Ending 50 Years of Conflict:
The Challenges Ahead and the U.S. Role in Colombia

By Adam Isacson
Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy
Washington Office on Latin America

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This May, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), will be 50 years old. Of all armed conflicts in the world that claim 1,000 or more lives a year, the one in Latin America’s third most populous country is the oldest.

In 2012, the Colombian government and the FARC began their fourth attempt to negotiate an end to the fighting. This time, the talks are beginning to stick: negotiators in Havana, Cuba have gotten significantly further than ever before. It is not unreasonable to expect an accord by the end of 2014.

The Havana talks have an agenda covering five substantive topics or political reforms, plus a discussion of how to operationalize what has been agreed. As of April 2014, after 22 ten-day rounds of talks, negotiators have reached agreement on two of these five substantive topics, and are nearing accord on a third.

Where the FARC Talks Stand (as of April 2014)

The negotiators’ agenda includes five substantive items, and one operational item:

✔︎ Integral agricultural development policy (land tenure and rural development)
✔︎ Political participation (guarantees for the political opposition, including former guerrillas)
❒ End of the conflict (transitional justice, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration)
❒ Solution to the problem of illicit drugs (drug policy; currently under discussion)
❒ Victims (victims of the conflict)
❒ Implementation, verification, and ratification (how to cement peace accord commitments into law, then manage their fulfillment)

I. The U.S. Role Will Be Important (click to expand)

    Vice-President Joe Biden visits Bogotá, May 2003.

II. The Remainder of the Talks (click to expand)

    Havana, November 2013

III. The Post-Conflict (click to expand)

   April 2013 pro-peace march. Photo from Bogotá city government.

IV. The United States’ Post-Conflict Role (click to expand)

    2013 graduates of El Salvador’s Civilian National Police Academy, which received generous U.S. support during that country’s 1990s post-conflict police reform.

WOLA thanks the Kingdom of Norway for the support that made this publication possible.

This report was written by Adam Isacson, WOLA's Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy. He has studied Colombia's conflict since 1997.