By María de los Ángeles Reyes Mesa, EL ESPECTADOR, May 31, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The next President will receive a country with six armed conflicts occurring simultaneously, according to the CICR (Red Cross), and with serious gaps in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. These will be the most urgent challenges in the construction of peace for the one chosen; either Gustavo Petro or Rodolfo Hernández. However, the proposals from the two candidates that are competing in the runoff don’t go deeply into these priorities.
When it was less than a month before the first round of the Presidential election, the Armed Stoppage by the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces (AGC) or Clan del Golfo, the serious humanitarian and armed conflict situation that Colombia is experiencing became evident. This is just one of the challenges that the new President will face in building peace in this country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR) had already warned in its most recent humanitarian report on Colombia that there are several armed conflicts whose protagonists are the government, groups that are residuals of the paramilitaries, ELN guerrillas, and FARC dissidents. Besides that, Indepaz (Institute for the Study of Development and Peace) has reported that just in this year alone there have been 44 massacres, 70 murders of social leaders, and 21 killings of signers of the Peace Agreement with the FARC.
The Agreement, which promised to be a road map for overcoming the serious structural problems that were behind the armed confrontations, was not one of the priorities of the Iván Duque administration. In fact, he took office after having campaigned against the Agreement.
We talked with experts in peace and conflict, and with investigators from some of the agencies for verification of the Agreement in order to learn what state of affairs the new President will face in regard to the implementation of the Agreement, and to the humanitarian situation in the country. They also gave some recommendations on how the new administration could confront these problems.
Land, political participation, and reparation for the victims were cited by Carlos Mario Perea, a researcher for the Institute for the Study of Politics and International Relations (IEPRI). He stated that one of the greatest problems in the area of implementation of the Agreement during the Duque administration was the lack of political will to make progress in achieving what had been agreed upon. “The posture of the administration had some really disastrous consequences to the legitimacy of the Agreement.” His recommendation is, first of all, that the new President come in with a narrative that supports the Agreement and the peace.
We talked to researchers from the Kroc Institute—responsible for the independent monitoring of the implementation—and from the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP)—which is part of the Technical Secretariat of the International Verification Component of the Commission for the Monitoring, Promotion, and Verification of the Implementation of the Agreement (CSIVI). Although there has been some progress in implementation, the pace at which the outgoing administration had been working was not in accordance with the Plan Marco for Implementation (PMI), which establishes the necessary steps for the complete implementation. It provides that the Agreement will be fully implemented in five years.
Based on that objective, Mateo Gómez Vásquez, the technical director of research at the Kroc Institute, explains as follows. “30% of the provisions in the Agreement are progressing at a good rate, such as the ceasefire protocols, the laying down of weapons, and other short term commitments. Next, 20% of the provisions in the Agreement are in an intermediate state of implementation; that’s to say that we have evidence that they are on the way to carry out in the scheduled time. We also have around 37% of the provisions that are in a minimal state of implementation. That means that there are appropriate agencies, some resources have been put in place, but we don’t yet have any certainty that those provisions will be carried out.”
The general recommendation, according to Gómez, is that the new President update his National Development Plan (PMI) to include the recommendations from the CSIVI, as nearly six years have passed now since the signing of the Agreement.
One of the points that is the most behind schedule in the implementation of the Agreement is the first point: Toward a new Colombian countryside: Integrated rural reform. Alejandra Grillo, a CINEP researcher has been studying this point, and she finds that the issues on which there has been the least progress are the agrarian jurisdiction, the multipurpose cadaster (property records), and the land fund.
We should recall that the bill proposed in Congress which would have created the agrarian jurisdiction was defeated. The multipurpose cadaster has received forceful criticism from campesino and social organizations, because it is progressing very slowly, and has not considered social and environmental variables in the information that has been collected. The land fund, according to the administration, now has more than 1,500,000 hectares. However, Grillo states that, “It’s not clear what kind of land it is, who is using it right now, etc., nor is it clear how much of this total has been awarded.”
Because of that, both Mateo Gómez and Alejandra Grillo think that one of the priorities of the new administration must be to speed up the work on these three points. The resolution of the problems of tenancy and land use in Colombia, which historically “have resulted in war and not been resolved by institutional systems, depends on the correct articulation of these three points,” they explain.
The researchers also agree that it’s important for the new administration to strengthen its institutional capacity in the countryside in order to implement the Development Programs with a Territorial Focus (PDET).
Almost all of the programs, 14 out of 16, are planned, and depend on the incoming administration’s carrying them out. “Much of the Agreement isn’t even on the table yet, and not in the capital, but out in the countryside. Agencies there have to be strengthened, because they are the ones that can make it happen,” says Gómez.
Opening up democracy for peace.
Daniel Amaya, a researcher for the Technical Secretariat for Point 2: Political participation: opening up democracy to build the peace, says that the measures by all of the verification agencies point out that it’s the implementation of this Point in the Agreement that is lagging the most. In spite of the fact that last year a decision by the Constitutional Court allowed the creation of the 16 Special Transitional Seats for Peace in the Chamber of Representatives, hardly any of the other elements of this Point have made any progress.
One of the most serious lags, according to Amaya, is with the Security Guarantees Commission. “The main consequence of the fact that this is not functioning well, we can see in the number of signers of the Peace Agreement that have been murdered in these five years. Every one of those murders is a loss in the implementation of democracy,” he points out.
