Mediation Perspectives: Innovative Approaches in the Colombian Peace Process

Photo: flickr/Lucho Molina

The Colombian peace process has advanced steadily without major interruption since it was formally launched in Norway and peace talks between the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) began in Cuba in late 2012. As with most peace processes, the Colombian process has evolved over time and in stages, with adjustments to the methodologies, focus, and engagement of the stakeholders. A number of these modifications are breaking new ground, particularly with regard to the roles of civil society and the design of strategies for dealing with the past. » More

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Geopolitical Considerations of the NATO-Colombia Cooperation Agreement

Colombian Navy

Photo: Cristianmed230/Wikimedia Commons.

In June 2013, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Colombia signed a security cooperation agreement aimed at exchanging intelligence information in order to improve the capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic to face common threats, particularly transnational crime.  This accord was sent to the Colombian Congress in September and, at the time of writing, is still awaiting ratification. It should be noted that this accord has weathered criticism, in particular from several Latin American leaders who regard it as a potential NATO “beachhead” into Latin America. The objective of this article is to place this agreement into the proper context of Latin American geopolitical and geosecurity affairs.

The Agreement

The Security of Information Agreement between Colombia and NATO was signed on June 25, 2013 between NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno. The goal is to strengthen security relations between the Alliance and the South American nation.

According to media reports, Bogotá will provide the Alliance with its experience in combating drug trafficking and international terrorism, while “Colombia will allegedly receive intelligence information from NATO, as well as gain access to best practices in relation to transparency, humanitarian operations, and strengthening the army.” In September 2013, the Colombian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs sent a bill to the Colombian congress to ratify the Bogotá-NATO accord. The document highlights how “an objective of Colombia is to strengthen cooperation with multilateral organizations and nations […] to guide the future vision of the Colombian armed forces.” Hence, closer relations with NATO are strongly encouraged. » More

The Price of Peace

No más FARC – Bogotá – Punto Calle 127. Photo: Patton/Flickr.

 

MADRID – The relationship between peace and justice has long been the subject of polarizing debates. Some argue that the pursuit of justice impedes conflict-resolution efforts, while others – including International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda – contend that justice is a prerequisite for peace. As President Juan Manuel Santos leads Colombia through the most promising peace talks in five decades of brutal conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), he will have to consider this question carefully.

The Nuremberg trials, which followed Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II, provide an ideal model for post-conflict justice. But, in conflicts in which no side has been defeated, the peacemaker’s job becomes more challenging. Given what is at stake, a trade-off between reconciliation and accountability may well be inescapable.

Since 1945, more than 500 cases of amnesty in post-conflict transitions have been recorded; since the 1970’s, at least 14 states – including Spain, Mozambique, and Brazil – have given amnesty to regimes guilty of serious human-rights violations. In South Africa, amnesty was a key feature of the “truth and reconciliation” process that facilitated the peaceful transition from more than four decades of white-minority rule to democracy.

Similarly, in 2003, Nigeria’s president offered asylum to his Liberian counterpart, Charles Taylor, on the condition that Taylor retire from politics, thereby helping to end the rebellion against him. (In this case, justice was later served; in 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted Taylor of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone, making him the first former head of state to be convicted for such crimes by an international tribunal since Nuremberg.)

Although it may be painful to offer a safe exit to war criminals and human-rights abusers, the prospect of ending the suffering of civilians can take priority over a principled stand for justice. Who today would oppose amnesty for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if it ended the brutal civil war that has led to more than 100,000 deaths and created nearly two million refugees (including more than a million children) in just two years?

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Colombia’s Peace Process: Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

Colombia

Anti-FARC demonstration in Bogotá, Colombia, 2008. Photo: Patton/flickr.

On Sunday, May 26th the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government led by President Juan Manuel Santos reached an agreement on agrarian reform as part of an ongoing peace process. This agreement was reached after six months of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC, a leftist guerrilla organization of approximately 8,000 soldiers that has been waging a war against the Colombian state since 1964, the longest lasting conflict in Latin America. This peace process is the fourth time in 30 years that the Colombian government and the FARC have tried to negotiate an end to this conflict. The fact that these talks are being held at all is an accomplishment for supporters of a negotiated solution. The last peace process ended in failure in 2002, with both the government and the FARC ratcheting up their military capabilities during the process with both parties further from a resolution to the conflict than before the talks began. In fact, the Colombian public became so discouraged of a negotiated solution that they embraced the hard-line approach offered by Álvaro Uribe in the 2002 presidential elections who continued the expansion and modernization of the Colombian armed forces in pursuit of a military solution. The Colombian government’s military successes since 2002, unlike previous military campaigns, have successfully weakened the FARC and contributed to their willingness to negotiate with the current Santos administration. In addition, the ability of the FARC to survive eight years of an intensive and costly military offensive while retaining the capability to ambush police and military forces or disable segments of the country’s infrastructure has also contributed to the government’s interest in a negotiated solution. The FARC-Government’s recent accord on agrarian reform represents a positive step in the current process, one that illustrates a shared agenda on the changes needed to protect the livelihoods of small peasants in Colombia’s countryside. However, important obstacles face the implementation of these specific reforms, reforms which threaten the autonomy and impunity that landed elites have enjoyed for generations. » More

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Colombia – A Long Way to Peace?

Colombian Armed Forces. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, the Colombian Armed Forces launched [es] an air strike on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp located near Chigorodó, northwestern Colombia. The air strike was called after Elda Ramírez (aka ‘Mayerly’), considered a senior member of the FARC hierarchy, called a man who she believed was a drug dealer interested in buying cocaine. Instead, the dealer turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the consequent air attack claimed the lives of fourteen guerrilla fighters belonging to the FARC’s fifth front.

The air strike also occurred against the backdrop of negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government that have been ongoing since September 2012. To support the peace talks, the FARC announced a ceasefire on November 20. However, Colombia’s armed forces have continued military operations against the organization. On January 20, FARC announced that it had suspended the ceasefire and instead proposed a bilateral truce. » More

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