Colombia

New tensions affect the peace process

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Oda Lykke Mortensen (25.02.2016)

New tensions arise in the three-year-long peace process between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It is believed to be less likely the parts will meet the deadline of 23. March. Our Country Director in Colombia, Christian Visnes, explains the situation. For three years, the Government of Colombia and FARC have met in the capital of Cuba, Havana, to discuss the peace process of Colombia. As the deadline for the peace process is coming up, new tensions arise between the two parts.

“These are mainly explained by the sudden cancellation of the so-called ‘peace pedagogy’ process, conducted by the FARC, which has allowed FARC commanders based in Havana to meet their troops in Colombia, in order to update them on the peace process and prepare them for the peace signing,” says Christian.

On Thursday, photos of FARC commanders meeting with civilians, as well as with armed FARC troops in the province of La Guajira, emerged. This led the government to immediately cancel the specific program and ordered the return of the commanders to Havana.

“The government is alleging a breach of the protocols for this visit, while FARC is arguing that they didn’t break them,” says Visnes.

The impasse happened just two days before the arrival of Mr. Børge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Norway has been requested by Colombian president Mr Santos to facilitate talks with the FARC in order to overcome the impasse.

“The situation has been quite tense, it is, however, expected that the situation will not permanently alter the last weeks and months of negotiations, though there is a risk that it will have some impact on the progress of the peace talks and a potential upcoming signing in late March,” says Christian.

It is now less likely that they will meet the deadline of March 23rd agreed in October. FARC have been backtracking on that commitment ever since, and have stated that important and complex issues remains to be agreed in the talks.

New deadlines

The impasse happened just two days before the arrival of Mr. Børge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Norway has been requested by Colombian president Mr Santos to facilitate talks with the FARC in order to overcome the impasse.

“The situation has been quite tense, it is, however, expected that the situation will not permanently alter the last weeks and months of negotiations, though there is a risk that it will have some impact on the progress of the peace talks and a potential upcoming signing in late March,” says Christian. It is now less likely that they will meet the deadline of March 23 agreed in October. FARC have been backtracking on that commitment ever since, and have stated that important and complex issues remains to be agreed in the talks.

“The cancellation of this process is therefore unfortunate, because it can potentially delay the signing of an agreement, which means the population at risk of displacement will continue to be affected by war, and new displacements can be expected,” says Visnes.

New displacements

This week, more people have been displaced in Cauca and in the region of Nariño, due to fighting where FARC and ELN were involved. NRC is permanently present in this area.

“It is critical to speed up the process towards a final agreement, both with FARC and with ELN, so recovery for communities that have lived at risk and in displacement for decades can start,” says Visnes.

What remains for the parts to agree on is a process, called ‘laying down arms’, as FARC is not rendering. Here they will negotiate the return to civilian life.

“In the talks, what remains is to agree on a bi-lateral final ceasefire, and the broader demobilizing process, which includes defining the areas where FARC will ‘lay down the arms’. This is relatively complex,” says Visnes.

Beyond signing In December, UN’s Security Council approved on a ‘UN political mission’ with a strict mandate, focused on monitoring the ceasefire and ‘the laying down of arms’. The peace mission, which is in the process of being set-up, will start its mission one month after the peace agreements are signed.

“This is a significant development and essential for agreeing on the implementation of a peace agreement,” says Visnes.

However, there are some concerns that the mandate of the political mission is too narrow.

“It is not tasked to monitor the Human Rights violations or the broader content of the peace agreement, such as land reforms. NRC believes it is important that the UN is able to monitor and verify the commitments beyond laying down the arms, as this is essential to address the underlying causes for the protracted displacement crisis in Colombia,” says Visnes. “It has been considered a positive sign that FARC commanders can meet troops and it is essential, after almost four years of negotiations, that the troops on the ground are prepared for the implementation of an agreement,” says Visnes.