A group of five high-ranking officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the President of the civil society organisation Balay Mindanaw visited Colombia in September as part of NOREF’s military dialogue programme. The visit allowed the AFP delegation to meet the Colombian and international actors involved in the implementation of the peace agreement with the FARC, and gave the Colombians and Filipinos several opportunities to exchange their views on the peace processes under way in their respective countries.
NOREF and its Colombian partner organisation, the Social Development Group, facilitated the visit, which was co-hosted by the Norwegian Embassy in Bogotá and the Colombian War College.
At the start of the comprehensive six-day programme the Filipino visitors were welcomed by the Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces and the Norwegian Ambassador to Colombia, after which the Presidential Advisor on Stabilisation and Consolidation and the Director of the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalisation (ARN) discussed the Colombian government’s efforts to reincorporate the FARC and its members into the country’s normal economic and social processes. The members of the Filipino group had the opportunity to meet the President of the FARC political party and one of its senators, and to engage in an open and frank conversation about various aspects of the FARC’s participation into Colombia’s democratic politics. The delegation also received briefings on the achievements of and challenges facing the implementation of the peace agreement, including on the security situation; the comprehensive system for truth, justice and reparation; and the guarantees of non-repetition. Subsequent dialogue with members of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies’ Barometer Initiative provided the Filipino visitors with additional opportunities to broaden and deepen their understanding of the current status of the implementation of the Colombian peace agreement.
Walking through the former ETCR La Fila (with representatives from the ARN). Photo: NOREF
The week in Colombia included a one-day visit to the La Fila former Territorial Area for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR) in Icononzo municipality in the Department of Tolima, where the visitors met members of a variety of institutions involved in the daily running of the ETCR and in providing security to the former FARC combatants living there. Finally, the Filipino visitors met officers from the Colombian War College and the National Police’s Unit for Peacebuilding. This meeting allowed the visitors to hear first-hand accounts of the role of the Colombian security forces in the negotiated political solution of the armed conflict with the FARC from security forces personnel who were actively involved in the peace process. In turn, the visitors shared their experiences of the AFP’s engagement in the various peace processes under way in the Philippines. The visit consolidated links between the AFP and the Colombian Armed Forces, and allowed productive interactions between the Social Development Group from Colombia and Balay Mindanaw from the Philippines (i.e. the two civil society organisations that, together with NOREF, support dialogue between the militaries and civil society actors in their respective countries).
The holding of informal and open exchanges among and with key security sector and civil society actors in both countries’ peace processes constitutes the main component of NOREF’s military dialogue programme, which in Colombia builds on a solid partnership with the Social Development Group, the Colombian War College and the Norwegian Embassy in Bogotá, while in the Philippines is mainly driven by the active engagement of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, the AFP, and the Norwegian Embassy in Manila, all of which contributed to the successful exchange described above.