Peace and reconciliation efforts in Colombia

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 Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (Farc-EP) and Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

The peace process with the Farc-EP

Norway and Cuba are the official facilitators of the ongoing peace process between the Colombian Government and the Farc-EP. The peace talks were launched in Oslo in October 2012. For a long time before this, Norway and Cuba had facilitated secret exploratory talks between the parties with the aim of reaching an agreement on a framework for the negotiations. Norway has a place at the negotiating table, has regular contact with each of the parties to the conflict, and provides support in difficult situations, and in general uses its expertise and experience to make suggestions.

Having said this, the process is entirely owned by the Colombians, and the negotiating parties are in the driving seat. After the peace process was launched in Oslo, the Colombian Government and the Farc-EP have negotiated in Havana based on this framework agreement (Spanish only), which contains the following agenda items:

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.

The final peace agreement was signed in Cartagena on 26 September. A narrow majority of voters in a referendum on 2 October rejected the peace agreement. This has meant that additional talks on the peace agreement have been necessary, both between the parties to the conflict and with other sectors of Colombian society.

Both parties to the conflict have said that they will continue to work for peace. The ceasefire has been extended until the end of this year, and will be monitored and verified by the UN.

Mine clearance

In February 2016, Norway and the US launched a global anti-landmine initiative for Colombia. The aim of this initiative is to intensify humanitarian mine clearance efforts and to achieve the goal of making Colombia mine-free by 2021. At the launch of the initiative, Norway announced a contribution of NOK 180 million over three years to support humanitarian mine clearance in Colombia. Mine clearance is one of Norway's priority areas in its role as facilitator of the peace process. Norway's other priority areas are the women, peace and security agenda and transitional justice.

Inclusion

The parties set up a separate sub-commission on the gender perspective and gender equality. This sub-commission has ensured that women's voices have been included in the process and that the peace agreement includes a gender perspective. Norway has been at the forefront of this work. The sub-commission has been made up of members of the Government delegation and Farc-EP, and has also drawn on Colombian and international expertise. Three delegations of women representatives from Colombia have travelled to Havana to meet the sub-commission and provide input to the process. In addition, the parties have met the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and have received input from Colombian experts on this theme.

In order to enhance public participation in the process, regional and national forums have been held, under the auspices of the UN, the National University of Colombia and the Congress, in connection with the negotiations on the various agenda points. At an early stage in the process, the parties set up a website where the public could suggest issues to be raised at the negotiating table, and where agreements and joint press releases were published.

Confidence-building measures

During the course of the process, the parties agreed on a number of confidence-building measures. One example is a pilot project to clear mines and explosives in two regions of Colombia. This project, in which the parties are involved, is led by Norwegian People's Aid, and receives assistance from Norway, Cuba and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Another example is the joint effort to find and identify the remains of people who disappeared during the conflict. [DK15] The ICRC is assisting in this work. It will give many people in Colombia answers to what happened to family members who disappeared. Clarification of what happened to these disappeared persons was a clear demand on the part of victims when they met the parties in Havana.

The peace process with the ELN

On 30 March 2016, the Colombian Government and the ELN agreed to start formal peace negotiations. The breakthrough was achieved after more than two years of confidential exploratory talks, with Norway's assistance throughout. Norway has been asked to continue as facilitator in the public phase, together with Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The negotiations will be held in these Latin American countries, and were due to start in Quito, Ecuador, in November.

There are six items on the agenda, which emphasises the importance of active civil society participation when negotiating issues such as democracy and social change for peace. The rights of victims will be a key focus area.

See also the following interviews with Norway's Special Envoy, Dag Nylander: