By: Alfonso Rodriguez Insuasty∗
It is important to recognize the great value of the progress made in the dialogues taking place between the FARC-EP and the national government, currently underway in Havana. Multiple agreements have been solidified and have become a reality: a first agreement that initiates the negotiation, agreements on comprehensive agricultural development, political participation, illicit drugs, the creation of a Commission for Historical Truth, and the system for searching for missing persons. Moreover, we see progress in agreements on the issue of victims, on the topic of Truth, of transitional justice and conditions ensuring non-repetition.
With respect to the de-escalation of the armed conflict, the FARC-EP have already declared six unilateral cease fires, they’re implementing an agreement for humanitarian clearing of landmines in the village of El Orejón in Antioquia, and made a commitment to halt recruitment, training exercises and military schools. All this among many other concrete manifestations that enable progress towards a stable and lasting peace.
Regarding oversight of the Sixth ceasefire decreed by the FARC-EP since last July 20, 2015, that the University Network for Peace, the Broad Front for Peace, Constituents for Peace and faith communities are overseeing, it can be stated that to date:
The FARC-EP has complied with the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire; it is worth noting that their commitment was to cease all offensive action against police, and public and private infrastructure, reserving the right to carry out defensive actions when so warranted.
Thanks to this compliance with the ceasefire, we have seen a representative and visible reduction of deaths and injuries in military actions on the part of the security forces and the insurgency, a significant saving of economic and natural resources during this period along with an ostensible lessening of the impact on public and private productive infrastructure.
The government has taken corresponding steps that are to be applauded: a halt to the shelling of FARC-EP camps, and de-escalation of the security forces’ military actions, steps to be implemented and evaluated during a 4-month period (August – December 20, 2015).
These agreements and reciprocity have diminished the impact on the civilian population; they have decreased the number of rights violations caused by the armed conflict. This is evidenced by contrasting statistics of various orders, comparing what happened during the unilateral ceasefire and during times of direct armed confrontation.
These developments indicate that it is very important to fast-track the agreements for the definitive bilateral cease fire and begin the negotiation process with the ELN (National Liberation Army) insurgency and the EPL (People’s Liberation Army) immediately.
We propose, for a bilateral ceasefire, agreement on verification protocols that include civil society initiatives; to this end, we point to the advances in this field that have been achieved through the exercise of oversight of the ceasefire.
In any case, as the armed conflict abates, even more direct and effective participation of communities in collaborative projects for the benefit of society is expected inasmuch as a stable and lasting peace can only be achieved in areas where community participation is effective, binding and fully protected. Thus, any peace proposal must be constructed in accordance with local and regional dynamics and history, and characteristics and specific needs of the communities involved.
Progress notwithstanding, there are clearly problems in the territories inasmuch as illegal armed right-wing groups (paramilitaries) have been annexing the territories where the FARC-EP is present and in which armed activity is decreasing; likewise the presence of the National Liberation Army guerrilla forces is growing, making the situation even more complex as the insurgent force has ramped up its confrontation with paramilitary forces and the national army and this happens in the territories where there is FARC-EP activity.
It has also been observed that, in several regions of the country, there has been a surge in popular mobilizations in defense of their culture, their territories and their economic cycles in the face of the arrival of large extractive projects (mining, oil exploration, logging, hydroelectric, etc.), provoking confrontation between civil society and law enforcement, producing, in many cases, abuses, excesses and violations of human rights by the police, the riot squad (Smad) and the army against civil society, situations that do not contribute to an environment favorable to peace and that must be taken into consideration.
Given this context, it is urgent that we move towards a Multilateral Cessation of hostilities binding together the media, unions as well as agricultural, peasant farmers’, ethnic, and social organizations and academic institutions, the education system and society in general, in a firm commitment to a de-escalation of hate speech, violent ways of interacting, the paucity of labor guarantees, discrimination, attacks on the environment and any action that violates rights and jeopardizes life and living conditions.
It is critical that an educational plan for Peace be developed, impacting communities and their territories. What is required, then, is nimble and well-informed public opinion capable of great clarity in analysis in order to advance in this path of peace building. And, in addition, structured methodologies for monitoring and oversight of agreements coming into force when a peace agreement is signed.
∗Insuasty Alfonso Rodriguez: Lawyer, Bachelor of Philosophy, specialist in public policy and political science, Doctoral student at the Institute for Thought and Culture in Latin America (Ipecal-Mexico), Researcher-Lecturer University of San Buenaventura Medellín, member of the independent research group http://www.Kavilando.org; Medelin, Colombia. Contact: Alfonso.firstname.lastname@example.org