Why did Colombia’s Plebiscite for Peace Fail?

October 4, 2013

Following a plebiscite that rejected by a hair the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP that was just signed in Cartagena on September 26, there is much soul-searching, self-critique, and reflection among those of us who have worked for a political solution that would put an end to so many years of war in Colombia.   More on this later.  For now, I have found some solace in the reminder from Mercedes Sosa that change is a constant.

“Todo Cambia”


I am working on a longer piece that looks at the roller coaster many of us have been on in recent weeks.  In the meantime though I wanted to share with my readers some of my initial reactions to unfolding events that I put into a press advisory issued by the U.S. Institute of Peace early Monday morning.  I include links below to my analysis from the media and online.

Was peace defeated in Colombia’s plebiscite?

“The results reflect a country united in seeking peace, but deeply divided over how to do so.  Both sides are accepting the results as legitimate and discussing ways to move the country toward peace.  The plebiscite results appear unlikely, in the short term at least, to reverse the march toward a political solution.”

“The Colombian people voted –by a narrow margin of less than 60,000 votes out of 13 million votes cast-to reject the Havana peace accords.  There is much speculation and soul-searching about how and why so many voted “no” and why the polls, which had predicted a “yes” win of some two-thirds of the voters–got it so wrong.”

Is former President Alvaro Uribe to blame?

“It’s a shame that ex-President Alvaro Uribe did not accept either President Santos’s or Timochenko’s invitations to dialogue before the plebiscite.  It might have saved everyone a lot of anguish.”

Did social media play a role?

“Disinformation, particularly within the social media networks, was pervasive, and misrepresentations of what the accords did or didn’t say were virtually impossible to correct.”

Why did supporters of the plebiscite lose?

“The “yes” vote had a much harder sell. The accord was 297 pages and few had read it (they had only one month). The agreement on justice was particularly complex; there was confusion about amnesties and pardons and concern that the FARC would not be adequately punished for their crimes.”

Will the ceasefire be maintained and what is FARC’s reaction after the defeat?

“The government and the FARC-EP are handling the results with cool heads and the parties have reiterated their commitment to peace. President Santos has announced that the bilateral ceasefire will be maintained, and that he will convene political and social sectors from both campaigns tomorrow to discuss ways forward.  FARC commander in chief Rodrigo Londoño has indicated that “no” win, words will be their only weapons.  The negotiators will be back at the peace tables in Havana tomorrow to establish a process for moving forward.”

Was peace defeated?

“The results reflect a country united in seeking peace, but deeply divided over how to do so.  Both sides are accepting the results as legitimate and discussing ways to move the country toward peace.  The plebiscite results appear unlikely, in the short term at least, to reverse the march toward a political solution.”

“The Colombian people voted –by a narrow margin of less than 60,000 votes out of 13 million votes cast-to reject the Havana peace accords.  There is much speculation and soul-searching about how and why so many voted “no” and why the polls, which had advertised a healthy 66-72% win by the “yes” vote–got it so wrong.”


To see more of my analysis in the news and online:

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The Accord: Colombia’s Commitment to Peace

September 30, 2016

There are landmark moments in the history of a nation that transcend borders and herald a new vision for the future. The signing of the peace accord in Colombia represents such a moment. If the Colombian people ratify the Havana peace agreement in the plebiscite scheduled for October 2, it will be the beginning of a transition that finally puts decades of war behind and opens the way to genuine peace. It will be mined across the globe for lessons that might apply to other intransigent conflicts.

As senior advisor for peace processes at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent and bipartisan organization funded by the United States Congress, my work in the past decade has been dedicated to facilitating a political resolution to the armed conflict in Colombia. In this capacity, I have had the privilege of witnessing this process and multiple attempts to achieve peace. As a result, I recognize the significance, the challenges and the possibilities of this historic moment.

The Significance of the Accord for Colombia

No one should underestimate the significance for Colombia of the signing of a peace accord. After four years of hard and steady work at the negotiating table in Havana, two bitter enemies have agreed to end a conflict that has lasted over half a century.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), the most persistent insurgency in the Western Hemisphere, has promised to hand over all of their weapons within six months of the signing to the United Nations, the principal guarantor of both the ceasefire between the sides and the decommissioning of arms.

In exchange, the government has agreed to guarantee the FARC security conditions and 10 seats in Congress for the next two terms.

