Another source of concern is the pace of legal implementation of the Peace Accord. According to Fundación Paz y Reconciliación, 67 legal initiatives need to be enacted by Congress in order to guarantee a strong institutional framework for peace. Out of 24 proposals presented by the government so far, only 11 have been approved. Without this framework, which seeks to guarantee the resources and set clear rules for building peace, it is very difficult to bring about change in the country. With parliamentary elections set for this Sunday, many members of Congress have instead spent the recent months playing political games with the peace process. Meanwhile, the JEP and other crucial reforms remain on hold even at the expense of the most vulnerable communities in rural areas.
According to Mario Ruiz, expert on Democratic Governance and Peacebuilding at UNDP, one lesson from the Colombian peace process is the need to prevent the overlap of the implementation stage and the electoral process. Peace in Colombia has lost momentum due to polarization and the political weakness of current President Santos, who will leave office on August 7. The stability of peacebuilding depends on the political will of the next president and support in the new Congress.
Finally, the national agenda and its transformation is paramount. For decades, elections were focused on conflict. Now, with FARC out of the picture as an illegal armed actor, the narrative is changing and the political arena seems to expand in favor of a new and more progressive agenda, as the basis for a more inclusive and modern country. In December 2017, polling firm Invamer asked Colombians about the main issue to be tackled by the next president. The focus was on issues like corruption, the health-care system, unemployment, education, poverty fight, or security. The peace process implementation seems to be an issue of the past, at least for urban voters.
The accord signed with FARC dismantled one of the main sources of violence in Colombia, and represents the first step in the long and rugged path to a peaceful society. Even if the outcome is imperfect, rural communities are undeniably experiencing for the first time in half-century a relative tranquility and a tangible path to improving their livelihoods. The challenge has just begun: bringing together a shattered society, building up inclusive institutions, and learning how to settle conflicts through peaceful means. The new Congress and next president need to regain momentum for the broader accords. However, it is just as important that rural community leaders and human rights activists be protected: peace in Colombia is both by them – their local initiatives play a key role in translating the ideal of peace into tangibly better lives – and for them, for the communities hit hardest by a half-century of violence, and now with hopes for a brighter future.
Juan J. Orjuela is the Justice Travel Country Representative for Colombia
Follow him on Twitter at @Juan_Orj