Colombia at the Edge of Peace: What will happen with the Combatants?
December 5, 2014
Colombia has created a new way to bring those individuals back to society with a system called “path to reintegration.” This is a way not only to give immediate care, but goes beyond giving integral attention in health, education, security, citizenship, personal, productive, family and livelihood. Results are overwhelming since 2003 more than 47,124 combatants have gone to the demobilization process and there is an effectivity rate of 76 percent. Also, more than 10,000 have finished high school, more than 700 are in college, more than 20,000 are employed or have their own business, and around 31,000 are linked to the financial systems
But, what makes Colombian reintegration so successful compared with others?
When a conflict takes place there is a process of “Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration” (DDR) developed by UN peacekeeping operations. Because this is focused in a short-term disarmament, reintegration is more difficult and has been less developed. On the contrary, Colombia has been working beyond immediate care and focuses in an individualized long tern approach, regarding that more than 50 percent of the combatants started before they were eighteen years old.
Initially, the government gave basic immediate attention to individuals with financial support and humanitarian aid. Shelters were opened in Bogota DC and other urban areas, but this generated difficulties with local communities. After the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) demobilized in 2006, the government saw the need of improving the reintegration policy. A study held by the National Planning Department (DNP) recommended the establishment of an entity subscribed to the President’s office to change the current policy. In consequence, an independent organization was created, the Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR) with a new long term strategy and professional multidisciplinary teams.
The “path to reintegration” has three stages, basic, intermediate, and advanced. In the first stage the individual is reintegrated to civil society with its closest environment (family, friends, institutions and social actors). He or she will receive psychosocial attention, health services, education, and legal counseling. The intermediate stage moves forward into economic and community reintegration with education, building work skills, community service for reparation and economic reintegration. The advanced stage is based in work with victims, finishing the different dimensions and creation of income.
In 2008, Raul decided to give the weapons and start the reintegration process with, he lost one arm and his vision during his time in an illegal armed group. Now he owns his own welding business and employs five people. This is only one example of the people who has passed through the demobilization process which has been in place for over 10 years. Nevertheless, since this is a long term process it is and facing the possible massive demobilization of about 10 thousand FARC guerrilla members, the Colombian state will need to find alternative funding sources to achieve a sustainable peace.