The practice of opening space in political life for insurgents who demobilize has helped make successful transitions in South Africa, Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and other countries affected by armed rebellion. Even in past peace processes in Colombia, the country has benefited from opening the way for ex-combatants to participate in politics.

The peace agreement not only silences the guns in Colombia but also provides a roadmap to prevent any resumption of warfare. The accord institutionalizes profound changes—though not radical ones—that go to the heart of the issues behind so many years of violence. This accord seeks to correct an accumulation of historic inequities and injustices left unattended for far too long.

These changes include long-delayed proposals such as formalization of land titles and a better balance of resources between rural areas and major cities; more equitable political participation with guarantees for everyone; development programs, credit, and plans that offer alternatives to illicit crop production; and a greater effort by the state to fight criminality.

The final agreement creates mechanisms to confront the past through historical memory in ways that conform to international standards. In addition to establishing a new comprehensive transitional justice system, both state and FARC representatives are taking responsibility for their victims in places including Putumayo, Bojayá, La Chinita, Valle del Cauca and Chocó.

Over the past year, without any media attention, each side has begun to offer symbolic reparations, as well as emotional relief, to victims, as they prepare to address the local impacts of the war and to implement a peace accord.


For the world, the peace agreement in Colombia has additional significance. Colombia has introduced a series of innovations that are already becoming models for other countries in conflict. I will mention a few here:

First, the agreement formally signed in Cartagena provides evidence that peace is possible even in conflicts generally viewed as intractable. There are no conflicts where resolution is impossible, only conflicts that have not yet been resolved.

Second, Colombia has put its victims in the center of the process. The negotiators established shared principles on victims, they invited victims to participate at the negotiating table in Havana, they listened to their proposals, and they gave them a leading role in the new transitional justice system established by the accords. These roles are unprecedented.

Third, the accord provides a reasonable formula to balance the tension between peace and justice; the lead government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, asserted that the accord achieved in Havana represents the best deal that could have been obtained. The Colombian formula is one of the first to explicitly deny amnesty or impunity for sexual violence or other war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The amnesty it offers will apply only to crime of rebellion and related activities, a practice promoted by international humanitarian law when a war ends.

Fourth, the Colombian formula favors restorative justice. Rather than throw criminals in jail (generally at a high cost without many positive results), the new system (through the Special Jurisdiction for Peace) seeks to establish a dialogue between victims and victimizers that satisfies the rights of the victim to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition of the wrongs committed. It goes futher, though, as it also seeks to contribute to reconciliation and to the restoration of the victim into society, and a constructive re-weaving of the social fabric.

In Colombia (as in other countries like Sierra Leone), where perpetrators are often young or have been victims themselves, a generous approach can offer new paths for reconciliation. This process is being watched carefully from around the globe.

Fifth, the process offers some important innovations on the issue of gender. The table in Colombia established a gender sub-commission with a mandate to ensure the final agreement has a differential gender approach, something that was fully fulfilled. The only other peace process that ever set up a similar sub-commission was Sri Lanka’s, and theirs fell far short of Colombia’s.

Colombia’s final agreement reflects and responds to the differences in harm experienced by women and the LGBTI community. It meets the demands made by delegations of women, lesbians, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people to protect their rights and recognize them as citizens equal before the law.

As the agreement is implemented, it is expected to close traditional social gaps that have blocked these groups’ access to land, credit and training, education and justice, and economic projects. It should also be noted that indigenous and Afro-descent organizations established an ethnic commission apart from the negotiations, spurred by their exclusion from the formal process and supported by members of the international community. At the last minute, this effort resulted in a chapter on ethnic groups placed at the end of the final peace accord document. The experience of these ethnic organizations reminded the international community that going forward, it will need to think more concretely about how to integrate excluded voices in other peace processes in order to avert new conflicts later.

Paths for Reconciliation

At the end of the day, the significance of a peace process depends on the rigor with which it is implemented. For now, the route forward set by the accords is clear. The next hurdle is the referendum. The world watches with hope and anticipation, ready and willing to assist Colombia and contribute whatever it may need to end an anachronistic war.

While Colombia enters this new stage—one perhaps even more demanding than the negotiations themselves—the world wishes Colombia success and looks forward to learning from Colombian efforts to establish a stable, lasting and inclusive peace.

