Four years later, Colombia's Peace Agreement advances at a snail's pace

More than four years after the signing of the Peace Agreement in Colombia, democraciaAbierta looked at the progress made on each of the Agreement's points to discover flagrant breaches and the deterioration of the situation on too many fronts.

democracia Abierta
6 January 2021, 3.15pm
Women who left the FARC guerrilla in Colombia demonstrate to remember their husbands and loved ones killed after the peace process agreement between the government and the guerrilla was signed in 2016, in Bogota, Colombia
Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/PA Images

A report presented in August 2020 by Colombian senators and representatives of the opposition recounted where the Agreement was in terms of its implementation, four years after it was signed. Four months after that devastating report, statistics on violence remain staggering and, what represented a great and historic opportunity for Colombia, has witnessed an incomprehensible stagnation on some of its key points.

According to the report, the country has seen an important increase in the number of slayings of social leaders, confinements and forced displacements. Likewise, on the issues of victim reparation and land endowment, the report found it would take the Colombian State 43 years to compensate all of the conflict's victims, while only 0.08% of the targeted 3 million hectares of the Land Fund has been allocated.

These findings raise – or should raise – many red flags about the execution of an Agreement that brought hope to many Colombians, as well as to many countries and sectors, since not only did it put an end to the oldest guerrilla group on the continent, but also represented the opportunity to undertake social transformations that Colombia has needed for decades, such as equality for rural populations, reparation for victims, and advances in the management of drug trafficking.

None of these has yet been achieved, and the political will required today to advance on these key issues for the stability and future of the country is nowhere in sight.

In this article, democraciaAbierta analyzes, point by point, where Colombia's Peace Agreement stands.

Point 1: Comprehensive rural reform

The first point of the agreement, titled Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform, was created to reverse the effects of the conflict and guarantee the sustainability of peace, increase the well-being of peasants, and promote integration and social development by promoting opportunities for the Colombian countryside, especially for the populations most affected by the armed conflict and poverty. It was, in short, the formula for transforming the countryside nationwide.

Active government cooperation is needed to ensure a plural and effective political participation for ex-combatants, an issue that is key for them to have opportunities to rejoin Colombian civil society

Point 1 set forth the creation of a fund of 3 million hectares within the first ten years, that is, by 2028, which would allow peasants with no land or insufficient land to gain access to land.

In July 2020, the fund had secured 1 million hectares. This leaves the current government, and those to come, eight years to secure 2 million more. It is important to understand that not all the lands in the fund are lands that are handed over to peasant. The land adjudication process has several stages. The State first needs to find the land, then carry out a characterization process, which involves going to the territory to gauge if the land is productive, and, finally, have it ready to deliver. Thus, this timely process demands that the government move at a faster pace or there will not be enough time to allocate the total land and comply with the delivery process.

Another important agreement within Point 1 was to create a multipurpose cadastre that would achieve the formation and updating of the current rural cadastre in seven years. To date, the cadastre has not been created, which prevents real distribution and inspection of rural properties.

Also, the progress made to eradicate extreme poverty in the countryside is nowhere near what was expected for 2020 under Point 1 of the agreement. According to the Integrated Post-Conflict Information System (SIIPO, by its Spanish acronym), only 53,13% of the expected plans have been completed so far.

Other agreements within Point 1 have advanced as follows: Implementation of social ordering of rural property and land use – 22.31%; Infrastructure and land adequacy – 55.73%; Social and health development – an alarming 3.08%; Social development or rural education in – 41.91%; Housing and drinking water – a low 29%; Agricultural production and solidarity economy – 59%; Guarantee of the right to food in an – 30%, also low; and action plans for regional transformation – 48%. Although some agreements have been worked upon, some key ones are well below what is expected.

Point 2: Political participation

Point 2 of the agreement seeks to expand democracy and make it easier for ex-combatants to have a voice and vote in the political arena. To achieve this, three agreements were established. To date, none has achieved a 50% implementation rate.

The first agreement is the rights and guarantees for the opposition and the new movements that emerged after the Agreement was signed. Just 8.24% of its implementation has been achieved. The second agreement concerns the democratic mechanisms of citizen participation for ex-combatants, and only 35% of it has been completed. Finally, Point 2's last agreement seeks to promote greater participation in national politics. Although several FARC leaders are now in Colombian politics, only 24% of this agreement has been achieved.

