The Colombian peace process: Challenges for implementation of a peace agreement

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Colombia now has a historic opportunity to end a conflict that has lasted for more than fifty years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and over five million people have been displaced. Now peace is closer than ever before.

Never before has so much progress been made in negotiations with the Farc. A peace agreement with the Farc is no longer unlikely or impossible. But we must not forget the many challenges that remain.

We are frequently asked what makes this peace process different, and why it may succeed when earlier attempts, most recently in Caguan ten years ago, have failed.

One answer is that the agenda is narrower, and more clearly defined this time. The process is well planned and more realistic than in the past. Important reforms were adopted before the talks began – for example, the Victims’ Law, which is intended to ensure that stolen and abandoned land is returned to internally displaced Colombians and reparation is made to victims.

It also helps that this time, the process is taking place outside Colombia. The active regional support for the talks is also very important.

To prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead, I believe that it is important to start a debate about implementation at an early stage. Events like this one will help us do just that. I would like to thank Noref, the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, for taking the initiative to organise this seminar. We greatly value the close cooperation between Noref and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a number of issues linked to peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

No magic formula for success

Whilst the signing of a peace agreement between conflicting parties is of course an important step towards peace, what is most critical is that the agreement can be successfully implemented.

Too often the signing of a peace agreement is mistaken for the arrival of peace.

The international community should provide input and support, but it is not up to us to identify a magic formula for success.

Colombians themselves need to be at the wheel, and in charge of any implementation efforts.

We are often asked why Norway engages in peace and reconciliation efforts such as those in Colombia.

In my view, we have a responsibility to assist others. But we also believe that Norway, as part of a globalised world, has a clear interest in playing a part in solving and preventing violent conflict. There are escalating tensions in our immediate neighbourhood, for example in Ukraine, and even in our own country we feel the effects of radicalisation, organised crime and refugee streams caused by conflict and instability.

Illegal drugs produced and trafficked in Colombia also end up on our doorstep.

We also know that there can be no development without peace. Norway’s investment in peace and reconciliation is based on recognition of the fact that preventing and resolving violent conflict is an effective way of fostering development. Colombia is a country with abundant natural resources, but needs peace to fulfil its potential.

Norway is not a day-trader in the peace “business”. Our peace and reconciliation engagement is based on a long-term perspective. We have been involved in several peace dialogues with the two guerrilla groups in Colombia, and we have stayed the course, even after previous peace attempts have failed.

In the two years since the current peace process was launched in Norway in October 2012, the Colombian Government and the FARC have reached provisional agreements on several issues that are fundamental to ending the armed conflict.

The agreement on land and rural development addresses the need to reduce poverty and improve access to land.

The agreement on political participation strengthens democracy in Colombia and facilitates future political participation by the Farc.

The agreement on illicit drugs aims to effectively deal with the drug economy.

The current discussions on victims’ rights are fundamental to the legitimacy of the process. The parties have repeatedly said that victims are at the centre of the peace talks. This principle is now being put into practice, and three delegations of victims have so far been received at the negotiating table in Havana. The parties have had a chance to listen to the victims’ stories and input. The direct participation of victims in a peace process is unprecedented and has resulted in important progress in the peace process.

In their discussions on victims’ rights, both parties have clearly stated that they will accept responsibility for crimes committed during the conflict, and that they will not exchange impunities. This is an important starting point for subsequent discussions on transitional justice. Difficult compromises will be needed to reach agreements that meet international standards and safeguards the rights of victims to truth, reparation and justice.

The facilitation role

In its role as facilitator, Norway tries to create an environment that is conducive to constructive discussions. We have a flexible mandate, based on trust. This trust has been earned by our respect for the confidentiality of the substance of the talks, and by the fact that we have maintained a sense of balance and impartiality towards the parties.

The facilitation role we play is wide-ranging, spanning from observer functions and classic facilitation to more active mediation-like initiatives, depending on the given situation. We are cooperating successfully with co-facilitator Cuba and coordinating our efforts closely. We also cooperate closely with Chile and Venezuela - the two countries accompanying the peace talks.

In addition to facilitating the peace process with the Farc, Norway has for some time also been assisting the Colombian government and a smaller guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, the ELN, to start a formal and public peace process. Exploratory talks with the ELN began in January.

It is a challenge that these exploratory talks have not yet yielded any results, whereas the peace process with the Farc is at a relatively advanced stage. Many topics, such as victims and end state issues, need to be addressed in both sets of talks, and in relation to each other. A peace agreement for Colombia will not be complete without the ELN. An agreement with both guerrilla groups is needed to create lasting peace.

