Colombia-FARC Peace Accord: A New Model for Ending Conflict?

By Brodzinsky, Sibylla | The Christian Science Monitor, August 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

Colombia-FARC Peace Accord: A New Model for Ending Conflict?


Brodzinsky, Sibylla, The Christian Science Monitor


From the start of peace talks between The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Juan Manuel Santos in 2012, negotiators looked to the experiences of Northern Ireland and South Africa for inspiration.

But now, with the successful conclusion of four years of negotiations, Colombia will serve as a model for future peace negotiations around the world, analysts say.

Few countries have been at war as long as Colombia. The FARC took up arms against the state in 1964, and more than 50 years later, on Wednesday night, they agreed to lay them down. But it wasn't easy.

The talks went beyond historic trends of granting blanket amnesty to rebels and confining participants to only the government and guerrilla forces. And though some moves are deemed controversial and the ultimate declaration of peace hinges on a public vote slated for Oct. 2, the process here has created a new road map for reaching peace.

"Colombia has contributed with significant innovation to the field of peacebuilding," says Kristian Herbolzheimer, a conflict resolution expert with Conciliation Resources, a UK-based peace consultancy.

'A deeper commitment'The Colombian negotiations were the first in the world to include a formal role for victims of the conflict in the process itself, with individuals who suffered at the hands of different armed groups meeting directly with negotiators.

"I don't think there's ever been negotiations where victims were speaking face to face with perpetrators," Mr. Herbolzheimer says.

The inclusion of victims in the negotiations transformed the peace process itself, says Virginia Bouvier, senior advisor for peace processes with the US Institute of Peace. "It created a deeper commitment on the part of the negotiators," she says.

Part of the reason for incorporating the victims directly into the process is because this deal was among the first in the world to be negotiated under the obligations of members of the International Criminal Court. The ICC prohibits granting amnesty for war crimes, which has historically been a common element of peace deals around the world.

"The standards of what's acceptable and what's not acceptable in a peace agreement have changed dramatically in the past several years," says Herbolzheimer, referring to changes in guidance from the ICC.

This posed a particularly complicated problem for negotiators. Previous peace deals with smaller guerrilla groups in Colombia included blanket amnesties.

"The [FARC] guerrillas don't want to be the first in the history of Colombia to lay down their weapons to go to jail," President Santos said last year before negotiators came up with a creative approach to keeping rebels out of prison, while still ensuring their prosecution. …

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