(This article is an updated version of a piece published in El Tiempo on September 26, 2016, the day of the signing of the peace accords in Cartagena, Colombia.  Thanks to María Antonia Montes for assistance with translation.  See link here.)  This piece will also be posted simultaneously on the Olive Branch blog of the .U.S. Institute of Peace.)

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El Acuerdo: Un Compromiso de Colombia para la Paz

26 Septiembre 2016

Ver mi artículo que apareció en El Tiempo el día de la firma del acuerdo de paz en Cartagena.  Haga clic aquí.

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No Hedging of Bets for Colombia’s Plebiscite

September 9, 2016

Colombian rebel troops are heading to decommissioning centers and minors are set to leave guerrilla ranks on Sept. 10 as the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) begin implementing their peace accord ahead of an Oct. 2 plebiscite on the deal.

While a “no” vote on the referendum would formally invalidate the accord and send the parties back to the drawing board, the government and the FARC appear to be doing their best to make the peace plan irreversible. With just weeks to go, there is a clear effort afoot to speed up the timetable for securing the ceasefire that the decades-old antagonists agreed to even before the final deal, and to begin decommissioning the FARC’s weapons—with or without the plebiscite’s endorsement.

Plans for electoral reform and reintegrating FARC fighters into civilian life are also underway. The negotiators in Havana met with representatives of The Carter Center, the political science departments of the University of the Andes and Colombia’s National University, and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy to formalize an earlier request to those groups to assist in forming a special electoral mission. In the next six months, the mission will craft recommendations for making the electoral system “more modern and transparent,” offer greater guarantees for “political participation in equality of conditions,” and “improve the quality of democracy.” (See Joint Communiqué 97.)

In addition, this week the Colombian consulate in Havana was issuing identification cards to members of the FARC peace delegation—a first stop in their journey toward rejoining civilian life. The government and the FARC have also asked the National University to conduct a socio-economic census to help facilitate this reintegration.

Forging ahead with implementing the peace accords before the referendum is complete is legal under Article 22 of Colombia’s Constitution, which guarantees the citizenry’s right to peace. Holding a referendum on the deal, which was initialed by negotiators in Havana on Aug. 24 but will be formally signed by Colombia’s head of state, President Juan Manuel Santos, and the FARC commander-in-chief Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (aka “Timochenko”) on September 26 in Cartagena, was Santos’s political choice.  It marks the first time that any of Colombia’s many peace agreements with rebel groups is being put to a public vote.  The move isn’t required by law and some consider it extraneous. But others consider it key to legitimizing the mandate for peace and ensuring implementation of the accords beyond Santos’s tenure, which ends in 2018.

Polarization Over the Peace Accord

The campaigns for the “yes” and “no” votes are just getting into gear. While polarization over the peace accord remains intense, polls released by major media this week show that given the choice, 72 percent of voters would favor the agreement against 28 percent who would vote “no,” according to the news magazine Semana.

The government is running a vigorous campaign to sway public opinion, and so far appears to be having some success. Its negotiators argue that four years of talks have produced the best possible deal and that an innovative transitional justice system that puts victims at its center will not allow the parties to “exchange impunities,” a major concern of skeptics. They note that this is the only agreement in the world where the negotiators have agreed to forswear amnesties for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. They also cite successful reintegration of rebel forces in Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Nepal and South Africa as proof that political engagement of the FARC is the path forward. Voters should weigh a future of peace against the spectre of prolonging a war that has already lasted for 52 years, they say.

The “no” forces have strong backing from the still popular ex-President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), now a senator, and former President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002), who led the last peace process with the FARC. The Council of State, Colombia’s top administrative tribunal, this week annulled the re-election of Alejandro Ordóñez, who has doggedly challenged the legitimacy of the peace process, to his position as Comptroller General, and the optics and the timing may inadvertently create a backlash favoring the “no” vote.

These powerful opponents of the accord contend that tougher terms for the FARC could have been (and should still be) exacted. They oppose in particular plans to give the FARC temporary seats in Congress and the transitional justice formula which they claim would allow FARC militants to avoid jail time for their crimes. While the issue of punishment resonates with the population, their argument distorts the arrangement; the agreement does allow prison sentences for the rebels where they don’t fully confess their crimes.

