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Mediation Perspectives: Peace in Colombia – Turning the Rejection into an Opportunity

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Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors*. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

After almost four years of tough negotiations in Cuba, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement in Cartagena on 26 September 2016 to overcome five decades of armed conflict. While celebrated “as a model for future peace negotiations around the world”, later that week Colombians rejected the accords in a referendum by a 50.2% to 49.8% margin, a difference of just 54,000 votes.

Various articles have been written on the negotiation and mediation process, and the referendum as such. This article will focus on the internal developments within Colombia’s society, with a focus on what did not go well prior to the referendum and on positive post-referendum developments.

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War Dynamics and the “NO” Vote in the Colombian Referendum

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Courtesy Grant Hutchinson/Flickr

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 20 October 2016.

After six years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement to end one of the oldest and bloodiest wars in the country’s history. Although not required to do so by law, President Santos sought to legitimize the agreement by asking Colombians to either ratify or reject the agreement in a referendum. On October 2nd, the “NO” vote (rejecting the peace agreement with the FARC) won with 50.22% of the vote, taking the world—and most Colombians—by surprise.

The leaders of the NO campaign, the international media (see here and here), and a few scholars, have privileged an interpretation of the NO vote as a cry for justice. In recent days, representatives of the NO vote made harsher penalties to the FARC one of their central demands to support a modified agreement.

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Why Juan Manuel Santos Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

 Colombia Grunge Flag

Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/Flickr

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price “for his efforts to bring a more than 50-year long civil war to an end.” While international observers might have chosen other candidates this year, Santos deserves this award.

First, he secretly started peace negotiations early in his first administration when political opinion was inclined to further debilitate the country’s already weakened guerrilla groups, most importantly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Thanks to his experience as Minister of Defense in the previous government, he recognized that a military victory would have taken many more years and produced many more victims.

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Will Colombians Embrace Their New Peace Deal?

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Courtesy antefixus21/flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI’s Global Observatory on 26 August 2016.

After 52 years of armed conflict, the Colombian government and FARC rebels announced a final agreement aimed at ending one of the world’s longest-lasting insurgencies. In talks that began in Havana in 2012, the two sides have reached understandings on peacebuilding measures that include transitional justice, accounting for the “disappeared,” and a plan for demobilization of the rebels’ estimated 7,000 fighters. The historic agreement opens the way for peace after an internal conflict that, in a nation of 50 million, has left 220,000 dead, 7.65 million recorded victims, and more than 6 million people displaced from their homes.

The accord marks the beginning of the end of the FARC as an armed group and of Colombia’s internal armed conflict. This is a tremendous achievement by not only the two negotiating teams and the international community that supported the talks, but also by Colombian civil society, which for decades pressed for a political solution.

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Colombia’s Landmark Agreement: The End of 50 Years of War?

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Ahí va Colombia…Courtesy Lucho Molina/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 27 June 2016.

While a final peace accord is likely still a few weeks away, Colombia’s government and FARC guerrillas reached a momentous agreement on June 23. The consensus on the last of five substantive items in negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba, since 2012 delineates conditions for a permanent ceasefire and the demobilization of the guerrilla movement, which had been by far the thorniest issue on the agenda. Though the parties have decided that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the accompanying Havana ceremony had the feel of the end of a 50-year war that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced six million.

Attending the ceremony was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos; FARC Commander Timoleón Jiménez; Cuban President Raúl Castro and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende (representing the two guarantor countries); United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials; Presidents Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela and Michelle Bachelet of Chile; and many other world leaders and envoys. The impressive lineup sent a clear political message: no one should harbor doubts about the possibility of a peace agreement being signed, and the international community will put its weight behind it to ensure its success.

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