Research by Brittany McWilliams
For my capstone research, I am focusing on the recent peace agreement that ended the fifty year long civil war between the FARC and the Colombian government. I think this is one of the most relevant developments of my lifetime and of modern history in general. Not only was this historic because it ended the world’s longest running civil war, but it also has beamed hope onto many other armed conflicts around the world.
Many thought that this peace agreement was not possible. The FARC has terrorized the people of Colombia for decades. They have been responsible for the death of over 200,000 people, the majority of whom were civilians. The conflict resulted in the internal displacement of millions of people. What’s more is the FARC had a well-established and incredibly profitable illicit drug trade in place. Nevertheless, the negotiations were agreed upon and the Colombian people voted them into being. For my research, I have worked to explore why this seemingly impossible negotiation became possible and why it will continue to be successful. Pinpointing the elements that made this process work is of the utmost importance because it will ultimately have such a wide applicability to armed conflicts around the world, particularly in Africa, but in other areas as well. Though there are many elements to these negotiations and their success, I look specifically at the role of third party actors in the success of the negotiations and the continued success of the transition period. When I say third party actors, I am making reference to those sets of actors that played a major role in the process but that were neither the FARC nor the Colombian government. I look specifically at the role of international actors in the negotiations and the role of civil society.
Norway and Cuba had the largest role in the negotiations, but Chile and Venezuela also played a part. Because of the strong reinforcement that was provided and continues to be provided by these foreign actors, the peace deal became possible and will continue to be effective. Cuba in particular played a vital role because of their tie to the communist beliefs that ultimately spurred the creation of the FARC in the first place.
I have also focused on the role of civil society in making this process work. The peace negotiations took some progressive steps by including civil society voices, particularly voices from those portions of society that are typically underrepresented in government in general, much less in peace negotiations. Though the civil society groups were not at the negotiating table directly, they were given an important place in the process and allowed to openly share their opinions, findings, etc. Civil society acts as a buffer between the people and the government, and it has been shown time and time again that the presence of a strong civil society is vital for a nation’s democratic success. By including these groups in the peace negotiations, the people of Colombia were given a voice. Because they had that role in the process, I argue that the future success of the agreements will be considerably greater. By including the voice of civil society, the chance that the people will feel disconnected, left out, or unheard is far less likely.
Ultimately, I want to show that because of the bolstering that has been provided by the international community and the Colombian civil society, the peace agreements were and will continue to be successful.