In September 2012, the Colombian government officially announced ongoing peace talks with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This gesture was the first of its kind since the failed negotiation process with the same guerrilla group during the government of Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002) (see Villarraga 2009). The FARC remains the largest and strongest non-state armed group operating in the country, and can be traced back to as early as 1964. Observers of the current negotiations are largely optimistic about the prospects for peace and the end of the decades-long conflict.
A jointly created document entitled the ‘General Agreement for the Ending of Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Durable Peace’ (FARC and Gobierno de Colombia 2012) lays out the six points to be discussed during the negotiations. Point three on this list – ‘end of the conflict’ – envisages the ‘abandonment of weapons’ and the ‘economic, social and political reincorporation of the FARC into civilian life’. While other elements of the peace negotiations may be equally fundamental, in this piece, we focus on this specific point and highlight some of the critical issues that might emerge if the peace process between the Colombian government and this guerrilla group is successful. The ideas presented here are based on several historical applications of former combatant disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) as a peacebuilding activity. We particularly attempt to extract implications from the demobilization of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 2003 and 2006 (Nussio 2011a), the ongoing desertion and reintegration of individual guerrilla members (Anaya 2007), and the accumulated knowledge about the structure and history of the FARC (Pizarro Leongómez 2011). Although the peace process is likely to face many obstacles – and a complete failure is possible – we nevertheless remain positive about a negotiated settlement. As such, we reflect here on the critical issues that might need to be considered to support a sustainable and peaceful outcome.