This fall will mark three years since the Colombian Peace Accord between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC guerrilla group was ceremoniously signed in Havana, Cuba. It was unique for a variety of reasons: it ended the world’s longest-running civil war, it was signed with the world’s oldest guerrilla group (the FARC), and—what few know—is that it is also the first peace process that explicitly includes economic actors in the truth and accountability mechanisms to help the country transition to peace.
The challenge of peacebuilding missions is not only to stop violence and prevent a rekindling of conflict, but also to help societies and governments reset their internal relations on a peaceful path towards sustaining peace.
In the short run, it might be tempting to dismiss environmental issues when considering the insurmountable task of building peace after armed conflict. Yet, it is increasingly clear that the interaction between social, political, and ecological processes decisively shapes the post-conflict landscape.
Democracy’s resilience into the 21st century is rightly questioned. In 2017, a host of countries worldwide saw threats to civil and political liberties, popular participation, and fundamental human rights. Corruption and state capture by predatory political elites led the news in old and new democracies alike. Verbal and physical attacks on civil society, the press, and minorities were reported in virtually all world regions. And new virulent, nationalist ideologies threaten human rights and the carefully crafted post-World War II international liberal order.
- Weak cohesion within nonstate armed groups can—and has often threatened to—undermine negotiated transitions away from conflict.
- Cohesion is measured along two axes: vertical (degree of command and control over cadres) and horizontal (degree of unity among leaders).
- Challenges are typically related to negotiating partners who have little credibility, negotiating positions that are either unclear or incoherent, factions within groups that oppose the peace process, and splintering within groups.
Weak cohesion within nonstate armed groups (NSAGs) has often threatened to undermine negotiated transitions from conflict. This can have an impact at any time—when parties are deciding on whether to join a process, during negotiation of peace agreements, and into implementation.
Cohesion can generally be measured along two axes: vertical (command and control over cadres) and horizontal (unity among leaders). Vertical cohesion is weak when leaders cannot control their fighters, and strong when they can. Horizontal cohesion is weak when leadership includes competing and disjointed factions, and strong when leaders have consensus over goals and are coordinated in action. Weak cohesion manifests in various combinations along these axes and is often a blend of the two.
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”.