Subscribe
The Monitor's View

Colombia creates peace before ending a war

Trust building first

To end its long conflict, Colombia’s government and rebel leaders first had to strike agreements on what peace would look like. Only now have they agreed on a cease-fire. It is a novel approach to end other wars.

  • close
    In this Jan. 3, 2016 photo, Orlando, a rebel fighter for the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, hangs a banner featuring the late rebel leader Alfonso Cano with a message that reads in Spanish: "Our dream is peace with social justice," in their hidden camp in Antioquia state, in the northwest Andes of Colombia. The Colombian government and leftists FARC rebels said Wednesday, June 22, 2016, that they have reached a deal on a bilateral cease-fire that would be the last major step toward ending one of the world’s longest wars. President Santos will travel to Cuba Thursday for the announcement with the FARC.
    AP Photo
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Wars end when the fighting stops, right? And that is called peace?

Not so in the case of Colombia’s 52-year-long conflict between the government and a Marxist rebel group called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Over the past four years, even as they clashed in war, the two sides have been building peace through a series of negotiated agreements on specific issues, such as rural reform. Only on Wednesday did they finally agree on the terms of a military cease-fire.

There’s a lesson for other world conflicts in this “peace first” approach. It is that peace must be seen not merely as the absence of war but as a tangible reality. For Colombia that reality has been designed through difficult talks to include interim pacts on truth-telling about past abuses, a measure of justice for victims, an eventual coexistence between old foes, and broad economic and social reforms.

It may sound odd, but the negotiators describe the approach this way: “Fight the war as if there is no peace process and conduct the peace process as if there is no war.” In other words, protect the peace process from flare-ups in the war that might derail it.

What has been key to this mutual building of peace prospects?

Both sides at the negotiating table really began to bond and create trust when they recognized a common experience: that many of their own family, friends, and colleagues had been innocent victims of this long war.

In fact, a dozen victims were present at the talks, which have been held in Cuba. Some 7. 9 million victims organized themselves through elections to create a representative group from both sides. Their presence, along with their demands for peace, accountability, and reparations, could not be ignored.

The victims’ pleas helped create a mood of humility, and even one apology. A rebel commander recently apologized to a village where a massacre took place after rebel weapons hit a church full of people.

Wednesday’s cease-fire agreement, which includes terms for demobilizing FARC’s 8,000 to 10,000 rebels, indicates that negotiations for a full and final peace agreement could wrap up in coming weeks. The complete set of pacts will then be put to a referendum. Once approved, implementation starts.

Under the rules of the talks, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Each side must know first what peace will look like to them. Then the war can stop. If this approach works, Colombia will have created a model worth trying to end other wars.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK