Editorial: Colombian government approach to peace talks is sensible, proactive
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 20:10
Amid the news of resurging violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a success story. Colombia, the United States’ third-largest nation building project, is making strides toward a long-term peace agreement with FARC, the largest rebel group in the country. If the deal goes through, it will end 50 years of violence between the government, rebels and paramilitary groups. The peace talks themselves are historic, but one of the most significant things is the attitude the government is bringing to what will hopefully soon be a new era for Colombia. The country is trying to anticipate and address the issues that will arise in a post-conflict situation before they threaten newfound stability.
Colombia’s peace talks center around six main issues: land reform, political participation, disarmament of rebels, drug trafficking, the rights of victims and the actual implementation of the peace deal. Instead of focusing on simply getting an agreement signed, they’re trying to solve some of the problems that have allowed this conflict to feed on itself and continue for decades.
While it sounds like a common sense approach, Colombia’s situation is unique, especially for a region that’s experienced U.S. involvement. Recent attempts at conflict resolution in the Middle East show this. Libya is having a difficult time getting a government together after 30 years of dictatorship and is slowly descending into lawlessness. Egyptians are still protesting in the streets because of high unemployment, a weak economy and police brutality, as well as unresolved religious divisions. Tunisia, the supposed model for the Arab Spring, just had their government resign this week.
Colombia is different because of its history and the billions of dollars in international support it has received, but what’s really making the difference is the current government’s approach. They acknowledge that the country has been traumatized by decades of violence and that many of the men hopefully about to be demobilized have been in combat for most of their adult lives. There are victims on every side of the conflict.
The Colombian government has been reluctant to address the atrocities they perpetrated against their own people during this time, but they’ve slowly become more open, especially under the current president, Juan Manuel Santos. The government formed a historical memory commission aimed at documenting the violence through the eyes of the victims and identifying the reasons for its emergence in the first place. The group released their final report this summer, which acknowledged and preserved stories from many sides of the complicated conflict.
This openness has paved the way for an international response. Academics from several other countries worked with the Historical Memory Group and many more are assisting with the demobilization and reintegration of fighters into society.
Colombia is doing their best to look forward to a time without conflict. Hopefully, they will be a model for other countries in the future.