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Is it possible and convenient to modify the Final Peace Agreement?

The agreement signed in 2016 between the government and former guerilla group FARC-EP, was achieved after several unsuccessful attempts that began with former President Belisario Betancur (1982-1986) and the La Uribe Agreement; the attempt of the administrations of César Gaviria (1990-1994) with the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar in Caracas and Tlaxcala (Mexico); the conversations of the administration of Andrés Pastrana (1994-1998) in San Vicente del Caguán, and the last talks in La Habana between the administration of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) and FARC-EP. For some actors of the process, such as FARC leader and now Congressman Carlos Antonio Lozada, these were all different moments of a long process.

The Agreement, which during the conversations had great opposition from the political party today in power, was then taken to vote in a plebiscite for Colombians to decide whether they approved or disapproved the final peace talks agreement. The opposing vote won, by a small margin, but a win after all.

Read more: Implementation of the Peace Agreement amid “friendly fire” and non-compliance (in Spanish).

This later forced a renegotiation period of the agreement between the government, the winners of the No vote, and FARC negotiators in La Habana. Despite including in the new agreement version most of the aspects, there was never a consensus and finally, the peace agreement was signed in Bogotá and ratified by Congress majorities. It was later turned into Constitutional regulations. Later the Santos administration along with FARC agreed on what was known as the Framework Implementation Plan, which is a 15-year peace implementation plan.

This Peace Agreement was submitted to several international agencies, such as the United Nations General Council and the UN Secretary, as well as the Government of Switzerland, guardian of the International Humanitarian Rights Agreements, among others.

Now, is the Peace Agreement unchangeable? Clearly, it is not a modifiable agreement “carved in stone” as claimed by former president Santos in an El Tiempo newspaper interview.  Other previous agreements such as the agreement between the government and former guerilla group M-19, or the agreement between the Colombian government and the guerilla known as Corriente de Renovación Socialista, in the 90s, were renegotiated at the time, with emphasis on aspects related to their implementation—as was the case of the “Good Friday Agreement” in Northern Ireland, quoted by the Minister of Defense, also subject to renegotiations.

Listen: Land conflicts and selective killings, the obstacles for peace (in Spanish).

However, it is necessary to recognize that it is not easy to renegotiate if there is no political volition between both parties, as things are easily undone as they were done, but cooperation amongst parties is essential.

We cannot pretend that depending on certain context situations we can modify previously agreed regulations, as this would help to return to previous very unstable situations in international normativity. It is evident that in the light of new contexts that one of the parties would like to make some adjustments—but not renegotiate, what was carried out in other circumstances —for this, the first thing to do is summon the counterpart and start conversations on eventual adjustments or changes.

What is required for this to be possible?

Firstly, this can only be carried out between the same parties that negotiated the agreement, i.e. the government and FARC, representing the forces that demobilized; secondly, the existence of a margin of respect and trust amongst parties—if this doesn’t exist, it is practically impossible to do anything—; in third place, invite the guaranteeing countries who were those that contributed to its success and without a doubt to the United Nations who was also an essential contributor for its implementation. Finally, the two parties must agree on the eventual adjustment issues or agenda.

Up to what is publicly known, both parties, which would be the current administration and the FARC party leaders have not expressed their desire to introduce these adjustments or modifications, which would be where any effort in this direction would need to start. Maybe, as a first step, would be to establish a “plenipotentiaries work commission” to look into agreeing on the aspects and procedures this would entail.

Read more: The Province of Cauca needs greater military intelligence to save youngsters and social leaders (in Spanish).

There should also be trust among the parties and that each considers the other party, despite the difficulties, as acting in good faith, especially without any pretension to circumvent the agreement or do anything possible to elude it.

If one of the parties wanted to–recurring to temporary situations—impose on the other modifications not acceptable to them, there is no doubt the guarantee mechanism “safeguards” would be called upon, which the parties agreed to before. In our case, the control of the Colombian Constitutional Court was the ultimate instance of our legal system that accepted the Agreement, introducing some adjustments that it considered appropriate.

This all lets us conclude that it is not possible to introduce alternations to adjustments to the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC and if this is to be there needs to be a series of procedures to allow it but in an agreement between the parties. It is not easy, as this was not any negotiation. The other thing is to create unfavorable opinion environments to the Agreement and in this sense, it is even more difficult to introduce changes in the immediate future.



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