties that progress has been made,
- the continued commitment of both parties to end the conflict and the value they place on the peace table as a mechanism for doing so, and
- the mutual commitment to the August 26, 2012 framework agreement and the rules it established.
The pressure on the table to produce more results faster increases daily. In an interview with RCN La Radio on Friday, September 20, President Juan Manuel Santos reiterated that “the moment of definitions is arriving.” He suggested that the table could reach agreements by March 2014, when Congressional elections are scheduled. This speculation implicitly revises his earlier calculations that the talks would be wrapped up in a matter of months–before the November 2013 deadline for announcing his candidacy for reelection.
These pressures are clearly being felt at the table in Havana. The lead government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, suggested that while “important advances have been achieved,” they are “not sufficient and greater results need to be shown, because the patience of the Colombians can run out.” He noted that in the Acuerdo General, the parties agreed to carry out their work “in an expeditious fashion, and in the least possible time, in order to fulfill society’s expectations for a prompt agreement.”
In addition to the tensions over the pacing of the talks, the major issue that has provoked public dissension has been the government’s referendum proposal, which nearly disrupted the previous cycle of talks, and prompted the FARC to issue an invitation to Colombian politicians to come to Havana to hear their views. (See my previous post.) The related draft legislation under consideration by the Colombian Senate would allow Colombians to vote in a referendum on any future peace accord in tandem with the current electoral calendar. Iván Márquez (Luciano Marín Arango), the FARC’s lead negotiator, noted in a press communiqué on September 19 that the President’s referendum initiative “disregarded” (desconoció) the framework agreement, as it was a “unilateral proposal” not agreed to by the parties at the table and thus “external to the spirit and letter of the Havana Accord.” In a second FARC communiqué the same day, FARC negotiator Ricardo Téllez (Rodrigo Granda) said that the government’s referendum proposal is an “imposition” that ignores the inputs of the insurgents or other social and political sectors, and violates the government’s commitment to resolve the issue in concert with its counterpart in Havana.
The FARC team has also rejected the government’s Legal Framework for Peace (Marco Jurídico por la Paz), the transitional justice package whose constitutionality was recently confirmed by the Constitutional Court. Téllez called the Legal Framework for Peace a “huge obstacle to peace,” as it makes the government both “judge and jury.” (The International Crisis Group’s new report, Transitional Justice and Colombia’s Peace Talks, discusses some of the additional ambiguities and concerns relating to the Legal Framework for Peace.)
Commitment to the Table
Despite the tensions that were apparent at the end of the cycle, both parties reiterated their commitment to the process and their confidence that it would lead to the end of conflict. At the September 19 press conference, Iván Márquez, head of the FARC-EP peace delegation, affirmed, “We are in Havana to reach formulas that will guarantee the end of the conflict for the country, the people, the entire nation.”
Likewise, de la Calle reiterated the government’s faith in the peace talks, noting, “We maintain our faith in the success of the process,” and “we know that we can advance in building agreement on the remaining Agenda items.” De la Calle underscored furthermore that the parties had reached a “transcendental agreement” on the “path to achieve radical transformations of the Colombian countryside, under the principles of equity and democracy.” This agreement, he said, goes far beyond the traditional agrarian reform efforts, in that it is “accompanied by life plans (planes de vivienda), potable water, technical assistance and capacity-building, and improving (adecuación) lands and infrastructure,” as well as providing restitution to victims of forced displacement and dispossession.
De la Calle noted that the agreement on integral rural development is in harmony with the government’s recently announced agrarian policies. He was referring to the agrarian pact announced in the wake of the national agrarian strike and protests that were launched on August 19th and shut down large parts of the country throughout rounds 13 and 14 of the peace talks. (Click here for a summary of events from El País).
Framework Accord Provides Compass to Keep Parties on Track
Having a roadmap and rules for navigation that have been agreed to by the parties is an essential part of a peace process, and even more critical when there is no third party to mediate. These rules can provide a compass to help steer the parties through disagreements as they emerge during the talks. In this last round of talks, the importance of the August 26, 2012 framework agreement became increasingly clear. Notably, both sides have begun framing their positions and complaints in relation to the Framework Agreement (Acuerdo General), reinforcing both the strength of the agreement and reflecting the parties’ mutual acknowledgement of its authority. “Neither side can take upon itself attributions that are not derived from the body of the agreement,” read one FARC-EP communiqué. Iván Márquez noted that certain “rights and obligations for the national government as well as for the FARC-EP flow from the Framework Agreement … signed on August 26, 2012 in Havana, Cuba,” and that “the bilateral, harmonious and joint development of its content guarantees stable, durable peace.”
It should be assumed that there will continue to be differences at the table. This should not cause alarm. The fact that both parties continue to feel optimistic about their capacity to resolve these differences and that they both feel bound by the same guiding document is cause for continued hope.