International Roles

The international elements supporting the peace process have also been busy.  The United Nations mission that will oversee the ceasefire and FARC’s decommissioning is already on the ground, ahead of schedule. Eighty leaders have just completed training for the tripartite mechanism to monitor those parts of the agreement. The government and FARC representatives have been putting protocols in place and FARC troops have begun to move toward some two dozen temporary locations where the troops will be concentrated in order to turn their weapons over to the U.N. and begin the transition to civilian life.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will oversee coordination of the departure of minors who were recruited as FARC fighters, which will involve a range of other international organizations, including the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF. These agencies have begun working with Colombian social organizations and others that will monitor the “reincorporation, comprehensive reparations and social inclusion” of the youths, who, under the protocols, are considered to be victims of the conflict.

Finally, on Sept. 7, negotiators in Havana announced that they had officially installed the Commission for the Implementation, Monitoring [and] Verification of the Final Peace Accord and for [the] Resolution of Differences. The commission is part of an impressive strategy, including the collaboration of numerous elements of the international community, to ensure that the final peace deal is put into motion immediately and that all agreements are monitored and implemented.

Challenges Ahead

The challenges ahead for the peace process are enormous and go beyond the plebiscite and the subsequent technicalities of approving, refining and implementing agreements. The lack of a peace deal with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, is perhaps the country’s most pressing threat to peace. Formal peace talks with the ELN announced earlier this year have yet to materialize. A new wave of ELN-related violence recently killed 30 Colombians in the ELN-dominated territory of Arauca on the Venezuelan border, sparking new calls for peace talks.

Finally, ELN troops and criminal bands including the “Usuga clan” (another looming threat to peace) are poised to take over the lucrative coca trade, illegal mining and extortion opportunities in areas being abandoned by the FARC. All signs show that peace without the ELN will be an “incomplete peace,” and that failure to bring the ELN to the peace table soon will undermine the long-awaited political solution with the FARC.

[This post was initially published as “Colombian Rebels, Government Accelerate Peace Moves Ahead of Vote: Proponents Leave Nothing to Chance,” at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s “Olive Branch”. ] 



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The War is Over!

August 29, 2016

The war in Colombia is officially over.  At zero hours this morning, a definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities went into effect, officially ending Colombia’s fifty-two year old internal armed conflict with the FARC.  President Juan Manuel Santos presented the final peace accord that negotiators had finalized in Havana last Wed., August 24, to Mauricio Lizcano and Manuel Ángel Pinto (presidents of the Senate and House, respectively).  As required by law, he announced his intent to hold a plebiscite on October 2, the symbolic date on which Gandhi was born, so that the Colombian people could have “the final word on peace in Colombia,” and he outlined the reasons for holding a plebiscite.  Although this may be the first time a peace accord is put to a public vote, a rather risky endeavor, President Santos has long argued that public endorsement would give the accords greater legitimacy and would give the Colombian people the final word.  He said, “Peace is always better than war.  Peace will remove the fear with which all Colombians have grown up…it will allow the displaced to return to their zones to have a dignified life.  Peace will open opportunities the the majority of Colombians have never seen or had,” he said.

Accompanied by a crowd of victims, peace organizations, politicians, Afro-Colombians, indigenous, women and others on the short walk from the Casa de Nariño to the Capitol building on the Plaza de Armas, President Santos announced that, “as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces,” he had “ordered the definitive ceasefire with the FARC to begin at 00:00 hours on next Monday August 29.” (Read the President’s statement here.)

Yesterday, FARC commander-in-chief Timoleón Jiménez (aka “Timochenko”) noted that the FARC-EP received the news of the President’s order with great emotion.  Timochenko issued a parallel order to FARC troops and combatants, noting the FARC’s “clear and definite vocation for reconciliation,” and announcing the war’s end.  “Let us live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.  (Read Timochenko’s statement here).

Watch here the video of the announcement from Havana on August 24, 2016:

Read my analysis of events as they were unfolding in articles that appeared last week on the Olive Branch, published by the United States Institute of Peace; and the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory.

