The UN representative in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, on Thursday said that it is “essential” that the government and rebel group FARC reach a peace agreement, for the economic and social development of the country.
Hochschild was speaking at the regional forum on the solution to the problem of illicit drugs, a forum which ended yesterday in the city of San Jose del Guaviare, which provides access to the country’s southern jungles, one of the areas most affected by coca planting.
“Ending the conflict is essential because it opens the door to legitimate development,” said Hochschild. “This is not going to happen overnight but with the development of infrastructure farmers will be able to market alternative goods, with no conflict.”
According to the UN representative, all Colombian’s have a great desire for peace and are impatient for an agreement to be reached.
“Few understand why this conflict is half a century old in a continent that has no conflict of this size and in a country that has made such progress,” said Hochschild. “It is a matter of time, sooner or later peace will come.”
But Hochschild warned that if an agreement was to be reached with rebel group FARC, the challenge will be for the state to restore confidence.
“There is a very common feeling of neglect in the country’s most remote regions, areas which have been highly affected by the conflict,” warned Hochschild, who urged the state to increase its military presence in these regions.
“We have to remove this feeling,” he said, emphasising the need to implement policies “that comprehensively benefit the peasants.”
The UN representative stressed the difficulty in building confidence between the government and rebel group FARC.
“Confidence is achieved through concrete results, and this requires honesty from the state,” stated Hochschild.
“Building peace will come after the signing of an agreement, and a further challenge will be to implement that agreement in the most affected areas. People will demand change,” he stressed.
Hochschild concluded by stating that any peace agreement would not end all violence in Colombia.
“An agreement will not solve all the problems in Colombia because there are other actors involved in the violence, but it would end the political violence.”
The government and rebel group FARC have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the internal conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict and the rights of the victims.