Rejecting criticism that his peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas will grant amnesty to war criminals, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview with The Miami Herald that his country’s peace process will be approved by a wide margin in an Oct. 2 referendum and will become a model for resolving armed conflicts worldwide.
“There is a majority and overwhelming support [for the peace accords], and you will see that in the vote,” Santos said of the referendum allowing Colombians to decide whether to support his agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and end the five-decades-old armed conflict that has left more than 200,000 dead. “They may not like the president, or the government, but there is a big majority that supports peace.”
A well-prepared structure – a roadmap for progress – was key to the success of the Colombian peace deal talks, according to an impartial facilitator.
“Both sides remained focused within the framework laid out,” said Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander. “Bold leadership within the parties was important – and that was backed by broad support internationally, and active, supportive civil society within Colombia.”
“Parties decided early to put the victims at the centre of the talks,” he added. Victims’ groups were able to attend some sessions, and made submissions to the parties.
On the other hand, civil society groups were necessarily marginalized during certain phases of the talks.
“Fairly secret negotiations, with little participation from civil society or outside actors, in a foreign country helped tremendously,” said Kyle Johnson, senior Colombia analyst for the International Crisis Group.
“While eventually certain groups – victims and ethnic groups – did have to participate somehow, controlling that was key,” he said.