January 25, 2016
With the self-imposed deadline for a final peace deal only two months away, the Colombian peace talks have shifted into high gear. Last Tuesday, the peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC called on the UN Security Council to approve a one-year, renewable, unarmed political mission to monitor and verify with the parties an anticipated bilateral ceasefire, and to oversee the cessation of hostilities, and setting aside of arms.
Days later, the international community began to respond. UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq confirmed receipt of the request, commended “the advance made between the Government and the FARC,” and noted that the United Nations stood “ready to support this accord.” Uruguayan Ambassador Elbio Rosselli, president of the Security Council in January, promised to carry out the “necessary actions” to constitute the solicited mission. The United Kingdom reportedly sent a draft resolution to members of the Security Council that requested the Secretary-General “to initiate preparations and to present detailed recommendations to the Security Council for its consideration and approval” within 30 days of the signing of a ceasefire agreement. Finally, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), asked by the parties in Havana to contribute observers to the UN mission, said it will consider the request at this week’s CELAC summit in Ecuador. There Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to join some twenty presidential counterparts from around the hemisphere. CELAC’s participation would underscore the strong regional support that exists for a political solution to the western hemisphere’s oldest internal armed conflict.
Joint Statement Defines Schedule for Moving toward Conflict’s End
On Jan. 22, the peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC-EP reiterated their intent to reach a final agreement in Havana and announced a series of decisions to facilitate reaching an agreement to end the conflict. In a joint statement, they announced that they would:
- Create an Executive Commission, composed of plenipotentiaries from each delegation as well as additional delegation members and advisors charged with relevant themes. The Commission will facilitate strategic approaches, make decisions to speed up the drafting and editing of agreements, and supervise the work of the peace delegations in Havana.
- Establish a work plan with a schedule that addresses both the remaining themes as well as those pending from agreements already reached. The schedule will help the Executive Commission organize the remaining work in a more efficient way, supervise its development, and enable the commission to make the decisions needed to address pending issues, including the creation of new working groups.
- Request the heads of the subcommision that has been working for the last semester on the themes of the “End of the Conflict”, the third agenda item in the framework agreement, to deliver the conclusions of their work to the Executive Commission no later than Saturday, Jan. 23. (On Saturday, as requested, high-level military leaders from the government and the FARC who sit on the technical subcommission on the End of the Conflict led by General Javier Flórez for the government and Carlos Antonio Lozada for the FARC submitted the report containing the subcommission’s proposals. It was reported to include proposals related to the technical and logistical operations for the final stages of the war, including procedures for turning in weapons, the transfer of insurgents to zones for disarming, verification procedures for the cessation of hostilities, and security guarantees for demobilizing combatants.
- Request that, as quickly as possible, the gender subcommision finish its review from a gender perspective of the agreements on agrarian development, political participation, and illicit crops and drugtrafficking–points 1, 2, and 4, respectively, of the general framework agreement guiding the peace talks in Havana.
Shift in Methodology
In their joint statement, the parties also confirmed that the delegations will work without interruption in a continuous cycle and the government delegation will remain in Havana for the duration of the talks as needed. Meeting days will be planned in a way that facilitates the exchange of specific proposals on the remaining themes, which are all linked. The delegations may work separately for several days and then call on the Executive Commission whenever it might be necessary. The parties promised to keep the guarantor and accompanying nations informed of the work of the Executive Commission and the working groups.
New Forum Solicited
The parties, furthermore, called on the United Nations in Colombia and the Centro de Pensamiento y Seguimiento al Diálogos de Paz of the Universidad Nacional to organize and coordinate as quickly as possible a final forum on the two major items remaining on the agenda from the framework agreement, namely, “End of the Conflict” and “Implementation, Verification, and Endorsement” of the Accords.
New Communications and Educational Strategies
Likewise, the parties committed to creating a joint communications strategy and a pedagogy aimed at disseminating the contents of the agreements reached so far with the Colombian public. In recent weeks, FARC peace delegates were authorized to return to Colombia to begin to familiarize FARC troops with the agreements being made in Havana and to respond to their questions.
FARC Prisoners Join Delegation in Havana
This week, four of the 30 FARC prisoners pardoned in the context of the ongoing peace negotiations are preparing to travel to Havana. (See “Ya son 24 los guerrilleros…”). There they have been authorized by the Colombian government to receive information on the content of the accords in order to prepare themselves to undertake a process of pedagogy and dissemination of the accords, according to the communiqué issued by the Office of the High Commissioner on January 21. The communiqué explains that the decision to grant a pardon to 30 insurgents, following a thorough review to ensure they had not committed any war crimes, was made within the constitutional and legal faculties granted to the government. The move was a unilateral gesture by the government made after “evaluating the FARC’s compliance of the unilateral ceasefire, the consequent decrease in violence, and the advances of the [peace] process.” (Read the full statement here.)
A Heavy Lift
There are no guarantees that agreements on all of the pending issues can be reached by March. Nonetheless, it is clear that both the government and the FARC are prepared to give it their best shot. In their recent communiqué, the parties ended with their hope that “these first decisions of the year … will allow us to conclude the Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable, Lasting Peace.” The lift is heavy, but the will of the parties is strong. In any case, an upswing in activity at and around the table in coming weeks can be expected.