The peace process 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 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 discreet dialogue between the parties on a framework for the process. The parties conducted negotiations in Havana that resulted in a peace agreement in November 2016.

A number of important confidence-building measures between the parties were implemented during the negotiations. These included a pilot project to clear mines and explosives, led by Norwegian People’s Aid, and supported by Norway, Cuba and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Another example was the joint effort to find and identify the remains of people who disappeared during the conflict. The ICRC assisted in this work, which has helped many people in Colombia to find out what happened to family members who disappeared.

After the peace agreement was ratified in 2016, Farc-EP laid down their arms and became a political party with representation in the Colombian Congress. 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. In September 2018 and again in September 2019, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mission’s mandate, which includes verification of the implementation of security guarantees and of the political, economic and social reintegration of Farc-EP members.

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 the issue of reintegration. This funding is being used for efforts in the areas of education, gender equality, health, productive projects, and mine clearance.

President Iván Duque of the Centro Democrático (Democratic Centre) party took office on 7 August 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 implementing the peace agreement, but there are still many challenges to be addressed in a society as polarised as Colombia. The wave of murders of local community leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants is continuing. The formation of ex-Farc splinter groups, including a small group of former commanders who have rearmed, is cause for concern. However, the vast majority, more than 10.000 former guerrillas, are honouring their commitments under the agreement and wish to continue the reintegration process.

The problem of access to land has still not been resolved, and many people still feel that their physical and legal security is not guaranteed. This emphasises the 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 steps to promote employment, reintegration and rural development, particularly in the areas that were hardest hit by the conflict. 

The peace process with the ELN

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 agreed on 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 terrorist attack in the capital since 2003, the President formally broke off the negotiations.