President Juan Manuel Santos told the United Nations General Assembly today that Colombia’s 50-year conflict is coming to an end, following the latest advances in the three-year peace process between the Government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.
“Colombia is on the path to peace,” President Santos declared, telling officials gathered for the Assembly’s annual high-level debate that in a world in which there were more than 20 armed conflicts taking place, he was proud to announce that the conflict in Colombia was on the final path to a genuine solution.
Colombia had put an end to the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. “Using courage and responsibility,” Colombia he said, was bringing an end to more than 50 years of internal warfare. “Peace is a difficult path, but not an impossible one, and [we] are dedicated to it. Peace “requires that every person inside opens their mind, heart and soul to reconciliation,” he added.
Providing details about the latest steps in the peace process, Mr. Santos said that less than a week ago, in Havana, Cuba, which had been hosting the talks between the sides, Colombia had reached an agreement on the most significant obstacle to peace in the country.
The accord laid down a system of transitional justice to ensure that there was no impunity for the perpetrators of the crimes. The system respected the principles of international and national law. “Our goal was maximum justice, which would allow us to move to peace,” he said.
The agreement set out an accountability system in the form of a national court for crimes. The system could serve as a precedent for other armed conflicts in the world. Significantly, a deadline for the signing of a final agreement by 23 March 2016 had been set. In addition, the FARC would begin to lay down its arms no later than 60 days after the signing. He could return to the Assembly next year representing a Government in peace.
“On behalf of 48 million Colombians, I thank the international community for its efforts,” he said, underscoring that a Colombia at peace would help the country deal with global challenges, such as climate change, the eradication of extreme poverty and other pressing concerns on the agenda of the UN. Colombia was the most biodiverse country, for its size, and it was extremely vulnerable to changes in climate. As such, he said that Colombia was keen to see forward movement on the environment-relegated elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).