The stunningly high levels of violence against unionists, Afro-Colombians, indigenous persons, and other civilians are a testament to the urgency of ending the decades-long conflict in Colombia. In a recent policy brief published by the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego, our colleague Milburn Line called for a reshaped U.S. policy towards Colombia, one that brings the possibility of a peace process to the forefront.
In his report, Line gives background on the failures of efforts to end the conflict and the impacts of U.S. policies that have escalated the suffering. After 10 years of U.S. aid through Plan Colombia, the country has one of the world’s greatest displacement crises, the Colombian military is accused of involvement in human rights crimes, tens of thousands of people have been forcibly disappeared, and impunity continues to undermine the justice system. Line explains that a peace process with the FARC is a viable win/win alternative for the Colombian government, its people, and the United States. Among others, results could include:
- Significant reductions in human rights crimes against the civilian population;
- Improved relations between Colombia and its neighbors;
- More positive public opinion of the U.S. and its leaders, both within Colombia and throughout the region;
- And “clearer policy channels for other U.S. priorities, including free trade and efforts to control the illicit narcotics trade.”
The report notes that, fortunately, President Juan Manuel Santos’ initial steps indicate that “the window of opportunity for peace may be opening.”
According to Line, the participation of Colombian civil society in the peace process, multilateral engagement in the negotiations, the creation of a “foundational document” with “clear standards for Colombian security forces and the FARC” that could build momentum for negotiations, and an attitude that views peacebuilding as a policy founded upon the practice of accountability are the four steps necessary to constructing a peace agenda. As he points out, there is only one alternative to a peace process: “continued violence against civilians, continued negative perceptions of U.S. and Government of Colombia military agendas dominating human rights and humanitarian concerns, continued potential for destabilized relations between Colombia and its neighbors, and continued inconclusive and costly conflict in terms of both human suffering and financial resources.”