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Colombian Negotiators Announce a Final Peace Accord

August 24, 2016

The suitcase has been ready and there have been several false alarms, but last night it was confirmed that tonight will be the night.  A final peace agreement, pending a few items, has been reached in Havana.  The negotiating teams are expected to spend the day today reviewing the final version and addressing a few pending details. The negotiators will announce the deal from Havana at 6 pm (7 pm EST) and President Juan Manuel Santos will follow with the official announcement tonight at 7 pm (8pm EST).  Then the negotiations in Havana will then shut down and the work will shift to Colombia, where Colombians will vote in a plebiscite on whether they are ready to close the chapter on a war that has lasted more than half a century.  A historic moment. Amazing to be here in Bogota and about to head down to 59th and 7a, where the big screens will broadcast to crowds these momentous events.

For days, the newspapers here in Bogota and the social media have been buzzing with the news that a final peace deal was about to be reached.  The buzz had gotten so loud that on Monday, August 22, the peace teams in Havana issued a joint communiqué advising that the teams had advanced but there were still some outstanding issues, and the public would know as soon as they had a final agreement. (See communiqué 92).

The teams have been working non-stop in Havana since August 17, with the instruction not to stop until they had a final agreement. Reinforcements, including key Congressional and administration leaders, had been sent in at the beginning of this session. (See my previous post.)  With a new methodology that delegated the remaining topics to different commissions, advances were mad.  Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo flew to New York to put the final touches on the arrangements for the UN political mission which will be launched with the signing of an agreement.

Clemencia Carabalí, from the Proceso de Comunidades Negras in Cauca, told me that six Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders from the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Defense of Territorial Rights were tapped to travel to Havana yesterday to meet with the negotiating teams. These ethnic leaders hope to ensure that their  concerns about anticipated conflicts that a peace agreement could exacerbate could still be taken into consideration.  A communiqué from the commission issued yesterday read: “History would not understand that the Government had not taken measures on time to facilitate the participation of our peoples, in spite of our demands, the disproportionate violations of which we have been and continue to be victims, the calls from the international community, the conclusions of the negotiating table itself, and the large history of exclusion and racism to which our peoples have been subjected.” (Quoted in El Espectador.)  It is a hopeful and important sign that they were received today.

One of the biggest blocks was the theme of amnesty for the guerrillas. Last Friday, the negotiators, with the help of Enrique Santiago and Manuel José Cepeda, legal advisors for the FARC and government, respectively, found a solution that was accepted by both sides.  Under their formula, the FARC agreed that the amnesty law could be processed after the plebiscite.  The FARC had long resisted concentrating their troops and decommissioning their arms without legal safeguards provided by such a law.  More details should be forthcoming in tonight’s announcements.  In addition the issue of FARC participation in the Congress will be clarified. (See latest here.)


The plenipotentiaries are expected to sign the agreement tonight in Havana, but the official signing is not expected until after the FARC hold their tenth (and last) Conference.  Like the plebiscite where Colombians will vote on whether or not to accept the peace deal, FARC troops too will hear about and vote on the peace accord.

The next big hurdle will be the Plebiscite, but for now, a pause for a moment of collective celebration and appreciation for all those who have worked so hard to make this possible.

Stay tuned for more…


(Lea aquí: Así es el cronograma y procedimiento de dejación de armas de las Farc)


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Peace Talks Resume following New Agreements and Preparations for Ceasefire

August 17, 2016

Today the peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC-EP resume the next round of what promises to be an extended marathon in their quest to secure a Final Peace Accord.  The government delegation arrived yesterday in Havana with instructions from President Juan Manuel Santos to work simultaneously in different commissions on a range of outstanding issues.  The commissions will include the participation of the plenipotentiaries as well as  the Minister of the Interior Juan Fernando Cristo, Adviser for Post-Conflict Affairs Rafael Pardo, and Director of the Colombian Agency for Reintegration Joshua Mitrotti. (See statement by Humberto de la Calle here.)

Recap of the Last Cycle

The last cycle began on August 3rd, and was marked by a rapid-fire series of new agreements, interspersed with joint technical field trips to the locations in Colombia  identified in the June 23rd ceasefire agreement as the zones where the FARC-EP will concentrate and where, under UN supervision, they will decommission their arms.  (See more here.) These recent agreements primarily address and refine some of the key items pending from earlier agreements.

