Following the swearing-in of the new Colombian President Iván Duque in August, many people in Colombia believe that the peace process is at a crossroads. After more than 50 years of bloody fighting, which resulted in at least 260,000 people dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced, reconciliation is a huge task and a key project for peace within Germany’s foreign policy.
Peter Ptassek, the German Ambassador in Bogotá, commented:
A peace agreement has been in place for two years. What was decided back then must now become tangible for the entire population. Furthermore, combatants must become workers and entrepreneurs and that is not an easy task. Colombia now needs to provide a future for everyone.
The German Government is supporting the process through Special Envoy Tom Koenigs, as well as financially through stabilisation, development cooperation, political advisory services and the promotion of civil society.
A long road
Although the number of victims has dropped significantly, and FARC surrendered all of its weapons exactly one year ago within the framework of a UN mission and transformed itself into a political party, the challenges are immense. Former combatants have to be reintegrated, the search for missing people continues and legal alternatives to drug cultivation and in many cases land reform are necessary. Moreover, there have been numerous reports of fatal attacks against human rights defenders. The road to reconciliation is long and difficult. Tom Koenigs, the Envoy of the Federal Foreign Minister to the Colombian Peace Process, stressed: “Germany has made a political statement by explicitly supporting the negotiated peace settlement.” He went on to say that it was important to be optimistic, to stay on course and to continue supporting the peace process together with all other parties.
An institute for peace
The German-Colombian Peace Institute CAPAZ in Bogotá is an outstanding initiative. CAPAZ, the first institute of its kind, is supporting the peace process both academically and with practical advice.
The existence of the institute, which is being funded by the Federal Foreign Office through the German Academic Exchange Service, demonstrates the considerable political interest in a successful peace process. “CAPAZ makes it clear that Colombia is of great relevance to peace research”, explained Stefan Peters, professor of peace research and the German director of the institute. He added that Germany was able, among other things, to draw on its expertise in coming to grips with the past or on civic education.
Reconciliation needs patience
In order to safeguard peace, Colombia has created new institutions such as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Missing Persons Search Unit and the Truth Commission. Prof. Kai Ambos is a German adviser to Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace. On the whole, he is optimistic, “Both the military and FARC are committed to the peace process and are prepared to respect the authority of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.”
Even if many rifts still divide Colombian society: Germany is committed with many partners in Colombia on a long-term basis to helping the country to durably safeguard the still new and not yet stable peace.