In its work of oversight, CINEP has found that the Integrated Security System for the Exercise of Politics, which has been created, has not adopted rules, and, because of that, it has not yet begun to function. This lag also has consequences in the countryside. According to MOE, the murder of political leaders, since December 2021 until March 13, the day of the legislative elections, was concentrated in the areas corresponding to the 16 Special Transitional Seats for Peace.
Other elements that have not made progress on Point 2 are the guarantees of the right to exercise social protest and the policy against stigmatization. “Certainly, because of the social crisis we experienced and the level of political polarization, we will see protests in the coming years, and it’s necessary for there to be guarantees for the citizens exercising this right without fear of the brutal repressions that we have seen,” says Amaya.
According to this analysis, for the researcher, the administration in power ought to give priority to political reform. Besides that, the President’s designee for the post of High Commissioner for Peace should include and commit to working to guarantee the safety of the former combatants and of political leaders, and thus reduce the violence in the countryside.
Point 5 is one that has progressed the most: the entities of the Integrated System for Peace are moving at a good pace, according to the oversight by the verification agencies. For Vera Samudio, also a researcher for the Technical Secretariat at CINEP, it’s imperative that the next administration guarantee the functioning of this system, furnishing sufficient funding for their operations and guaranteeing their independence.
But the most urgent matter for the incoming President will be to advance in the integrated reparation for more than nine million victims of the armed conflict. “They will have to work, first, in the connection between the National System for Integrated Attention and Reparation for Victims (Snariv) and the SIVJR, which “they have not figured out how to do in the five years of parallel functioning,” says Samudio.
This lack of connection and the fact that there has been no reform of Statute 1448, regarding victims and land restitution, in the light of the Final Agreement, has meant that there has been only a 5% rate of progress in the reparation of the victims since the signing of the Agreement, All in all, in ten years only 16% of the victims in Colombia have received reparation. Vera Samudio’s recommendation is that “the new President should assign the necessary importance to this issue and furnish a sufficient budget within the National Development Plan.”
Other armed groups
The most urgent issue, in which every expert interviewed by Colombima+2 agreed, is the necessity of negotiating with the ELN and seeking to dismantle the other armed groups like the AGC or Clan del Golfo. “There has not been a clear policy on the treatment of the conflicts with other armed groups,” says Carlos Mario Perea, of IEPRI.
Alejandra Grillo adds that the next President should commit to completing the ratification of the Escazú Agreement in Colombia. This is the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean that seeks, among other things, to defend the work of environmental leaders in this region, one of the most dangerous for those who do this work. The ratification of Escazú passed the first Senate debate in March, but it has to complete other steps in the legislative process to be adopted as required by the Constitution.
Grillo says that this would strengthen the capabilities of the campesinos, and adds, “the backbone of food security in our country is always vulnerable to other actors with interests in the land. The treaty would help to equip them to defend their interests.”
Carlos Mario Perea believes that it’s also important to re-think the rural economic model, so that the government’s commitments to development don’t stray from the creation of employment in the regions. For example, says Perea, “In Cesar, 95% of the PIB comes from mining, which only creates 1% of the jobs in that department.”
Finally, Perea thinks that the next President ought to promote an agenda for equity. For him, many of the security problems in the country come from the serious inequality that exists, and that is joined with “a culture that is plunged in violence, not just in the countryside, with the armed conflict, but also in the cities, schools, and homes.”
And the candidates?
Colombia+20 reviewed the programs proposed by the candidates Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández on the implementation of the Peace Agreement and the construction of peace. This what they are contemplating.
Petro dedicates a complete focus on the peace, and promises to make into reality everything that was agreed upon in Havana. He emphasizes the subject of land use, giving priority to the multipurpose cadaster process, strengthening the land fund, and creating an agrarian jurisdiction, all of it focused on gender, to promote economic and social development for rural women. He also promises to go ahead with the initiatives in the PDET plans. He isn’t specific in his approach to ethnic matters.
Regarding the resurgence of the conflict, Petro talks specifically about re-starting dialogs with the ELN and dismantling “the groups that are the successors of the paramilitaries and are coordinated with the drug trafficking” in a peaceful manner. He also states that he would reactivate the National Commission for Security Guarantees, crucial for reducing the territorial violence, according to Daniel Amaya of CINEP.
Rodolfo Hernández, for his part, states that he will promote the Peace Agreement, but he has no specific section on this subject in his plan for government.
Regarding the land issue, he speaks of updating the cadaster and modernizing the countryside, without going into detail about other elements in the Agreement. He doesn’t mention rural reform, the PDET’s, or gender and ethnic areas.
Finally, his approach to negotiating with the ELN, according to his plan for government, would be to make an addition to the Agreement with the FARC, so that they would also join the Agreement. However, after he reached the runoff, he has said on the networks that he would negotiate with the ELN. He promises that the Armed Forces would protect the former combatants and he speaks generally of fighting the dissidents and organized crime.
The runoff: expert opinions
In view of the May 29 results, some of the experts reiterated that it’s important that the peace be central in the debates, so that the candidates make their approaches and proposals clearer. Some things they consider most urgent are not clearly set forth in the plans for government offered by Petro and Hernández. For example, the rate at which the reparations for victims are proceeding, or their approaches to the Plan Marco for Implementation.
From the CSIVI Technical Secretariat, the researchers said, “In a runoff scenario like we saw on Sunday, it’s imperative that the candidates reinforce their commitment to complete compliance with the Final Agreement. A selective or partial vision of its implementation could delay even longer the transformations hoped for when it was signed.”