Support for peacebuilding
Title: Support for Peacebuilding in Colombia
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC-Colombia)
Overall term: 2015 to 2021
Colombia can boast steady economic growth, a burgeoning middle class living in modern cities, resource wealth, and a stable, internationally oriented economic policy. However, this contrasts sharply with the extreme social inequality that has been fuelling armed conflict for more than 50 years, a conflict which claims human lives on a daily basis.
Despite the progress made by the state in providing services, the country is marked by an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The national register for victims of the armed conflict now lists over 8.5 million people. Against this background, the Victims and Land Restitution Law (2011) is one of the most ambitious legislative projects of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. After more than four years of negotiations, the Colombian Government and FARC-EP signed a peace agreement in November 2016. Formerly South America’s largest guerrilla movement, FARC-EP has laid down its weapons and re-established itself as a political party. A bilateral cease-fire has also been agreed between the Colombian Government and ELN, the second-largest guerrilla group, in official negotiations that have been running since February 2017.
Despite initial achievements, the government’s peacebuilding policy has a long way to go. For example, the country’s institutions and its administrative and judicial systems at regional and national level require further strengthening in order to implement the peace agreement. While some crucial steps have already been taken in relation to political participation, FARC’s transformation into a political party, arrangements to surrender weapons and the reintegration of former FARC combatants, major challenges remain, especially with regard to the issues of agricultural reform and the ‘comprehensive system of peace, justice, compensation and non-recurrence’. Coordination must also be improved between the various stakeholders formally involved in the process, of which there are more than 50, and above all between the institutions newly created by the peace agreement. Dialogue between civil society and the state must also be intensified.
Colombia is implementing peacebuilding policies efficiently and in a participatory manner at national, regional and local level.
The ProPaz programme works in four areas of activity.
- Regional peacebuilding. Acting on behalf of ProPaz, the Como-Berghof consortium offers advice to regional governments and civil society organisations on various themes and processes, for example on drawing up and working with other groups to implement territorial development initiatives as a contribution to the peace process. The consortium also advises on joint processes to prevent violence and in the field of conflict transformation.
- Criminal Justice and Historical Truth. The programme supports cooperation between the public prosecutor’s office, the courts and the Ministry of Justice, with a view to reaching and implementing verdicts based on the Justice and Peace Law (Ley de Justicia y Paz) more efficiently and protecting the rights of victims. The Justice and Peace Law forms the legal basis for the mass disarmament of paramilitary groups from 2005 onwards. In collaboration with the National Centre for Historical Memory (CNMH), the programme provides support to both government and society in their joint efforts to come to terms with the conflict, with the goal of laying the foundations for a culture of peace.
- Victim Compensation and Land Restitution. The programme supports coordination between the state and victims’ groups with a view to more efficient implementation of the compensation and land restitution process.
- Strengthening the Capacities of Local Governments and Civil Society Organisations for Local and Regional Peacebuilding. Since 2016, the programme has implemented a series of measures in this area under a cofinancing arrangement with the European Union.
Provincial governments and communities in the programme regions of Norte de Santander and Meta have integrated peacebuilding into their regional and local development plans. With support from the programme, the Round Table of relevant authorities – made up of the National Planning Department (DNP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP) and the High Council for Post-Conflict – has developed common guidelines for mayors and provincial governments. The departmental government in Norte de Santander is working with the local authorities in Ocaña and Teorama and with representatives of civil society to implement a new initiative designed to prevent violence.
The actors involved in implementing the Justice and Peace Law, such as the central public prosecutor’s office (FGN) and civil society organisations, have acquired the additional capacity and expertise needed to conduct and support this process in a more professional manner. Furthermore, new strategies to speed up judicial proceedings under the Justice and Peace Law are helping to ensure that victims of the paramilitary groups receive compensation.
Historical reappraisal of the armed conflict is of growing importance in Colombian society. Youth organisations in Norte de Santander are working with official and civil society stakeholders to address the legacy of the conflict in their region. Teachers in Norte de Santander and Meta are using a toolbox produced by the National Centre for Historical Memory in their lessons.
The indigenous community of Barí in Norte de Santander has initiated processes to enforce its land rights and has initiated group compensation proceedings. ProPaz supports both processes by fostering dialogue between stakeholders and by assisting the competent authorities.