What the figures show is that active government cooperation is needed to ensure a plural and effective political participation for ex-combatants, an issue that is key for them to have opportunities to rejoin Colombian civil society.

List of the names of the social leaders murdered in 2020 in Colombia
List of the names of the social leaders murdered in 2020 in Colombia
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Point 3: End of the conflict

This point is key because it sets out the roadmap to definitively end the war between the FARC and the Colombian Army. Likewise, it is the point that defined how the laying down of arms would be done and how the process of reincorporation of the ex-combatants would begin.

This point is the one that shows the most advancement. The first agreement, concerning ceasefire, was 100% executed. The second, which refers to the reincorporation of ex-combatants, has been implemented by 70%. The third, on security guarantees and fights against criminal organizations and behaviors, by 43%.

There is, however, a part of this point that is controversial: the reincorporation of ex-combatants. One of the most important achievements of the Agreement was the surrender of weapons by the FARC. However, the future of reincorporation remains uncertain. Ex-combatants, to date, do not have their own land, which puts the sustainability of their projects and their economic stability at risk. Moreover, a year ago the validity of the decree that created the reincorporation spaces, or ETCR, ended. In theory, the government was going to buy these spaces for ex-combatants, but this only happened with two of the 24 ETCRs.

By July 2020, 71.3% of ex-combatants were not linked to a productive project disbursed by the national government.

Since the beginning of the process of laying down arms to July 13, 2020, 250 ex-combatants have been killed, an alarming figure that emphasizes their vulnerability and lack of protection – a clear violation of the Agreement. Since March 24, when the government established a nationwide Covid-19 quarantine, more than 20 signatories have been killed.

Point 4: Solution to illicit drugs

Point 4 of the Agreement seeks to solve the problem of illicit drugs, which requires a new vision for the phenomenon of consumption, the problem of illicit crops, and organized crime associated with drug trafficking.

The report shows that, in the last two years, Colombia reduced its hectares of coca, but increased the productivity of cocaine. The hectares of coca decreased from 169,000 in 2018 to 154,000 in 2019, a difference of 15,000 fewer hectares, which confirms the break in the incremental trend that began in 2014. However, the potential production of cocaine hydrochloride increased by 15%, showing a higher degree of technification in production, meaning that a smaller amount of coca leaf is required to produce the same amount of cocaine..

According to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), all regions saw a reduction in coca cultivation except for the Catatumbo region, with an increase of 24% in crops. This is important because Catatumbo was a region prioritized by the government in the post-conflict arena, but where no crop replacement initiatives were implemented.

The National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Crops for Illicit Use (PNIS) has progressed very slowly. It is worrying that, more than three years after its implementation, only 12% of subscribed families have a productive project. If the pace continues as it goes, it will take 139 years for families with individual agreements to have a productive project. The foregoing does not take into account the families that signed collective agreements and those that want to eradicate and that have not been linked to a replacement project.

Added to the uncertainty of these figures are the recent statements by the minister of Defense, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, who has affirmed that violence in Colombia is due to illicit crops and that the solution is the return of glyphosate. This, in addition to going against the Agreement and the Constitutional Court, threatens the life and health of the populations and ecosystems where there are illegal crops.

That is why it is important to look at the forced eradication figures. By 2020, the goal of forced coca eradication was 130,000 hectares, 62% more than in 2019, which was 80,000 hectares. Thus, eradication activities at the head of the Public Force have increased in regions such as Catatumbo, Bajo Cauca, Putumayo and Nariño. The consequence: social conflict and violence have increased. The Land Observatory registered that four peasants and more than five indigenous people have died as a result of operations carried out by the Army and the Anti-Narcotics Police throughout 2020.

The above shows that there is no articulation between forced eradication policies, which should be the last resort when there is no will to eradicate in a concerted manner, and substitution programs, which opens the door to proposals such as Holmes Trujillo's to resume glyphosate spraying.

There is an imbalance for women and a need to improve the gender approach in the implementation of the Agreement

Point 5: Victims and Transitional Justice

Point 5 is one of the most important points of the Agreement. The Single Registry of Victims includes 9.031.048 victims, of which 7.299.457 are subject to direct attention, as of June 2020. Likewise, the annual average of compensated victims between 2012 and 2019 was 103.536. In 2020, the Victims Unit delivered 72.539 compensations, which shows that, if the same trend continues, compensation increases by 40.1% each year. This, however, is not enough, as it would take 43 years to compensate all the victims. Likewise, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has accredited more than 300 thousand victims. These numbers account for the country's unpaid debt to the victims.

