On August 26, 2012, after a period of secret conversations, the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) and the FARC-EP signed the General Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace, a document that presents part of the vision, rules and procedures that would guide the process during the public phase (2012-2016). Even if the parties repeatedly differed in their discourse about the nature, reach and issues to be addressed within the framework of the negotiations, in the agreements they did reach, they managed to summarize some premises that gave the process meaning, dynamism and a realistic outlook.
In the vision for their negotiations, it is notable that both parties saw a need to definitively end their armed confrontations and develop minimal conditions for building peace. This included a call for other guerilla organizations to join these peace efforts, a respect for human rights throughout the nation as the state’s ultimate goal, social and economic development as the basis for peace and progress, a need to facilitate channels for citizen participation and accompaniment by the international community, taking responsibility for Colombian society’s expectations for peace, and guarantees for a broader democracy and for political participation by new parties as a condition for a peaceful nation.
Among the rules created for the talks, it was decided that the negotiations should be direct and uninterrupted for the six items that were agreed to for the agenda (rural development, political participation, ending the conflict, solution to the problem of illicit drugs, victims, and implementation, verification and ratification), with the aim of arriving at a final agreement. The Negotiating Table would open in Oslo, and its main site would be Havana—with the option of moving to other countries. It would operate unobstructed and its workings would be subject to periodic evaluation. It would also involve Norway and Cuba as guarantors and Venezuela and Chile as partners.
At the Negotiating Table sessions, up to ten members from each delegation could participate (each delegation would have a total of thirty representatives), of which five would be plenipotentiary spokespeople. By mutual agreement, and to guarantee progress in the dialogues, the Table could call upon experts in different subjects and, likewise, could create periodic progress reports that would be distributed through a specific mechanism, though the discussions at the Table would not be public. Similarly, it established the creation of a temporary procedure for receiving physical or electronic proposals from citizens and organizations regarding items on the agenda, in addition to receiving direct queries and third-party delegations to generate spaces for citizen participation. The warring parties would try to make the process as widely-known as possible while the government would guarantee the resources and the technology necessary for the Table to operate. Finally, the talks would begin with the rural reform item and would follow the principle that “nothing has been agreed to until everything has been agreed to,” which guaranteed the commitment and flexibility of both parties for reaching a final agreement.
As the talks moved forward, the parties’ vision for the peace process and its reach became broader and more detailed through joint statements and unilateral declarations by their delegates. At the same time, the parties upheld and reinforced the planned rules for the talks and proposed new procedures conceived for advancing and concluding the talks (confidence building measures, visits by victims’ delegations, the Committee for the History of the Conflict and its Victims, subcommittees for negotiation, conclaves, etc.).