This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Ending Latin America’s longest conflict

The possible signing of a peace agreement between the guerrilla group FARC and the Colombian government brought for me, as a Colombian Mennonite, a sense of hope that the path to peace is starting in my country. Although many steps still need to be taken, and the date for signing the definitive agreement has been postponed, the process has begun. Let us continue to hope and pray that the outcome will be one of justice, truth, reparation and reconciliation for the people of Colombia.

Juan Sebastian Pacheco

On Aug. 26, 2012, in Havana, Cuba, Colombian government officials and delegates from the FARC signed the first document in which both sides expressed their willingness to begin negotiations. These will hopefully bring an end to more than 50 years of illegal military operations in which thousands of victims, and Colombians in general, have been submerged in a social, political, economic and human rights crisis.

The main issues to discuss during the continued negotiations in Havana are: 1) policy on integral agricultural development; 2) political participation; 3) end of conflict; 4) solution to the problem of illegal drugs; 5) victims’ rights; and 6) implementation, verification and countersignature of the agreement.

On Jan. 25, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2261 — to “set up a United Nations political mission in Colombia, approving a team of international observers to monitor disarmament” should the Colombian government and the FARC reach an agreement to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict. This mission, in collaboration with a group of experts from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, will face the challenge of creating an effective process for the FARC to surrender weapons and establish technical and verifiable conditions to do so.

On June 23, the government and the FARC signed a definitive ceasefire and agreement to surrender weapons to the United Nations. In “rural transitory normalization zones,” international observers will be in charge of monitoring and verification.

Challenges remain:

  • To establish a clear and solid transitional justice system. One of the first outcomes was the creation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. However, there is still ambiguity, since it is not clear how this Special Jurisdiction will operate.
  • To secure victims’ rights. There are concerns that demobilization of the FARC could lead to a process of impunity.
  • To implement the agreements. There is a strong call from civil society and various organizations to be witnesses and to accompany the process of implementation.

The Mennonite Central Committee United Nations Office, along with other faith-based organizations, has engaged in advocacy work, especially to members of the Security Council. We have been raising awareness about the importance of implementing the peace agreement in accordance with the recommendations of the civil society. We are emphasizing the need for transparency, clear rules for implementation and accountability for all actors: the government, the FARC and the international community. We want to support our Colombian sisters and brothers in affirming that now is the beginning of a path that can lead to peace.

Juan Pacheco, a member of Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, Colombia, completed an internship at the MCC U.N. Office in New York City in July.

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