Challenges facing the Colombian peace negotiations

Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) started in 2012 and have advanced slowly but surely. The rules of procedure – no ceasefire, extreme confidentiality on the discussions, a limited agenda, direct negotiations without civil society participation or international mediation – have helped to isolated the talks from the pressures of everyday reality.

In May 2013 the parties announced an agreement on point 1 of the agenda, which deals with the land problem. Negotiations on point 2 – the political participation of the guerrillas – started in July 2013. Four further points have to be discussed: the drugs business, the end of armed conflict, justice and compensation for victims, and the procedures for implementing the agreement.

Both sides have used peace negotiations to build up their political image. The FARC, besides supporting or promoting social protests of coca-growing peasants, miners, and other groups with social grievances, has made some proposals not in the agenda, such as the convening of a constitutional assembly or a general reform of the state, but has shown flexibility and for the moment has withdrawn most of these proposals.

The negotiations will last longer than previously announced, but both sides have good reasons to maintain them beyond the March 2014 elections, provided that progress is made and there are no extreme provocations by the FARC.