On land restitution issues, as of June 2020, the Land Unit (URT) had received 125.513 applications for registration in the Registry of Dispossessed and Abandoned Lands (RTDAF) by 95.926 individuals. Of these requests, 83.5% were handled by the URT and 94.1% are in microfocalized areas. On the other hand, the administrative processing of 81.820 applications was completed. As of June 30, 2020, 5.811 rulings had been issued that resolved 11.265 requests from the Unit, which means that, of the total requests for restitution, only 5.5% had been resolved by a judge.

Regarding the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) by June 2020 the Sala de Reconocimiento de Verdad, de Responsabilidad y de Determinación de los Hechos y Conductas (Room for Recognition of Truth, Responsibility and Determination of Facts and Behavior), determined the opening of seven macro cases that are in the process of being expanded and investigated, ranging from false positives to the recruitment of children in the armed conflict.

The Missing Persons Search Unit, for its part, has created nine ongoing regional search plans that aim to search a total of 591 people. Regarding the reception of information, as of March 31, 2020, the Unit had received search requests corresponding to 5.389 missing persons and had established the status of 810 people, of which 591 were already included in a regional search plan. .

Finally, the Truth Commission has heard 11.118 victims; 38% of the guerrillas, 32% of the paramilitaries and 16% of the Public Force. By the end of 2019, the Commission had prepared 23 preliminary documents on patterns and explanatory contexts of the armed conflict that will help to create the final report of this institution. Regarding the issue of non-repetition, the Commission prepared nine documents that compile recommendations from the Dialogues for Non-repetition processes and the analysis of attacks on social leaders. The slaughter of social leaders, however, continues to increase and, in 2020 alone, 310 were killed, almost one a day.

Point 6: Implementation and verification

In the SIIPO, only the progress of the indicators that have a methodological sheet are reported, which must be constituted by each responsible entity and approved by the National Planning Department (DNP). Since the last multiparty report, there was an advance of 5 percentage points in the indicators that have a hanging file, reaching 74% of the indicators.

It is still worrying that 11.6% of the indicators with a hanging file do not have an information report on their progress. The entities that present delays to report are: the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and Law and the Ministry of Health.

Regarding gender, the Agreement contemplates 130 measures related to this approach. However, these measures have made less progress than the total number of commitments in the Agreement. Only 9% of the 130 provisions have been implemented compared to 25% of the total Agreement, which is a low percentage.

Of the Land Fund, 36% have been given to women compared to 64% hectares given to men. In the PNIS, only 1.36% of the families with registered female holders had productive projects formulated and initiated.

This shows an imbalance for women and a need to improve the gender approach in the implementation of the Agreement.

Regarding ethnicity, the Agreement contemplates 80 measures related to this approach. Of these, only 10% have been fully implemented and none of the ethnic families have received support for productive projects. Likewise, of the approved Regional Plans, none has been agreed upon with the ethnic communities nor does it contain differential components.

At the beginning of 2020, 86% of indigenous families and 46% of Afro-Colombian families with a signed substitution agreements had not received the food security component. Likewise, 45% of Afro-Colombian families and 100% of indigenous families had not received technical assistance.

Slow pace

What is clear about the progress on each point is that, a little more than four years after the Agreement was signed, progress is very poor and very slow. However, there is still time to readjust the path. This, of course, depends on the National Government, to which several entities, such as Dejusticia and the Truth Commission itself, have called upon to fulfill the promises of the Agreement.

Not only does the security of the country depend on the Agreement, but also commitments to the international community and legal obligations arise. The Agreement represented not only the opportunity to end the oldest war in the South American continent, but also a commitment to reconciliation and social progress on many fronts.

The evident lack of political will slows down the implementation of the different points, which means that Colombia continues to be mired in very serious injustices while the murders of social leaders and ex-combatants continues, multiple paramilitary groups consolidate, the industrial production of coca paste continues, and peasants still do not see the promised reparation. In the face of the data, the Agreement needs to run like a hare to achieve its goals, and yet it is moving at a snail's pace. Colombia needs to accelerate.

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