Process for Appointing Judges Decided

One of the most anxiously awaited agreements refers to the process for selecting the magistrates to serve on the Special Peace Tribunal and chambers within the new justice architecture (SIVJRNR) established in the agreement on victims last December 2015.  In their joint communiqué last Friday, August 12, the parties announced their plan for a high-level committee–composed of the Pope, the UN Secretary General, the Colombian Supreme Court, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the permanent commission of the State’s University System–to select the 24 magistrates for the Special Peace Tribunal and the various related chambers that will oversee and rule on crimes committed in the course of the internal armed conflict. (See communiqué and analysis here.) The various entities are studying the proposal and should confirm their willingness to participate in coming days.

“It is impossible to attain a selection committee of higher level, or greater moral authority,” noted Humberto de la Calle, the lead government negotiator. (See his statement here.) Enrique Santiago, legal advisor for the FARC delegation, noted, “The mechanism will guarantee the neutrality and impartiality of the selected judges and attorneys.” (See interview clip here.)

The communiqué furthermore spells out the rules governing the autonomy and independence to be enjoyed by the selection committee, an issue that many human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and DeJusticia had flagged as a major concern. Likewise, it specifies that the selection committee will be responsible for defining the application procedures and guarantees for transparency and monitoring of the process of judge selection.  Some of the selection criteria for the magistrates of the Tribunal and its chambers have already be established by the parties.  These criteria specify that the candidates for the positions must have a specialization in human rights and international humanitarian law and conflict resolution and that the selection process must consider questions of gender equity and ethnic diversity.  They also give a breakdown between the numbers of Colombian and foreign magistrates for the Special Peace Tribunal (20 Colombians and 4 internationals), as well as the other Chambers.  The selection process will begin as soon as possible after the Final Accord becomes operational.

Advances on the Statute for Political Opposition

On August 9, the parties issued Joint Communiqué 84, in which they appointed two experts–Sergio de Zubiría y Pablo Julio Cruz– to participate in a Commission to define the guidelines for a statute that will provide guarantees for political parties and movements that declare themselves to be opposition parties. (See the joint communiqué here.) This appointment brings the parties closer to fulfilling the promise they made in an earlier communiqué (#80) to convene such a Commission.  It appears that the remaining political parties and movements and representative opposition movements have yet to be convened.

Preparations for the Ceasefire Move Forward

On another front, following the momentous announcement on June 23rd that agreement had been reached on a ceasefire and the decommissioning of weapons (see my former post here), the parties made headway in fleshing out the details of the agreement and the protocols for implementing them.  On Friday, August 5th, the parties released 23 protocols and two annexes in Joint Communiqué #83. (Read it here.)

The protocols define 36 specific commitments regarding conducts and norms that will guarantee that the accords are not violated, and that the rights and freedoms of the civilian population are not affected in the concentration zones, what are known as the local transitional zones for normalization (Zonas Veredales Transitorias de Normalización – ZVTN) and the 8 transitory camps (Puntos Transitorios de Normalización).  The ceasefire will officially come into play once a final peace accord has been signed, although a de-escalation of military activity is already in effect.

The August 5 agreement outlines the phases for the planning and execution of the ceasefire, including the deployment of the new UN-led tripartite Mechanism for Monitoring and Verification (MMV) at the local, regional and national levels.  It also lays out a plan for the adaptation of a police presence on the ground; the operating procedures for the 23 local transitional zones for normalization (Zonas Veredales Transitorias de Normalización – ZVTN) and the 8 transitory camps (Puntos Transitorios de Normalización); and the specific timeline for procedures relating to the ceasefire and the decommissioning of arms. The ZVTNs will be established in order to “create the conditions for the initiation of the implementation of the Final Accord and the Setting Aside of Weapons and to prepare the institutional structures and the country for the Reincorporation of the FARC-EP into civilian life,” the communiqué notes. Humberto de la Calle clarified that last week’s technical teams would help prepare “the conditions for the temporary transition of the FARC while they set aside their arms and begin their reincorpoation into civilian life.”

The Aug. 5 communiqué also lays out the details of the composition, scope of responsibility, rules of conduct, and contingency plans for the MMV to oversee and guarantee implementation of the ceasefire and decommissioning of weapons.  This UN political mission, as already mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2261 (2016), will be headed by United Nations, and include representatives of both the Colombian government and the FARC, as well as unarmed observers primarily from (CELAC). Although preparations for the UN mission are well under way, the mission will officially begin 30 days from the signing of a final peace accord.