The Colombian Government and the Farc have recently established a sub-committee that is to discuss end state issues such as a ceasefire, the laying down of weapons and the reintegration of guerrillas. They have also established a historical commission that will focus on the origins of the conflict and the victims affected. The commission will later provide input to a truth commission that is yet to be established. These recent developments are indicators that the peace process with the FARC is advancing, and that it is no longer premature to start thinking about implementation issues.

This is important, because we know that a peace agreement does not automatically lead to peace. Indeed, according to International Alert, more than 50 % of peace agreements fail within five years of their signature. We need to ensure a successful implementation phase – but where do we begin?

Of course, every country and conflict is unique and requires its own solutions. However, one of the lessons learned from other conflicts is that creating an inclusive peace is a key to creating lasting peace.

Last year we witnessed the re-emergence of old conflicts in South Sudan and Mozambique.

Opportunity to reunite

In South Sudan, there were violent confrontations between groups loyal to Riek Machar and the government in Juba, leading to a major humanitarian crisis. The underlying reason was that after independence, the new government in South Sudan engaged in state formation processes that did not enable all individuals and groups to compete fairly for positions in the political and economic systems.

Lack of inclusion and reconciliation are also key reasons why the former rebel group Renamo walked away from the Mozambique peace deal after 21 years of peace. The failure to carry out a real demobilisation process and respond to complaints from Renamo about being sidelined in politics provide a partial – if not a complete – explanation for what happened in Mozambique.

In Colombia, the peace talks provide an opportunity to reunite a society torn apart by conflict. Decades of violence have created marginalised populations - from rural ethnic communities to the urban poor, and from persecuted political movements to demobilized combatants.

To ensure lasting peace, it is essential to implement integrated programmes that promote broad social inclusion – as emphasised in the agreements between the Colombian Government and the Farc.

I would also like to stress that the participation and inclusion of women is crucial to a sustainable peace deal. Women make up half of the population in most countries, and even more in countries in conflict. They are often more vulnerable to the effects of conflict. And their concerns must be addressed both during a peace process and when a peace agreement is implemented.

Without the participation of women, it will be more difficult to make progress in terms of development and democracy, but also peace and stability. The establishment of a sub commission on gender by the parties to the peace negotiations in Colombia is therefore a very positive step.

The commission will review the peace accords to ensure that a gender perspective is included and that women’s voices are heard.

The international community's support

Another requirement for the successful implementation of a peace agreement is the political will to follow up what has been agreed. This is not always evident. For instance, Norway was actively involved in the peace process for Guatemala. The peace agreement contained unprecedented provisions for post-war socio-economic reform (including land rights) and a broad commitment to political and social transformation towards greater democracy, equity and inclusion. However, key provisions have still not been implemented, mainly due to a lack of political will and capacity to ensure compliance.

When Prime Minister Erna Solberg met President Santos at the General Assembly in New York two weeks ago, he reiterated the importance of the international community’s support for the peace process. This support has been very important and has given legitimacy to the peace process.

But it is essential for Colombia to retain control and steer the process. The Colombian government needs to coordinate planning, resource mobilisation and external support. There is no one way of securing international support, but government ownership combined with international coordination is essential.

International coordination has been a cornerstone of Norwegian support for Myanmar’s peace process. The Myanmar Government asked Norway to facilitate and coordinate the delivery of assistance to conflict-affected communities in the ceasefire areas, where there was little or no prior access for aid delivery. Through the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative, Norway has led coordinated efforts to improve humanitarian access and increase aid activities in the former conflict-affected areas, and to build trust and confidence.

Need for help

Like Myanmar, Colombia will need help in a number of areas – such as bringing areas under government control, demobilising and reintegrating combatants, guaranteeing international verification and monitoring, and supporting agreements on land, political participation and victims.

Norway will continue to support Colombia in implementing a peace agreement when the time comes, and I am confident that the international community, including other countries in the region, will do the same.

As I have said, for Colombia, a peace agreement represents only a beginning. The real challenge is what lies ahead. Norway has a long-term partnership with Colombia, and will continue to provide assistance in the post-conflict phase.

Our Colombia team will be present here during the seminar to answer your questions and to receive your input and reflections.

We look forward to continuing our discussions with Colombia – as well as with all of you present here on how we can best support the peace process in Colombia.

 

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