The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC has been one of the most important peace process breakthroughs in recent years. The armed struggle in Colombia had raged for over 50 years. The violence had cost more than 220,000 lives and caused the displacement of over seven million Colombians. In addition, it had taken an extensive humanitarian toll in terms of the use of child soldiers, sexual violence, the laying of landmines, human rights violations and a deep social polarisation.
Along with other international actors, Norway has been involved in peace processes in Colombia for over two decades. The previous attempt to hold peace talks came to a halt in 2003, and later in 2007, leading to an almost decade-long hiatus. During that time Norway kept the door open to Colombian agents for peace. When the parties to the conflict rekindled their interest in a peace process, the Norwegian MFA was ready – as was NOREF – with targeted advice and assistance to the parties. The peace process was formally relaunched in 2012 and a peace deal was signed and approved in late 2016.
Along the way, NOREF has developed and provided expertise on some of the most contentious issues, for example by helping to organise a group of legal experts on transitional justice. The unrelenting focus on knowledge and expertise in this process became its strength, and prevented it from disintegrating. It also contributed to an agreement drawn up according to high international legal and humanitarian standards. It furthermore generated some truly innovative approaches to peace negotiations, such as bringing delegations of victims from both sides into the process.
In 2014 NOREF became engaged in a military dialogue programme in Colombia. In cooperation with the Colombian NGO responsible for the project – the Social Development Group – NOREF has participated in and provided input to workshops with high-ranking officers of the Colombian armed forces. This has contributed to a better understanding of the peace process among the armed forces and has built trust between different sectors of society.
NOREF’s work in Colombia is far from over: the peace agreement is by no means the final step towards lasting peace.
The peace agreement with the FARC paved the way for peace negotiations with Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla organisation, the ELN. NOREF will continue to give priority to the ELN peace process in much the same way as it has done with the FARC process.
Last, but not least, NOREF is working to share the experience of the Colombian peace process in other areas of its work and with expert audiences around the world.
Project Manager: Monica Rafael