Finally, the agreement lays out specific measures to guarantee security and protection for those engaged in the monitoring and verification tasks, as well as the civilian population, State employees, and FARC-EP members.  It establishes protective protocols for moving people and weapons across the terrain and for the handling, storage, transportation and control of arms, munitions and explosives.  Unarmed civilian authorities are granted authority in the ZVTNs and contingency plans are established in case of conflicts.

Ethnic Concerns Heard

In a separate August 8th letter to the “Ethnic Authorities, Organizations and People of Colombia,” Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo and High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo recognized the importance of coordinating efforts between the national government and the municipal and regional authorities, as well as the ethnic authorities and organizations in the territories.  They gave reassurances that the zones where the initial demobilization and reintegration will take place will be temporary and function for a maximum of 180 days, and will be located neither inside indigenous resguardos nor on lands where Afro-Colombian communities hold collective titles. They promised that once the concentration zones have been defined, they will create timely opportunities for dialogue with ethnic authorities and organizations, and will establish with the indigenous authorities in the region a “channel of direct communications that will permit a culturally appropriate handling of the concerns and circumstances that might arise before and during their operation.”

Visits to the ZVTN and Transitory Camps

On Sunday, August 14, the peace delegations  issued from Villavicencio, in the department of Meta, their ninety-first joint communiqué.  It announced that they had completed six days of technical visits to all but one of the agreed 23 rural areas (ZVTN) and 8 other camps that the parties had proposed earlier as transitional zones.  The zones were located in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, Caquetá, Chocó, Cesar, Córdoba. Guaviare, Guajira, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Tolima, and Vichada.  A final decision on the precise areas where demobilizing FARC troops will be concentrated and where local operational headquarters will be established will be made in coming days by the parties based in Havana based on the surveys conducted of each zone this past week.

The technical review of the zones was a serious undertaking that engaged 150 people, including delegates of the National Government, Brigade and Police Commanders, the Generals who participated in the technical sub commission for ending the conflict, 33 members of the FARC-EP plus the regional front commanders, international observers of the UN Mission in Colombia, delegates of the guarantor countries, and the local governors and mayors. The  teams traveled to all but the municipality of Caldono in Cauca; they will nonetheless work to ascertain the location of the ZVTN in that municipality by other means.  The teams–which included engineers, map-makers, and topographers–surveyed and photographed the zones, met with local residents and authorities, engaged in their own peace pedagogies, and assembled information that will assist the parties in taking decisions going forward.

In an interview with El Colombiano, Mónica Cifuentes, legal advisor for the peace process and the government’s representative in the technical visits, noted that the technical visits will allow the parties to determine where the camps and headquarters for the MMV will be located, and give them a chance to clarify with local residents and authorities key issues, such as the content of the ceasefire agreement, the purpose of the ZVTNs, the process by which the FARC-EP will lay down their weapons, and the preliminary steps for reincorporating the FARC-EP into civil and political life. (See more here.)

Pending Issues at the Table

A few more items can now be checked off the list of pendientes, but as the next round of negotiations begins, there are still significant issues to be resolved.  The remaining agenda includes, among other things, the particularly sensitive issues related to the FARC-EP’s reintegration into Colombia’s political life and its social fabric, and agreements around the implementation and monitoring mechanisms for the accords. Polls in Colombia have consistently shown that at least 75% (and most recently, 88% in the Ipsos Napoleón Franco poll) of those queried oppose the idea of members of the FARC-EP running for elected office and serving in the Colombian political system.

In a statement yesterday, government negotiator Humberto de la Calle underscored that the reintegration of the FARC-EP is not just the responsibility of the peace table but will require Colombian society engagement.  “We believe that the central purpose of a peace process is to cast aside weapons and open up political space,” noted de la Calle.  (See his statement here.)  Increasingly, one can see that the work at the table in Havana will soon take a second place to the discussions at home in Colombia.  There the campaigns for the “yes” and “no” vote in the plebiscite that will be required to transform any final agreement into reality have been unofficially launched.  Similarly, the FARC-EP will have an upcoming Conference where the leadership in Havana will similarly need to sell their agreement to their own constituency.  While knowledge of the accords is essential to an informed electorate and in preparation for the plebiscite, pedagogies that go beyond the technical aspects to the deeper traumas and fears that have been cultivated through decades of war will be increasingly important in preparing the landscape for a successful transition to peace.



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