Preparing for Peace in Colombia

July 12, 2016

Preparing for the Ceasefire and Setting Aside Weapons

The process in Havana has picked up speed since the June 23 agreements, and word here in Bogota is that a final accord is not far away.  As Humberto de la Calle told us yesterday in a meeting of international experts gathered for a summit on reconciliation, reintegration and peace building, “We are at the point of seeing the face of peace.”

In the last session of the 50th cycle in Havana, in addition to the political participation agreements reached (see my prior blog), the working group on the separation of minors presented the Colombian government and the FARC peace delegations with a proposal for a comprehensive program for minors who leave the FARC camps. (See more here.)  Many of the confidence-building measures, including joint pilot programs in demining;  joint programs in crop substitution (initiated in Briceño this week); efforts to advance the search, location, identification, and dignified return of the disappeared; and reconciliation initiatives continue to move forward.  In early July, a delegation of victims traveled to Havana from Bojayá to continue discussions relating to an ongoing reconciliation process with the Colombian government and the FARC-EP.

The technical subcommission on ending the conflict has continued work to refine and elaborate the terms of the June 23 agreements on the definitive, bilateral ceasefire, and the cessation of hostilities, as well as the decommissioning of weapons.  These details include defining the size of the camps where the FARC will be concentrated, and security and monitoring mechanisms.  A group of FARC members arrived in Havana to receive training in the tasks they will undertake as part of the verification mechanism for the ceasefire working with the UN political mission, the government and the Colombian military.  (Read more here.)  Likewise, the parties are beginning technical visits to prepare the concentration zones and to explain the peace accords and the proposed reintegration process to those inhabiting the zones. (See more here.) There was an incident last week in which the Colombian Army attacked FARC delegation members, who inadvertently showed up in the wrong place; it is unclear exactly what happened, but immediate action on the part of the parties in Havana seems to have resolved the issue in the short term. (Read statements by FARC delegation here and by Humberto de la Calle here.)

Colombia Prepares for Peace

Within Colombia, advance preparations for the political mission established by the UN Security Council last January, under the direction of Jean Arnault, are already well underway.  On June 28, the first group of 23 international observers arrived in Bogotá; a second contingent was right behind.  These unarmed observers, mostly from Latin America, will complement the 20-member advance team of civilians that is already in place.

The Plebiscite

The issue of the referendum has been turned over to the Constitutional Court, and the Court’s decision, by mutual consent of the parties in Havana, will determine whether the final peace accords will go to a plebiscite, and under what conditions.  Still to be agreed by the parties in Havana are the mechanisms for overall implementation and verification of the accords, international accompaniment of the post-Accord phase, a timetable, budget, and communications tools.

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court’s decision is being anxiously awaited–and may well come this week.  The court will determine if the draft statutory law on the referendum approved by the Colombian Congress late last year is constitutional.  In January, Constitutional Court magistrate Luis Ernesto Vargas was selected to write the brief for the court and he invited briefs from different social sectors.  The Court has also invited opinions, and on May 23, heard testimony from 23 witnesses, including President Juan Manuel Santos, High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo, and the lead negotiators for the government and the FARC (Humberto de la Calle and Iván Márquez, respectively) as well as members of the legislative and judicial branches, academics, and victims.  (More here.)  On June 17, Constitutional Court magistrate Luis Ernesto Vargas submitted his 300-page brief for consideration by the full body of the court.

Key aspects to be determined by the court include whether a plebiscite is the most appropriate mechanism for endorsing the accords, if reducing the required electoral threshold to 13 percent (from 50%) to approve the accords is constitutional, and if the peace accords will be binding.  In addition, the Court must rule on the nature and extent of participation by public employees in the prior campaigning for the plebiscite, the role of the media in educating the public about the plebiscite on the one hand and about the peace accords on the other, and the use of public funds for conducting the referendum.  (More here.)  Vargas’s finding backs the constitutionality of the statutory law and introduces a number of refinements, introducing restrictive conditions under which the referendum must be conducted. Debate began in the Constitutional Court on June 23, and a decision should be forthcoming soon.

Once the agenda has been completed and the final accords are signed, President Santos will have one to four months to call a plebiscite.  If the majority vote in a referendum in favor of accepting the peace accords and they total more than 13% of the electorate, the legislative act for peace will enter into force.  The Constitutional Court will then have 15 days to review the law to be sure it meets all standards of constitutionality and Colombia’s international obligations.  Additional laws will then need to be developed that legalize and put into practice particular provisions of the final accord.


About Ginny Bouvier

Love reading, writing, thinking, and working with people to make the world a better place. Family and friends, yoga, travel, photography, perusing dessert menus keep me sane. Latin American enthusiast. Peace practitioner yearning for justice. Heading up the Colombia program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, but tweets and posts are my own.
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1 Response to Preparing for Peace in Colombia

  1. Paz in Motion says:

    to prepare for peace in colombia, we as citizens, must prepare to accept that peasants (campesinos) are the main victims. We tend to ignore them and segregate them. check out this story and documentary..


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