Doubts Surround International Support for Colombia Peace Deal

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A number of doubts are swirling around the amount of international assistance Colombia can expect to receive to support a historic peace agreement with the country’s main rebel group, raising questions about how funding issues could impact the implementation of the deal.

US President Barack Obama announced in February that he would ask Congress to approve a package of more than $450 million in assistance to Colombia to support the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

But according to a September 1 report from the McClatchy news service, about $90 million of that package could be held up by a “lengthy and often dysfunctional U.S. budget process, coupled with a late public vote in Colombia to ratify the agreement.”

The peace negotiations between the government and the FARC resulted in a final ceasefire agreement on August 24, and a plebiscite will be held on October 2 to seek public ratification of the deal.

However, the US House of Representatives, which has authority over federal spending, will not be in session from October 1 to November 14 (pdf). This leaves the US Congress with only a small window of time to approve the Colombia funding before the end of the current legislative session in January 2017.

The European Union has pledged $645 million to support implementation of the Colombian peace agreement, but many details of that package are still being worked out. The United Nations has also established a Colombia support fund with a budget of $43.2 million, though it is unclear how much of that figure is specifically targeted at peace implementation.

Even if all this funding comes through, it would only amount to about $1.1 billion — approximately one-third of the $3.3 billion in international assistance the Colombian government has said it hopes to raise by 2020.

This shortfall is the reason why Alejandro Gamboa Castilla, the head of Colombia’s Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (Agencia Presidencial de Cooperación Internacional — APC), recently embarked on a trip to Asia, seeking support from countries in that region for Colombia’s peace process.

“We want to get Asian countries to channel resources through the funds that we have developed for post-conflict support,” Gamboa told Portafolio. “The goal of our trip is to explain these instruments so that there is a contribution.”

Although the peace agreement is expected to boost Colombia’s economic prospects in the long-run, economic growth has been slowing in recent years, which has negatively affected the government’s ability to spend money on planned projects.

It remains unclear exactly how much implementation of the peace deal will cost, but a commonly cited Bank of America estimate from 2014 put the figure at nearly $17 billion over 10 years.

InSight Crime Analysis

Many experts, including Colombia’s own finance minister, have noted that international funding will play a key role in financing the implementation of the peace agreement. And securing sufficient funding for implementation will be crucial to the success of the process, which has important implications for Colombia’s post-agreement organized crime landscape.

One major component of the peace consolidation process is a crop substitution program aimed at incentivizing farmers to grow licit crops instead of the lucrative coca plants used to make cocaine. Adequately funding the agricultural subsidies necessary to make this program viable is just one of a number of challenges the initiative will likely face going forward.

Similarly, programs to reintegrate former FARC fighters into civilian life are likely to come with significant price tags. The peace accord will make ex-guerrillas eligible for government grants and stipends. Failure to fully fund these initiatives could encourage former rebels to return to the underground economy in order to make their living.

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