The peace process in Colombia

Norway is a guarantor country for Colombia’s two peace processes – the implementation of the five-year-old agreement with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and the negotiation process with Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), which remains stalled.

The armed conflict in Colombia has lasted for more than 50 years. It has had severe humanitarian consequences and caused great suffering to the civilian population. Several hundred thousand people have been killed, and more than six million have been forced to flee their homes.

Norway has been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in Colombia for several decades. This work has included a number of efforts to promote dialogue between a series of governments and the Colombian guerrilla groups FARC-EP and ELN.

The peace process with the Farc-EP

Norway and Cuba were official facilitators of the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP. The peace talks were launched in Oslo in October 2012 following a lengthy dialogue between the parties on a framework for the process. The parties conducted negotiations in Havana based on a framework agreement that resulted in a peace agreement in November 2016.

In January 2016, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2261 on the establishment of an observer mission to monitor and verify the definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. Since September 2018, the mission’s mandate has included verification of the implementation of security guarantees and the political, economic and social reintegration of former FARC-EP combatants. The extension of the mandate is discussed annually in the UN Security Council if this is requested by the parties. In the autumn of 2021, the mandate was extended for another year.

After the peace agreement was ratified, FARC-EP laid down their arms and became a political party with representation in the Colombian Congress. Together with Cuba, Norway still has a formal role in the implementation commission (known by its Spanish acronym, CSVR). Norway is providing substantial financial support for the implementation of the peace agreement, with a particular focus on transitional justice, reintegration of former combatants, and women, peace and security. This funding is also being used for efforts in the areas of education and health, productive projects, and mine clearance.

President Iván Duque of the Centro Democrático (Democratic Centre) party was elected in 2018 having pledged to continue the peace process, but also with the intention of adjusting parts of the agreement. His Government has sought to limit the authority of the recently established Special Jurisdiction for Peace, but has met resistance both in the Senate and in the Constitutional Court.

Considerable progress has been made in the implementation of the agreement, particularly in the area of transitional justice and with regard to the reintegration of former FARC-EP combatants. However, there are many remaining challenges to be addressed in a society as polarised as Colombia. We are still seeing murders of local leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants.

The emergence of dissident groups and other illegal groups in former FARC-EP areas makes the security situation more difficult. The problem of access to land has not been resolved and the programmes that were intended to promote alternative livelihoods to coca production are still in their infancy. The vast majority, more than 90 % of the former FARC-EP soldiers, are nevertheless honouring their commitments under the agreement and want to continue the reintegration process. There is clearly a need for continued support from the international community for peacebuilding and reconciliation, for the important work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Commission, and for efforts to promote employment, reintegration and rural development, particularly in the areas that were hardest hit by the conflict. 

The peace process with the ELN

The peace process with the ELN has still not resumed after President Duque formally broke off the negotiations in 2019.

On 30 March 2016, the Colombian Government and the ELN agreed to start formal peace negotiations, after more than two years of confidential talks. Norway has acted as facilitator for the negotiations, together with Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The negotiations started in Quito, Ecuador in February 2017, and were moved to Havana, Cuba in May 2018. Under former President Juan Manuel Santos, the negotiations did not result in a final agreement. The most tangible result was a bilateral, temporary ceasefire that lasted from 1 October 2017 to 9 January 2018. This was the first time the two parties had implemented a bilateral ceasefire.  

Under President Duque, there has been no success in resuming negotiations. After the ELN carried out a car bomb attack on the police academy in Bogota in January 2019, the worst attack in the capital since 2003, the President formally broke off the negotiations.