The Duque of Colombia: A Call for International Vocalization to Preserve Colombian Peace
Vol. 41 Associate Editor
In 2016, following a contentious political process, a peace agreement ended the half-century-long conflict between the Colombian Government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), which claimed over 220,000 lives and displaced nearly seven million people. Yet the election of Ivan Duque, a politician who was notably against the peace process—combined with residual resentment against the ex-FARC militants—is slowly starting to chip away at the peace agreement and threatens to reignite the conflict in Colombia. Throughout these rising tensions, the international community and international organizations have not been particularly vocal in ensuring the successful completion of the peace process. Some groups are trying to encourage organizations such as the EU and the UN to oversee the effective implementation of the peace accords, yet their pleas have not been translated into overt action. The UN general assembly has not identified any actions by the Duque administration as threats to international peace, nor have there been any meaningful statements by the international community against Duque’s continued attacks on the peace process. This is not to say that the international community has been completely silent. Almost immediately after the successful passage of the peace agreement, the UN established the Verification Mission in Colombia to oversee the compliance and implementation of its terms. In addition to simply dealing with the peace process, the Verification Mission is also working to build similar agreements with many of the other active armed groups still operating in Colombia. In July 2019, Colombia asked for the verification to continue operating for another year, showing that, for now, the UN will at least have a visible, if not entirely effective, presence in the rebuilding process. However, the UN’s stated mission of creating long-lasting peace in Colombia is starkly contrasted to the actions the Colombian government has taken thus far. Many agencies responsible for overseeing the rebuilding have had their budgets slashed by up to forty percent, and efforts to aid the economies of the rural areas where the FARC was most active have been largely ignored. While the UN has since reiterated many times its commitment to secure peace, it has failed to even address the government’s actions that threaten to bring the peace deal crashing down. In the face of this silence from the international community, it’s no wonder the Duque administration feels empowered to implement policies that threaten the peace process. The UN’s hesitation to take a harder stance against the Duque administration is, for the most part, unsurprising. The UN Charter itself states that it does not seek to interfere with affairs that are largely within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. However, as the conflict continues to escalate and the situation in neighboring Venezuela continues to break down, this continued silence by the UN threatens to violate its entire raison d’etre: to maintain international peace and security. The UN cannot allow perceptions of improper interference to preclude it from calling out actions that threaten peace in the area. The international community as a whole is not faring much better in addressing the Colombian government’s actions that threaten the deal. In fact, the U.S.’s actions are actively impeding the implementation of the peace accords. The Trump administration has raised some concerns over the extradition of a FARC leader that it claims was responsible for orchestrating a major cocaine deal. Extraditing him would be expressly against the terms of the peace agreement, and the US’s continued pressure on the Colombian government to violate this aspect of the peace agreement could cast doubt on the strength of the agreement as a whole, should Colombia choose to succumb to Trump’s demands. The extradition demands are also part of a larger history of hostility that the Trump administration has shown toward many aspects of the peace deal, including programs to help provide coca farmers with new crops to curtail the drug trade. This opposition is particularly dangerous coming from the US—a country that Colombia relies on for much of its funding in fighting the narcotrafficking in its country—and paints a bleak picture for the chance of a strong stance by the whole international community against actions that threaten peace in Colombia. More optimistically, the US’s general attitude against the peace process is in contrast to much of the rest of the world. The European Union has created a fund of roughly 120 million euros aimed primarily at aiding the rural areas most affected by the FARC’s activity. It has also supported a number of other rebuilding projects, including support for women in affected areas and increasing victims’ access to the Colombian justice system. However, when faced with the continuing attacks on the peace process by Duque, the EU has remained largely silent: its only notable comment was telling Duque to focus on his own country’s peace, rather than that of Venezuela. The international community’s lukewarm reaction to the ongoing peace process is somewhat understandable given many of the uncertainties surrounding it. While political violence is on the rise in Colombia, progress is continuing to be made, and the level of implementation thus far is consistent with other countries’ successful peace processes. The conflict that Colombia is attempting to overcome spanned more than half a century and the peace process deals with many cultural and historical scars that international bodies may not be in the best position to adequately address. Nevertheless, as actions continue to be taken that serve to undermine the development of peace, the international community cannot be afraid of calling out in no uncertain terms what it believes to be legitimate threats to the stability and peace of the region. Should the world fail to speak out against Duque’s actions now, it may soon have a much larger issue on its hands. In the past, condemnation and vocalization by the UN against threats to the peace have served as starting points toward positive change in the world. The UN’s condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid regime was a large catalyst in rallying the world toward demanding an end to that practice. More recently, the general assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Iran for its human rights record. Even if the effects of these condemnations are not concrete, they serve to show that the world has its eye on their behavior, and in a situation as delicate as the current one in Colombia, it could also signal that the international community will be willing to step in should Duque’s actions begin to concretely threaten international peace.
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