The ongoing peace talks in Oslo between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas increasingly look aimed at achieving “negative peace,” according to a Latin American affairs expert Thursday.
“Negative peace is just ending the fighting. Positive peace is actually addressing the causes of conflict,” explained Milburn Line of the Institute Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.
“I think negative peace is better than no peace at all,” Line argued. However, “if you can incorporate the larger causal parts of the conflict into the peace process then you have a stronger chance of that peace lasting and being sustainable,” he claimed.
Delegates from the Colombian government and guerrilla group FARC are currently engaged in phase two of peace talks in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The agenda of the second round of negotiations focuses on five overlapping points: agrarian reform, guarantees of political participation, ending the armed conflict, drug trafficking, and the rights of victims.
While the broad political agenda ostensibly addresses the root problems of Colombia’s 48-year civil war, Line believed the peace talks have so far omitted the many voices of Colombian civil society.
“One of the causes of conflict is exclusion…I’m worried that the peace process in Colombia is only about the two warring parties. It’s not picking up the perspectives of afro-Colombians, of women, of indigenous people, of trade unionists, of civil society more broadly.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has assured observers that the voices of minorities will be heard during the next stage of the peace process. Phase three of peace talks, which will address the implementation of a peace deal, is expected to occur in mid-November in Havana, Cuba.
“I just worry that some of the key decisions made in phase one and two may exclude some of the possibilities for those broader perspectives in phase three,” said Line. “If the government of Colombia is going to wait for phase three then there has to be a…mechanism to make sure this isn’t just a talk shop.”
Yet any peace deal signed between the government and FARC, whether it ultimately addresses the root causes of the conflict or not, would be a significant political achievement for Santos.
Colombian Presidents Belisario Betancur (1982-1986), Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994) and Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) each tried and failed to broker a lasting peace with the insurgents during their respective terms in office.