Report of the International Verification Mission on the Implementation of the Peace Agreement with a gender sensitive approach:
One year ago, on 24 November 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia – People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo – FARC-EP) signed the Final Agreement to End the Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace. The agreement aims to end more than 50 years of armed conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP and was formally approved by the Colombian Congress on 30 November 2016.
This report firstly addresses the implementation of measures agreed in the Peace Agreement regarding the issue of Protection and Security as well as the dismantling of criminal groups, including paramilitary successor groups. Subsequently, the report focuses on the expansion of democracy, the conditions for the FARC party born out of the Peace Agreement, for opposition parties, and for possible candidates for the Special Transitory Electoral Districts for Peace. Finally, we will evaluate the progress made in the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence.
What occurred during the visit of the international mission to Colombia?
“One cannot lose hope, as communities we need to continue to go with the peace process; there is no other possible way forward.” Afro-Colombian woman leader from the Cacarica river basin –Urabá region, department of Chocó.
“There is no peace in the territories, but there is still hope”: thus the Mission concluded its visit to Colombia. Despite the failure of the Colombian State to implement most of the commitments in the Peace Agreement, despite the lack of security guarantees for former combatants, the increase in attacks on human rights defenders and leaders, despite the arrival of new armed actors and finding themselves once against in the midst of an armed confrontation, the communities, organisations and movements, and former combatants who spoke to the Mission continue to support peace as the only way forward.
The lack of progress in implementing the Peace Agreement brings many consequences that may be highly negative for Colombia. Moreover, according to the United Nations, the majority of FARC members are leaving the Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation due to insecurity and lack of opportunities for socioeconomic reincorporation. At the same time, a negative message is being sent to the negotiators in the current peace talks in Quito between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrillas; and to citizens in general, who will be called on to vote in the 2018 presidential and legislative elections.
It is necessary to move quickly in implementing the Peace Agreement and to ensure that it reaches the territories. Only in this way will it be possible to say that there will be a concerted fight against impunity and against the repetition of all types of violence, that the gender perspective will not be limited to mere pronouncements but will be explicitly put into practice; and that socioeconomic opportunities will be forged to avoid the causes of the armed conflict from continuing, and so that the former combatants do not seek alternatives for survival by turning to crime, thereby ensuring a sustainable and genuine peace.
Achieved: the end of the armed confrontation and the laying-down of weapons
The end of the armed conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla has led to a general decrease in conflict-related killings. “If we consider the total number of deaths throughout the conflict, the peace process with the FARC has prevented the conflict-related deaths of at least 2,796 people: most of them FARC guerrillas and members of the security forces”. The FARC-EP have fulfilled most of their commitments included in the Peace Agreement, mainly in relation to the concentration of their troops, the laying-down of weapons and the decision to move from armed struggle to political struggle and civilian life. The Peace Agreement represents a historic opportunity for the construction of a new way of living together and a new democracy. Peace is the way forward.
Security guarantees as guarantees of non-recurrence: an unfulfilled promise
The figures say it all: from January 2016 to October 2017, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office registered more than 200 murders of human rights defenders and social leaders. By October 2017, 25 former combatants and 11 of their family members had been killed. The measures envisaged in the Peace Agreement have not been adequately implemented since the National Commission for Security Guarantees does not have resources from the national budget to be able to go to regions and analyse together with communities the reality that they face and to take the necessary measures. This Commission does not have a work plan to propose public policies for the dismantling of criminal groups, including neo-paramilitary groups. The Special Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office is not fulfilling its mission, which is to carry out investigations that will enable these groups to be dismantled, including investigations into possible political and economic support.
The communities in the regions visited live in a situation of fear and remain immersed in contexts of armed conflict or territorial control by illegal armed actors. It is incomprehensible that the Colombian government has not filled the vacuum left by the FARC-EP when they withdrew from their areas of influence, leaving the communities at the mercy of a new struggle for territorial control between illegal armed actors.
Democratic expansion: the half-full or half-empty glass
After 26 years, a Statute for the Opposition was approved in the Colombian Congress, a historical debt since the passing of the 1991 Colombian Constitution. The former combatants formed a new political party, the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force, which was recognised by the National Electoral Council. This new party will have five seats in the Senate and five seats in the House of Representatives for two electoral periods. On the other hand, the norm that established the creation of 16 Special Transitional Electoral Districts for Peace, to encourage participation in the House of Representatives of victims of the armed conflict, remains in legal limbo at the time this report was completed.
Despite the inclusion in the Peace Agreement of the right to protest and social mobilisation, despite recognition by President Juan Manuel Santos that these rights will increase and will be the tools for the expression of differences in a country without armed conflict, and despite the history of repression of these protests in Colombia; the Colombian government has not presented a bill on political participation to the Colombian Congress that includes clear guarantees for the exercise of the right to protest and social demonstration. In the regions visited, the Mission heard numerous cases of abuses by the State Security Forces against demonstrators.
The Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence: opening the door to impunity?
The Peace Agreement placed the victims’ rights at its centre, and for that reason it established a system of transitional justice based on the clarification and punishment of the main people responsible for the armed conflict and for crimes against the civilian population. Three bodies were approved for this system: the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Recurrence Commission, the Special Unit for the Search of Persons Considered Disappeared, and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The victims have high expectations for the first two bodies, and the Mission is concerned about the lack of State resources for their operational start-up, especially for the second body.
As for the JEP, the Law approved by the Congress opens the door to impunity for civilians (such as businessmen and politicians) and State officials who do not belong to the State Security Forces. Effectively, they can not be called to appear before the JEP, they can only do so voluntarily. The fight against impunity is a fundamental condition for guarantees of non-repetition and it is necessary to investigate those who may have planned elements of the conflict and crimes against communities, beyond investigations into those who pulled the trigger.
The gender focus is present in the Agreement but practically absent in practice
The inclusion of the gender focus in the Peace Agreement thanks to the work of the Gender Sub-Committee and pressure from feminist and women’s organisations in Colombia was welcomed as highly positive at the national level and by the international community. However during the implementation process the results are not so positive. In the JEP the majority of selected persons are women (53%) and women were chosen to head the Special Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Special Unit for the Search for Persons Considered Disappeared. However, in the other bodies women are in a minority, as in the Truth Commission (45%), or are completely or almost completely absent, as in the National Commission for Security Guarantees (13%), the National Council for Reincorporation (0%) and in the Implementation, Follow-up and Verification Commission (Comisión de Seguimiento, Impulso y Verificación) (17%). The women interviewed stated that there has been no peace methodology or measures to strengthen women’s organisations, or to ensure their participation in politics.
The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office has drawn attention to the continued use of “sexual violence as a way to control the population, in disputes that could take place between armed actors for repositioning and territorial control” and to the fact that this Office attended 361 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in the first 10 months of 2017. The Peace Agreement must be an opportunity to learn the truth about crimes of sexual violence, make visible their magnitude and harmful impacts and ensure that these crimes are not repeated.
6 – Incomplete implementation: a negative message for the future
The slow and incomplete implementation puts the sustainability of the peace process at risk and sends a negative message to the negotiating table between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrilla. The opportunity that Colombia has is unique and must not be lost.
Mundubat and Peace Brigades International
 “Un conflicto largo, de terminación negociada”, Monitor del Cese el Fuego Bilateral y de Hostilidades, CERAC, 30 June 2017.
 “Defensoría presenta Plan de Acción Integral y Ruta de Atención para mujeres”, Defensoría del Pueblo, 1 December 2017, Bogotá.
*Cover photo: Bianca Bauer