Colombia’s ‘Marshal Plan for Peace’ begins to take shape

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia’s courtship of foreign investment to finance its redevelopment after 50 years of civil war has begun to pay off as several European countries and organizations are committing funds to the effort.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke of the need for a “Marshal Plan for Peace” two weeks ago in an interview with local media, emphasizing that 50 years of armed civil conflict have devastated large segments of the country. Looking to mirror Europe’s reconstruction after World War II, an effort undertaken with massive foreign government financing, Colombia’s own “Marshal Plan” may be coming together with talk of help from Germany, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Belgium.

Perhaps the most important driving factor for these commitments is that peace finally seems to be on the horizon – though it is by no means assured. Since 2012, the government has been engaged in intense negotiations with the country’s largest and most powerful rebel group, the FARC, and in June the president won a tight reelection campaign almost entirely centered on a mandate to continue the talks until peace is achieved.

Santos’ opponents, who nearly defeated him in the election, demand an immediate cessation of all rebel activities as a precondition to continuing the talks, practically ensuring a breakdown in negotiations and ramped-up military campaigns.

With the recent publication of preliminary agreements reached in Havana on three out of the five most quintessential components of a comprehensive peace deal, negotiations seem to be advancing toward an end to Latin America’s longest conflict. And with that end in sight, the Colombian government has been able to convince various European nations to deliver aid packages and financing funds in order to help smooth the transition from war to peace.

MORE: Colombia government, FARC release preliminary peace deals

Germany’s Development Bank recently established a $100 million credit line to the Colombia for the financing of violence prevention, victim reparation and assistance, demobilization, rural development and agriculture, and strengthening national and regional capacities. Spain’s ambassador to Colombia recently spoke of the development of a European Union trust fund to help smooth post-conflict reconstruction, with non-EU members Norway and Switzerland expressing their interest in participating. Belgium’s minister of foreign affairs backed up the EU fund as well, saying that his country was eager to join. The EU, Colombia’s second largest donor to Colombia after the US, has already dedicated a separate $85 million over the next three years for development investment.

The development of these external government-financing programs comes at a good time for Colombia. Colombian senators who collectively make up the Peace Commission have cited a total of about 10 billion dollars that would be needed to cover reintegration efforts, finance truth commissions, ensure crop substitution, and pay recovery and investment programs in war torn regions, among others things.

Furthermore, they say there is no clarity on how the government will fund these programs, given that already there is a fiscal gap in the budget for 2015 and only about $4billion dedicated to assisting victims.

But with the statements by various European countries committing to investing in peace funds for Colombia, as well President Santos’ upcoming European tour to press these efforts to be made, many of these domestic shortfalls do indeed have the possibility to be funded by a Colombian “Marshal Plan for Peace.”


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