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A Wary Farewell to Arms for the FARC

Courtesy of bixentro/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on 9 March 2017.

When Colombians streamed to the polls four months ago to vote in a plebiscite to accept or reject a peace agreement with the country’s leading guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opinion polls predicted a resounding victory for the accord. Many citizens and internationals expected that the world’s second longest continuous armed conflict and one of its oldest Marxist insurgencies would soon become an historical relic.

In Havana, the FARC leadership and its negotiating team sat with journalists to watch the votes come in. Once the result was announced – the accord was rejected by less than one-half of 1 per cent – the guerrilla group retired to a private meeting at which its leaders decided the loss was only a temporary setback. “The FARC-EP maintains its will to find peace”, declared FARC leader Timochenko that same day, “and reiterates its willingness to use words as the only weapon to build a [new] future”.

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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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Libya’s Political Agreement Reaching a Breaking Point

Rebels Searching for Gaddafi in the Desert

Courtesy Surian Soosay / Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI’s Global Observatory on 27 October 2016.

The United States is reportedly attempting to gather all of Libya’s rival governments to participate in a “reconciliation meeting” in Saudi Arabia in the near future. The initiative responds to the great uncertainty surrounding the United Nations-brokered Libyan Political Agreement, which aimed to unify rival factions in the country’s ongoing civil conflict. The new effort could boost domestic and international support for the agreement, which is critical to avoiding derailment.

The challenge to the 2015 agreement spiked on October 14 this year, when a rump of members of the Tripoli-based parliament during the war, the General National Congress, led by former prime minister Khalifa al-Ghwell and backed by allied militias, seized the premises of the new State Council set up to advise the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

Al-Ghwell declared his intention to take back executive authority from the GNA and called on Abdullah al-Thinni, former prime minister of the internationally recognized Bayda and Tobruk-based government, to form their own government of national unity. While al-Ghwell’s proposal has thus far been rejected by his former rival al-Thinni, it did demonstrate the GNA’s lack of broad-based domestic support.

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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?

People march with Columbian flags

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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