The Road Towards Peace in Colombia
In November 2016, the Colombian government and the non-state armed group the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), signed a peace agreement, bringing to an end more than 50 years of protracted armed conflict. Although positive, there remain serious inter-related issues which need to be addressed. These include the mass internal displacement of over 6 million Colombians due to the violence, conflict, and land appropriation by armed groups; as well as the endemic housing, land and property (HLP) issues, which are one of the main drivers of conflict in Colombia. The demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) process of FARC members is also of concern, and how the reintegration and participation of demographic groups such as youth and women will be ensured.
The success of the peace process will depend on how the peace accords are implemented and supported by the international community, as well as the willingness of the Colombian government and civil society to address the wider structural issues which impact upon the peace process.
Explosive Remnants of War
The heavy presence of mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remains a significant obstacle to creating a lasting peace. Mines have been laid by the various conflict actors along paths used by pursuant and retreating forces, around camps and bases, or to protect illicit cultivations of coca plants.
The implementation of the Peace Accords and the legitimacy and sustainability of the peace itself is directly related to addressing the problem of mines and ERW- in particular to the accords on agricultural reform, ending conflict, and addressing the problem of illicit cultivation and drug trafficking.
As part of the peace negotiations, the FARC has agreed to work jointly with Colombian security forces to clear land mines in selected areas of Colombia as part of a peacebuilding pilot project. The advent of the recent peace negotiations and humanitarian demining pilot projects between the Colombian Government and the FARC is creating a positive outlook for future civilian clearance interventions. The Colombian government is now granting operational accreditation to civilian mine action organizations, which although is a slow process is a positive step in the right direction towards building a civilian humanitarian mine action capacity in Colombia.
Civilian humanitarian mine action organizations will play a special role in ensuring the sustainability of the peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC.
DDG in Colombia
DDG has had an office in Colombia since 2011, and has primarily focused on capacity-building programming with the Ministry of Post-Conflict (now the High Council for Post-Conflict, Human Rights, and Security) in Bogota. DDG has also been setting up its mine action program in Colombia, which is currently providing targeted mine and ERW risk education (MRE) to conflict-affected communities in Meta and Cundinamarca departments. DDG received its accreditation to conduct survey and mine/ERW clearance activities in March 2017.
Based on the serious issues in Colombia outlined above, DDG believes it is well-placed to deliver programming along a number of axes, in order to help contribute towards the peace-building process in Colombia. Some of the most pressing areas which require targeted interventions include:
- Supporting the reintegration of ex-combatants in host communities as potential agents for peace
- The widespread landmine and ERW contamination which affects safe return of IDPs and impinges on productive land use;
- Mistrust between security providers/duty bearers and the civilian population;
- The recruitment of youth into gangs and criminal groups.
- The lack of involvement of women in the peace process.