Peace in Progress: Five Years After the Signing of the Peace Agreement in Colombia
Colombia is marking the fifth anniversary of the signing of the landmark 2016 Final Peace Agreement between the Government and the former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejercito Popular (FARC-EP) in Havana, Cuba. In a world where success stories in the peace and security arena are rare, Colombia stands out as a model. Time to look back and take stock of some innovative aspects of this historic process.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Colombia on 23 and 24 November to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s landmark peace agreement. He highlighted the progress made in Colombia since the conclusion of the historic accord, noting that it was important to be with those who are creating peace in a world in which there is so much violent conflict. “The Final Peace Agreement not only sought to silence the guns. It also established a roadmap aimed at transforming the root causes of the conflict and beginning to heal the wounds, so that the atrocities committed by all sides will never happen again”.
The Secretary-General said the peace process in Colombia had not only put an end to a long conflict and allowed the transformation of the former FARC-EP into a political party. It had also shown that peace and justice were complementary, putting victims at the center. What’s more, the gender focus of the Peace Agreement broke new ground in incorporating women’s participation in peace talks and strong women’s rights and gender provisions. The experience of the UN Special Political Missions in supporting Colombia’s parties and society in the verification and implementation of the Agreement has similarly provided lessons for the UN and broader international community on how to support the gender-inclusive implementation of peace agreements. The 2020 study “From Words to Action: The Experience of UN Special Political Missions on Women, Peace and Security in Colombia” found that strong UN leadership, both political and technical, was unquestionably the most important factor for advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Furthermore, strong and consistent engagement of civil society, early deployment of dedicated gender expertise to set a foundation for inclusion in the work of a UN mission, strong partnerships between the Mission, UN Country Team, Colombian Government, Member States, former combatants and women’s civil society as well as dedicated and sustained financing were key to holistically support the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
The transitional justice system created by the Peace Accord plays a fundamental role in Colombia’s transition. . Its central promise is to help heal past divisions by allowing Colombians to come to terms with the crimes and abuses committed during the conflict. Those responsible are called upon to cooperate with the truth and justice process in exchange for more lenient punishments for certain crimes. In May 2021, at the request of the Colombian president, the Security Council approved the addition to the mandate of the Verification Mission of the task of verifying compliance with the sentences of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the judicial component of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition created by the Peace Agreement. There have been recent high-profile cases of former combatants contributing to the truth and recognizing their responsibility for crimes committed during the conflict, in the framework of the transitional justice process.
Notwithstanding these advances, there remain considerable challenges for the long-term consolidation of peace in Colombia, including the persistence of violence in some areas. It seems clear, though, that Colombia will be able to continue to count on the support of the global community on its path to a full peace.