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Realizing the Peace Dividend in Colombia


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos shake hands as they address a joint news conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in Bogota, Dec. 12, 2014.

The peace process in Colombia is at a pivotal stage, and the United States is looking for ways to support Colombia’s transition into a new post-peace accord era.

The peace process in Colombia is at a pivotal stage. During Colombian President Manuel Santos’s visit to Washington, both President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will met with him to hear President Santos’ analysis of the peace process, and how the United States can support Colombia’s transition into a new post-peace accord era.

For more than 50 years the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have been fighting their country's government. During that time more than 220,000 people have been killed and more than six million have been displaced. Large numbers of Colombians have been kidnapped, forcibly recruited as children, or subjected to sexual violence.

With U.S. support, Plan Colombia was launched in 2000. Under that initiative the United States worked with officials in Bogota to help the country's armed forces and police become more professional, to ensure that they could effectively provide security and fight crime while also protecting human rights.

But law and order, said Secretary Kerry in a recent op-ed, is only part of the equation. With support from the United States, Colombians moved ahead on multiple fronts to improve governance, reform the judiciary, enhance opportunities for Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups, provide support for the victims of conflict, and extend protections to journalists and civil society.

Having helped Colombia create the conditions for a peace accord, the United States plans to further assist Colombia in seizing the promise that peace affords. President Obama will soon present to the U.S. Congress a successor strategy aimed at further enhancing security gains, cracking down on trade in illegal drugs, ensuring transitional justice and help for victims, and providing the means for economic recovery in areas once controlled by the FARC.

As with the original plan, said Secretary Kerry, Colombians themselves will bear most of the cost, but unique U.S. capabilities can help them win the peace.

No peace accord will bring back the many lives lost across Colombia over the past half century. But Colombians now have a historic opportunity to embrace a future free from conflict and violence; and the United States has good reason to stand by their side.

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