FBA in Colombia

After 50 years of civil war, a peace agreement was reached in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla. Both local, national and international actors fulfil a role in the implementation of the agreement. FBA supports the ongoing peace process.

In Colombia, various guerrillas and paramilitary groups have been waging war against each other and the government since the 1960s. In 2016, the government signed a peace agreement with the largest remaining guerrilla FARC.

Much has improved in recent years. Former combatants and their families have found employment and education in local communities. In addition, the Special Court for Peace has prosecuted both the FARC's former top leadership and the military in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Political participation has also increased.

Despite these successes, conflict-related violence remains a significant challenge. Other armed groups have gained ground in several areas where the FARC guerrilla have withdrawn. The conflict severely affects human rights defenders and social leaders in those parts of the country.

FBA works with three areas within Sweden's strategy for development cooperation with Colombia:

  • Strengthened conditions for the democratic implementation of a negotiated peace
  • Strengthened conditions for peacebuilding and increased institutional capacity
  • Increased gender equality, including opportunities for equal participation in conflict prevention work

Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration of Ex-Combatants and Security Transitions
The peace agreement with the FARC resulted in about 13,000 guerrillas laying down their arms and the FARC transforming into a political party. However, five years after the signing of the peace agreement, significant challenges remain with its implementation.

Armed groups are still fighting in conflict-affected areas, causing great insecurity for the civilian population. There is also distrust in society towards those who previously waged an armed struggle, and local communities in Colombia need support to receive and integrate the former combatants so that these people can build a civilian life. The FBA supports both authorities and civil society in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Dialogue and Peace Processes
Another significant contribution is to build capacity and advise the authorities and actors who work to create inclusive dialogues and processes for handling conflicts without violence. This work can create conditions for a peace process with the armed groups that continue to operate in the country.

Security Sector Reform
To build long-term peaceful and inclusive societies, state institutions must have the capacity to meet the security needs of the population throughout the country. Unfortunately, both non-state actors and the police and military have committed abuses during the Colombian civil war.

The work of meeting the security needs of the population requires a total overhaul of the institutions responsible for this. As the military used to be the state's only representative in many places, civilian authorities now need to take on responsibilities adapted to peacetime.

A well-functioning security sector that meets the population's needs and does not commit abuse is a cornerstone for peacebuilding and a new social contract based on trust between society and state institutions. In Colombia, a holistic approach is required to review the view of security and who meets it. Clearer structures are also needed to ensure transparency and accountability from security actors, such as the police and the military.

The FBA works with issues related to the democratic and civilian governance of the security sector in the country, such as strengthening parliamentary oversight, strengthening gender equality and respect for the rule of law. Among other things, the FBA conducts training and brings together government governing bodies and review actors, who should coordinate and collaborate for the security sector to meet the population's security needs.

The FBA also brings these together with civil society representatives to create a platform for conversations that can contribute to increased trust and understanding.

Women, Peace and Security
Although the peace agreement with the FARC contains a gender perspective, its implementation is still lagging, and challenges remain at a societal level when it comes to women and men, girls' and boys' access to equal opportunities and rights. The FBA works for gender equality by counteracting patriarchal norms and attitudes that lead to discrimination and gender-based violence.

We train government institutions in Colombia on women's rights and provide practical support and advice on integrating a gender perspective into institutions' work with peace and security. The work aims to provide better conditions for offering protection based on men's and women's different needs during and after conflict. To re-evaluate deep-rooted approaches, the top management of the responsible institutions has to have a will to change.

That is why the FBA in all collaborations integrates gender equality in capacity-building initiatives and strategic discussions with the institutions.

Read the strategy for Sweden's development cooperation with Colombia 2021-2025 here: strategy-for-swedens-development-cooperation-with-colombia-20212025 (regeringen.se)

Photo: Pedro Szekely


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Jens Samuelsson Schjørlien

Jens Samuelsson Schjørlien is expert on leadership and cooperation in peace operations

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