09th of May 2021
By: Paola Valbuena Latorre
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a series of economic, social and political challenges at the international level. In this context, States have been obliged to adopt measures to reduce the impact during and after the isolation. However, in Colombia there is an additional challenge: to guarantee at the same time the implementation of the Peace Agreement signed between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) in 2016. Based on this concern, this text aims to highlight some challenges to peace and Colombian unity posed by the COVID-19 pandemic during the year 2020. To this end, the analysis will be based on two major areas of impact of the quarantine: the resurgence of armed conflicts at the territorial level and the experiences of the peasantry and its relationship with food sovereignty. These two approaches are not opposed, since rural areas have generally been the main scenarios with the presence of armed groups.
With respect to the resurgence of armed conflicts, there are two major risks. The first is the defunding of the activities related to the peace-building agenda. The economic priorities imposed by COVID-19 and the potential effects on the national economy and the economy of donor countries have made it increasingly difficult to maintain funding standards. The same Presidential Advisor for Stabilization and Consolidation, Emilio Archila has said that, although there is willingness to continue implementing the Peace Agreement, it is possible that there will be a reduction in funds for the current year. Moreover, since the beginning of the health emergency some political parties have taken advantage of the situation to propose a redirection of funds for peace in order to address it. In addition, the legislative branch, where there could be some level of political control to ensure the implementation of the Agreement, has been bogged down in discussions about the legality of legislating in virtuality.
Secondly, the strict quarantine established by the national Government has evidenced the existence of parallel armed orders to the State which, in territories with little institutional presence, has produced infractions to the International Humanitarian Law, and many more affectations for civil society. In Santa Rosa del Sur (Bolivar) for example, the National Liberation Army (ELN) has established armed strikes to stop the spread of the virus and in the south of Cordoba there have been forced displacements of people for having violated the quarantine established by the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC). Although these armed groups did not appear during the quarantine, it is true that there has been a process of strengthening of some armed organizations that replace the functions of the State to reassert their territorial control.
In this sense, it is necessary to recognize that compliance with the peace agenda is not only the duty of the State, but also of international organizations. Furthermore, it is emphasized that this has socially affected the purpose of maintaining a positive peace, which means working to build a cultural peace, and has focused on advocating for a negative peace (meaning the cessation of the armed conflict). This is of vital importance if one takes into account that the murder of human rights defenders and former FARC-EP combatants, which has been on the rise since 2016, takes place mainly in scenarios of armed conflict. Therefore, these dynamics are maintained and threaten to weaken confidence in the Peace Agreement and exacerbate other conflicts. This responds not only to the lack of guarantees from the State and international organizations, but also to the refusal of armed groups to declare a ceasefire during the pandemic.
On the other hand, it is noted that in the Peace Agreement, food sovereignty is contained in point 1: Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Integral Rural Reform. In this context, it can be observed that the pandemic has been a major threat to food sovereignty in Colombia. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to produce, consume and market their own food, and despite the fact that at present this could generate economic benefits in the short, medium and long term, the government has not taken forceful action to guarantee the rights of peasants. Thus, the lack of technological and transportation means has put the crops of small and medium producers at risk. Likewise, the closure of large storage centers and food supply centers caused the purchase of food from the peasant sector to decrease in price and affect their basic standard of living.
Consequently, although important progress has been made in the post-agreement framework, the presence of the sanitary emergency only maximized problems that had already been evidenced previously. Thus, the effects of the pandemic on the Agreement have been the consequence of the lack of guarantees and measures for its protection since its signing. Thus, thinking about solutions to the challenges presented by the peace agenda in times of COVID, responds to structural changes that begin in the voting process and in the adoption of measures that, beyond assistance, allow transforming the realities of the most vulnerable people and communities.
1- Comprehensive National Plan for the Substitution of Illicit Crops - self translation of PNIS
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