Peace fund: a contribution to the implementation of the peace agreement
Project title: A contribution to peacebuilding
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation (APC-Colombia)
Overall term: 2017 to 2019
Colombia faces a major challenge. State and society need to implement the peace agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the left-wing guerrilla Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) in 2016. The agreement was reached with the help of international mediators after around 50 years of protracted armed conflict. It was passed by a slim majority in parliament at the second attempt after some changes were made, having previously been rejected by voters in a national referendum.
The peace agreement encompasses five areas:
- comprehensive land reform;
- action to promote political participation among citizens and civil society;
- a cease-fire and the disarming of rebel groups;
- tackling the illicit drugs problem;
- compensation for victims.
In general, Colombians have little confidence in the state and government. Even the tentative implementation of the peace agreement has been critically received. Social inequality in the country remains high and violence continues to be widespread. Not all former FARC members have agreed to lay down their arms and many of them have joined criminal gangs. Paramilitary groups are also responsible for violence in several parts of the country and the smaller guerrilla force ELN has not yet signed a peace agreement.
To convince them of the potential of the peace agreement for the country’s wider peace and reconciliation process, Colombians need to see positive change. To date, there have been few opportunities for people to put forward their own ideas and projects and get involved in implementing the five points in the peace agreement. Equally, civil society organisations lack the capacity and funding they need to run their own projects.
By supporting civil society projects, the peace fund is helping to make the peace agreement more tangible for the people of Colombia.
The fund has adopted a regional and local focus with two complementary fields of activity: it supports the projects and develops the capacity of the various cooperation partners. This is intended to strengthen the future role of actors involved in the peace process and help expand their networking opportunities. The fund is open to civil society and state organisations, and is linked to the peace agreement. A committee made up of representatives from the German Embassy, GIZ and the Colombian partner selects project proposals on the basis of predefined criteria. Selected projects may then be eligible to receive up to EUR 100,000 for up to ten months. The main focus of the calls for funding applications – of which there are four in total – is developed on the basis of interviews with experts, and with the help of assessments of state and non-state actors involved in the peace process.
The first call for funding applications dealt with victims’ rights, the fifth point of the peace agreement. Five projects covering three of the country's regions received funding to conduct systematic searches for missing persons. Over ten months, the project teams documented a total of almost 500 new cases of missing persons. Hundreds of family members were trained to track and reconstruct the cases and were offered psychological support in the process. In addition, new search strategies using forensic, genetic and digital methods were used. The results were handed over to the newly set-up search unit for missing persons.
The projects selected in the other rounds address topics such as reconciliation and coexistence, peace communication and (self-) defence for activists, and collective compensation.
It is hoped that the involvement of civil society in the implementation of the peace agreement will help make the agreement more tangible for local people and will include several concrete initiatives. In turn, this should help build trust between different groups (ex-combatants, internally displaced people, returnees, those who stayed behind, victims), and between the state and Colombian society as a whole. The projects selected for funding have been chosen based on the sustainability of their strategies which will allow them to make a difference beyond the funding period. The main focus is on forging alliances with other state and non-state institutions and working with other projects in the priority regions.