Building up a peace infrastructure for Colombia: lessons from implementing the Victims Law

Whether a potential peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will translate into the necessary transformations on the ground will depend, among other things, on the quality and legitimacy of its implementation system. Colombia will need to set up a peace infrastructure that not only facilitates formal compliance, but helps to transform the state, particularly at the local level, as well as citizens’ interactions with it. Tasked with implementing the 2011 Victims and Land Restitution Law, the National System for Comprehensive Attention to and Reparations for Victims provides important lessons for the architects of a future peace infrastructure. In order to have an impact on local dynamics, such an infrastructure will need to be developed in cooperation with regional and local actors and allow a degree of flexibility and autonomy for setting up cooperative spaces, while establishing clear standards and effective accountability systems. In the long run these spaces can only become vehicles for peace and confidence-building if power asymmetries and security risks facing community leaders are addressed. Finally, the success of a peace infrastructure will depend on the degree to which it is woven into existing institutional processes and logics, and manages to introduce good management practices instead of creating parallel, partly competing systems.