The signing of the peace agreement between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) ended decades of internal conflicts that hampered peaceful democratic expression in the Latin American country. This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the signing, and while implementation of the agreement continues, it faces challenges and obstacles.
The agreement consists of five points, ranging from ending the conflict to political participation, a commitment to “comprehensive” rural reform, a solution to the problem of illegal drugs and an agreement on the victims of the conflict. During these five years, some of these have made “tangible” and “concrete” progress, while others have made “less” progress.
This explains the head of the United Nations verification mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, for whom the “comprehensive” implementation of the agreement is a priority, as it is a “connected whole”. “Some areas reinforce others,” he says of the pact, which must be “fed”.
In an interview with Europa Press, Ruiz Massieu emphasizes that one of the pact’s successes is the arms disposal process, which is “well above international and United Nations standards”. The disarmament process went “really very quickly, very well done” in nine months.
Second, António Guterres, also special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, emphasizes the transformation of the FARC-EP, the largest and oldest guerrilla in the region, into a political party – first Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común and, since January of this year, Comunes to avoid association with the armed group.
Point 2 of the agreement, which focuses on democratic openness to create peace in Colombia, states that, as part of ending the conflict, democracy building is necessary to facilitate and enrich the emergence of new forces on the political stage the debate and deliberation on the main problems facing Colombia.
“Today (Comunes) works in the Colombian democratic institution, presents initiatives, takes part in debates,” says Ruiz Massieu, who stressed that one of the goals of the agreement was “to channel the democratic, peaceful, political path”. which was previously expressed through weapons.
Third, the representative of the United Nations emphasized “the advancement and consolidation of an institution” resulting from the agreement as part of “this commitment to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition”. “The institutional framework that focuses on these regulations – for example the Truth Commission or the Special Justice for Peace (JEP) – delivers important results,” says Ruiz Massieu.
One of the central points of the agreement is the reintegration process of the ex-combatants of the FARC-EP who supported the implementation of the pact. To date, more than 90 percent of former combatants have actively participated in the peace process, a “very high” proportion for such processes, emphasizes Ruiz Massieu.
According to the latest quarterly report by the UN Secretary-General for the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, a total of 13,589 former members of the FARC-EP are accredited and around 10,000 former combatants live outside the former Territorial Training and Training Areas. ETCR). About half of these take part in collective and individual productive projects.
However, “challenges, obstacles or problems” are missing in reintegration, although there has been “tangible and concrete progress” on this point, according to Ruiz Massieu, who emphasizes, among other things, the sustainability of the reintegration of these people. “The expectation is that the reintegration is sustainable in the long run, that the projects to which the ex-combatants dedicate their lives to last,” he says.
Guterres also manifests himself in this line in his quarterly report, in which he explains that “the complex context of the process requires greater support in order to ensure the sustainability of productive projects”. Therefore she calls for an emphasis on “marketing, links to local development plans and increased technical assistance”, which includes “special support for women, especially those living outside the ETCR.
However, the biggest challenge to the deal in relation to ex-combatants is their safety, as well as that of communities, social leaders and human rights defenders.
Since the agreement was signed, the UN mission has reviewed 286 murders – 8 of them women – with 2019 being the deadliest year for ex-combatants – 78 murdered. For its part, the Institute for Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz) counts 1,241 leaders and defenders of human rights who have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed, 126 of them this year.
“It is a great challenge,” one of the “most important,” admits Ruiz Massieu, who emphasizes that the mission is “always” at issue. With that in mind, he has stated that he hopes that Iván Duque’s government will continue to implement measures and, although “they have done so”, he hopes that “they will have concrete results”.
“Bringing rural, peripheral Colombia into broader, national Colombia,” he emphasizes, pointing out that in addition to the presence of the state in these areas, the way is to start social programs and civil institutions in these regions.
“It is a pending matter for the rest of the government and the future to move forward on issues that concern us, such as security,” said the UN official, who also referred to the substitution of illegal crops.
As he explains, it needs a boost so that the families who benefit from the extermination have access to an alternative life project, be it in agriculture or ranching. “This is the part that has made the least progress,” laments Ruiz Massieu.
Regarding the Duque administration’s role in implementing the agreements, Ruiz Massieu points out that this is “part of their agenda, pledge of action and public policy” while recognizing that some of the progress made is due to one thing large part of his government.
“But there are other issues that we need this government to work on and implement,” he added, although he recalled that the United Nations has always recognized the commitment of the two signatory parties.
During his visit to Spain, Duque alluded to the allegations made against him about the implementation of the agreement and took the view that these were made “for political reasons”. “We have opted for a legal peace that will enable us to deal with things that have weaknesses during implementation (…),” he said.
Ruiz Massieu avoids qualifying on whether or not the agreement is progressing “at a good pace” but is “categorical” when he finds it “moving forward”. “And we hope that it will continue,” says Graben.