A Day To Celebrate–And Many Days of Work Ahead

WOLA looks forward to witnessing the historic ceremony, scheduled for 6:00PM Eastern time in Cartagena, Colombia, at which Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla group will sign a peace accord to end a bloody armed conflict that began in 1964.

This is an occasion to celebrate. It is a time to thank all who made it possible: both sides’ negotiating teams, who worked doggedly for four years; President Juan Manuel Santos, who took the initiative to open a dialogue; Norway and Cuba, the two guarantor countries; Venezuela and Chile, the two accompanying countries; U.S. Special Envoy Bernie Aronson; E.U. Special Envoy Eamon Gilmore; German Special Envoy Tom Koenigs; the UN presence in Colombia, the International Committee of the Red Cross; the civil society and victims’ organizations who worked to improve the accord’s content; and the many Colombian and international experts who gave their time to advise the dialogues.

This is also an occasion to pause and reflect, to honor the armed conflict’s millions of victims. In the coming years, we hope and expect that Colombia will fulfill the accord’s commitments in a way that fully and consistently restores and upholds their dignity and holds the victimizers accountable.

The coming months and years won’t be easy. Colombia’s to-do list is long and multi-faceted. Combatants must be disarmed and reintegrated. Tens of thousands of landmines must be cleared. A complex and credible transitional justice system must be set up. Ex-combatants must be physically protected, as should human rights defenders and civil-society leaders. And most challenging of all, Colombia must quickly bring real governance to vast areas where armed groups have long reigned, and where illicit economies continue to thrive.

The peace accord being signed today offers a blueprint for achieving all of this, and for launching Colombia into a new and more prosperous phase of its history. But now comes the difficult work of turning that blueprint into a solidly constructed house, one in which all Colombians can live. This will be expensive, will yield slow results, and will meet some powerful opposition. But making the accords’ commitments into reality is the right thing to do.

For that reason, WOLA hopes that the Colombian people will vote “yes” to approve the accords in the plebiscite scheduled for October 2. And we look forward to monitoring closely Colombia’s effort to comply with its peace accord commitments, as well as the U.S. government’s contributions to that effort.

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