Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany

11/24/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/24/2021 09:15

Five years of the peace agreement in Colombia

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Five years of the peace agreement in Colombia

Spanish newspapers with headlines about the peace agreement between the colombian government and the FARC, © picture alliance / dpa | Christian Escobar Mora

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24.11.2021 - Article

Five years ago the Colombian Government and the former FARC guerrilla group signed a peace agreement to end half a century of armed conflict. This was a historic step on the long and difficult path to durable peace, which Germany actively supports.

The armed internal conflict in Colombia brought more than 50 years of brutal strife in which at least 260,000

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Banner saying "Campamento por La Paz"("peace camp") hanging between two trees at the entrance of a FARC disarmament camp.© dpa

people died, more than 80,000 went missing and seven million were internally displaced. It has left deep scars. The implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and social reconciliation are still enormous tasks for this country, which remains divided on the peace accords. Former FARC combatants need to be reintegrated into civilian life, egregious human rights violations by the parties to the conflict have to be prosecuted, victims must be compensated. The search for missing people continues. Legal alternatives to drug cultivation are necessary, as is comprehensive land reform. All of this involves profound social change, which entails overcoming resistance and surviving setbacks. In particular, the continuing high level of violence threatens the peace. Even where FARC has withdrawn, numerous other criminal organisations, often local, are still active in Colombia. The road to reconciliation remains long and difficult.

And yet, the peace agreement in Colombia, in all its complexity, is an unprecedented framework for peace that could serve as a model for resolving other conflicts around the world, if it works. Not least because of this, the entire international community, represented by the United Nations, backs the agreement. Germany, too, is supporting the process financially and in other ways through stabilisation projects, development cooperation, political advisory services and the promotion of civic engagement.

Reconciliation needs patience

In order to keep the peace and investigate the conflict, a complex transitional justice mechanism was created by the peace agreement. This has led to the establishment of new institutions: a court called the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a Truth Commission and a Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons. These are intended to contribute to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. The peace accords put the interests of the victims at the heart of investigative work.

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The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is the only criminal justice component in the system. It is responsible for the legal investigation of the conflict. The focus is on the victims - their rights should be given as much weight as possible. Since it started its work, the Special Jurisdiction has launched seven "macro-cases" and brought the first trailblazing charges against perpetrators of crimes against international law. The German law professor Kai Ambos is one of the Special Jurisdiction's four international advisors (amicus curiae).

The Truth Commission is responsible for the academic and historical investigation of the period concerned. It is designed to give all participants the opportunity to present their personal truths. So far the Commission has held numerous public hearings and reconciliation meetings and taken over 26,000 testimonies inside and outside Colombia. Its German liaison office (Nodo Alemania) is supported by the German-Colombian Peace Institute (CAPAZ), which receives Federal Foreign Office funds. The Truth Commission is due to present its final report early in the summer of 2022. The Commission's President, Father Francisco de Roux, is one of the most respected peace activists in the country.

The Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons had received more than 9000 search requests by the end of 2020. With its 23 regional teams, it is working assiduously to find out what happened to each missing person. Since its establishment, the Search Unit has located the human remains of more than 190 individuals, and has transferred the majority of these to their families. It has also found four people who had been missing for decades and reunited them with their families.

An institute for peace

Even if many rifts still divide Colombian society: Germany is engaged long-term in Colombia with many

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Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the German-Colombian Peace Institute in 2019© picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

partners to help the country consolidate and durably safeguard the still new and not always stable peace. The German-Colombian Peace Institute CAPAZ in Bogotá, which was founded in 2016, plays an outstanding role. The Institute is funded by the Federal Foreign Office through the German Academic Exchange Service, and provides scientific support and political advice to back the peace process. Its focus is on social reconciliation, strengthening the rule of law, conflict prevention and peacebuilding. To this end the Institute connects stakeholders from the scientific community, civil society and governmental agencies with each other. It is also active in the field of civic education, partly in cooperation with the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

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