By Zenaida Espinosa and Jorge Escobar Banderas
Almost four years have passed since the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and FARC former guerrillas. In the meantime many changes have been fostered, although there are still many debts unpaid, as only 25% of the improvements have been carried out.
According to the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University, it has been a difficult job to supervise all the commitments undertaken; the institute has recently edited a report that tracks the progress of the deal fro December 2018 to November 2019, during the Commission’s work of monitoring, promoting and assessing implementation.
The report, called “Three Years After the Signing of the Final Agreement in Colombia: Moving Toward Territorial Transformation”, includes newspaper articles, documents by government agencies, NGOs, research centers and international organizations which are accompanied by statements from civil society and members of the government.
How is the implementation of the agreement progressing?
According to the Kroc Institute’s declarations, the agreement is experiencing an implementation phase of local reset, where it is necessary to build upon progress made over the past years in order to reduce the socioeconomic gap among the areas most conflict-affected.
The first point of the agreement concerns the integral rural reform. Experts say that the Territorial Development Program (TDP) and the Multifunctional Cadaster(1) are improving. They also highlight that one of the main outcomes is the inclusion of those programs within the National Development Plan. However, along with the issue of drugs, those are the matters that advanced least and this is worrying because they are two of the basic elements the conflict has been turning around: land ownership and drug trafficking.
One of the objectives to be achieved is community inclusion in order to implement reliable and transparent policies; this goal has been affected by the constant murders of local leaders, which has led to a lack of trust. This is emphasized in the report. Colombia received a loan from the World Bank with the aim of improving the multifunctional cadaster and for setting criteria on land ownership in the areas most affected by the conflict. Only then will it be possible to improve planning methods and to increase tax collection in a spirit of fairness and redistribution. However, the government must make greater efforts to improve the security conditions for the population in the territories, in the case of land claimants and all types of leaderships that advocate for quality of life and dignity of the inhabitants.
The second point of the peace deal is the political participation of the sides involved in the conflict. The Kroc Institute report remarks that one of the matters that has most affected the evolution has been the refusal of Congress to approve the Special Temporary Constituencies of Peace, which would allow for victim participation.
As far as political reform is concerned, it seems that few improvements have been made. The final draft law has been widely criticized from within Congress, while President Ivan Duque’s government decided to withdraw the draft law after the exclusion of the closed lists and gender equality.
Furthermore, the Special Electoral Mission’s (SEM) recommendations were not taken into account, resulting in more independence given to the National Electoral Council (NEC) and in the funding of election campaigns and political parties. In the meantime, over the last years, the regulatory adjustments to ensure mobilization and peaceful protest have stopped. According to the report, it is important to promote necessary support for their approval in Congress.
At the same time, the Territorial Councils for Peace, Reconciliation and Coexistence (2) are advised to take a proactive role in the implementation of the agreement at a local level, encouraging community inclusion in the context of discussions and decision-making because it takes great effort to achieve short and long-terms goals locally. A large part of the advances made is related to short-terms goals, like demobilization, weapons amnesty and re-integration.
Are we getting close to the end of the conflict?
The “End of the Conflict” is described in chapter 3. First, there have been developments about the socio-economic integration of some ex-combatants, who took advantage of government assurances, under the international community’s supervision. Several production projects have also been approved by the National Council for Re-Integration, though they only involved 3,159 formers members of FARC, about 24% of the total population. Other unfinished business is the search for permanent solutions regarding areas for reintegration whose leases expired in August 2019. In fact, some ex-combatants were forced to leave the territory due to lack of safety guarantees.
The report highlights that 2019 has been the most harmful year for ex-combatants, with 77 dead. In addition, the killing of their leaders has created a destructive effect regarding the implementation of the final agreement and the way the international community and society felt about it. On this matter, a review of territorial safety guarantees is being called for, in order to protect those who are in charge and to achieve project sustainability.
Despite this, the government keeps on with a negative attitude, so much so that the Presidential Counselor for Stability told Colombian national radio that “the Prosecutor has claimed that these murders occurred as a result of drug-trafficking feuds, rather than because they’re ex-combatants”, which ignores the conditions of the territory and condemns most of the ex-combatants now involved in the reintegration progress.
Nevertheless, the report states that the Special Investigation Unit of the Public Prosecutor’s office and Police Special Forces hopefully have clarified some issues about the murders, though it has proved to be unsatisfactory, in proportion to their alarming growth. Meanwhile, the lack of participation by society in the National Commission for Security Guarantees has not allowed adequate protection policies to be promoted in this area.
The fourth point deals with finding solutions to the issue of illegal drugs, but the Comprehensive National Program for the Replacement of Illegal Crops has been delayed, due to a government review that took 6 months. The changes made have created distrust among the population. There have been some advances in projects related to food security, but the killings are breeding fear among the communities once again.
The fifth point is about the agreement concerning war victims. According to the report assessment, most of the developments have been done during 2019. This result is due to the success of members belonging to the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-recurrence, which enhanced participation and public discussion. It must be underlined that we are talking about legally independent institutions, hence their working performance cannot be ascribed to the government. The Commission for Truth will have to present the report in December 2021, while the Special Forum for Peace (SFP) and the research unit for missing persons may extend their activities up to at least 20 years.
Local development for victim inclusion has also been strengthened, legitimising the contribution of women and the LGBTI and ethnic communities. It is necessary to explore this matter because it concerns the communities that witnessed the highest degrees of war crimes: a collective action for reparation must be promoted, as it has failed to move forward so far.
The sixth point is about implementation, deliberation and consolidation. There have been few advances in this field during 2019. A common agenda has not been established yet between the state and the former FARC members for the purpose of dealing with legislative and security issues.
To sign this agreement implies a program of inclusion of the different parts of society, which aims to achieve suggestions and plans that allow the growth of those communities that have been suffering violence for years. The Kroc Institute states that 10 years of steady progress is needed to achieve these goals.
In terms of 2020, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 will force changes on several fronts. Nevertheless, the active involvement of citizens and communities will be crucial to strengthen the peace initiatives instead of being the unfinished business of an entire country.
1. Multifunctional cadaster: it is part of the Peace Deal commitments and is beneficial to municipalities for tax collection. It has been established because Colombia owns 17,128.662 properties but only 5,380.575 of them are registered. According to Dinero, the multifunctional cadaster will be used to get correct and up-to date information at a territorial level in order to develop better public policy and to improve the population’s access and right to property, which will enable them to gain access to financial and state services” (Dinero. July 19, 2019).
2. Territorial Councils for peace, reconciliation and coexistence: they are advisory bodies of local governments (townships or districts) whose aim is to promote achievement and peace-keeping in order to help smooth cooperation among public authorities and to promote the principles of reconciliation and non stigmatization (More information: Long live Citizenship)
Translated from French by Roberta Mereu