PREPARING FOR PEACE
The government of Colombia (GOC) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a major milestone in the peace negotiation process by signing the bilateral ceasefire on June 23, 2016. Timochenko, leader of the FARC, declared the armed conflict over and vowed that the FARC would never again take up arms against the state. Included in the ceasefire agreement is the FARC’s demobilization plan—with specific geographic areas identified in which former guerrillas will temporarily live and surrender their weapons.
While this gives reason to rejoice, and Colombians can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, the signature of the final peace accords remains pending. President Santos stepped out on a limb once again, declaring July 20 the new date for the signing of the peace accords—marking the second time he has provided a specific date for the signature. Once the peace deal is signed, the GOC must move quickly and efficiently to ensure its sustainability, particularly in the regions hit the hardest by the conflict. To help the government in the momentous task of creating a constructive post-conflict Colombia, USAID’s Land and Rural Development Program (LRDP) will continue providing technical assistance to promote peace, secure property rights, and ensure rural development in the regions.
POSITIONING THE REGIONS FOR PEACE
As reported last quarter, we supported the inclusion of strategic issues related to peace, rural development, and land—with a gender and ethnic focus—in 57 municipal and 6 departmental development plans. Ensuring the inclusion of these areas in development plans is required for regional governments to access GOC funds and to promote the implementation of key activities needed to prepare the regions for post-conflict. Next quarter, we will transition our support from aiding in the creation of development plans to providing technical assistance in their implementation. Our effective engagement of regional governments has established LRDP as an “honest broker” and an important stakeholder in promoting rural development.
ENGAGING NEW AGENCIES
The end of the quarter marked important advances in our engagement with new GOC agencies. Mirroring our approach to establishing trust and confidence with regional-level authorities, we did the same at the national level, meeting separately with the heads of the National Land Agency (known by its Spanish acronym, ANT), the Rural Development Agency, and the Agency for Renewal of the Territories.
Based on our knowledge and experience of rural development and land reform challenges facing Colombia at the national and regional levels, we have much to offer these agencies. All will be looking for quick wins as they begin to operate. We have initial buy-in from the ANT regarding our massive formalization pilot in Ovejas (Sucre), which is essential for the pilot’s success and for the ANT’s adoption of new mechanisms and methodologies to continue promoting massive formalization in the future. Our first working meeting with the agency allowed us to establish relationships at the technical level—everyone is clear on their points of contact within the new agency, and our staff is already engaging their respective collegial counterparts.
Like the other new agencies, the Agency for Renewal of the Territories is in its nascent stages. Its director is hard at work, although she is awaiting the announcement of her official appointment. The agency will work in the municipalities hardest hit by conflict, helping build confidence and trust between rural Colombia and the state. Discussions with the Rural Development Agency are incipient, and our first technical meeting with the agency will take place early next quarter.
We expect to take on an important coordination role among these three agencies. They are so closely linked in objectives and results that they must achieve a level of coordination unprecedented among GOC institutions. Historically, the tendency among GOC institutions is to go their separate ways, implementing their mandates in a vacuum, which significantly reduces efficiencies and fosters duplication of efforts and, ultimately, confusion among the final beneficiary—the campesino. We will spearhead efforts to promote synergies among these agencies and to maximize the impact that each one can have in a post-conflict scenario.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: ACHIEVEMENTS
Key achievements from this quarter include the following:
“This was a very careful and well-done exercise—the variables, the scenarios were very well selected. I congratulate [LRDP and the Mission]; this is a contribution where international aid can be seen.”
- Improving access to information. We digitalized over 10,000 restitution case files, which are now available via a searchable online platform, improving the quality and speed of the restitution process.
- Recalculating the demand for restitution services. For a long time, the GOC and the international donor community worked under the assumption that 360,000 families require restitution services—a figure strongly debated by national and regional media. To clarify the validity of this estimate, and at the request of the Land Restitution Unit (LRU), we conducted a statistical analysis to determine the real demand for restitution services amongColombian citizens. Our analysis revealed that only 160,000 individuals require restitution—lessthan half of the country’s original estimate. This analysis also involved the creation of a statistical model and methodology that the GOC can use in the future. It serves as an important input to facilitate strategic planning by the LRU during its final five years of operation. Ricardo Sabogal, the LRU’s director, estimates that by 2021 (the last year for the LRU as established by theVictim’s Law) the LRU will have only a few municipalities in need of restitution support.Perhaps they will represent the most complex cases, but they will be limited.
- Preparing for the Land Fund. The availability of land parcels for the Land Fund is an important part of the post-conflict phase, as it will ensure that rural citizens get their hands on the land they need.We completed legal studies of 438 parcels (representing 39,164 hectares) of public lands that can potentially feed this new fund. Of those, 236 parcels are available for immediate transfer (the others require additional field work before they are viable for transfer). This is important because these parcels will likely be the first inputs for the Land Fund when it is formally established after the signing of the peace accords. The ANT has requested additional support from LRDP with regard to preparing the administrative resolutions—a necessary procedural step—for these 236 parcels, which we will do next quarter.
- Activity Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (AMEP). USAID approved a new revision of LRDP’s AMEP.The new version combines both quantitative and qualitative indicators, enabling us to better tell our story and to improve our ability to measure progress toward targets. We will begin reporting on these revised indicators next quarter.
TRANSITION: PROJECT LEADERSHIP
This quarter, we welcomed a new Chief of Party, Anna Knox, and a new Deputy Chief of Party–Administration/Finance, Vanessa Martinez, and we bid farewell to our Deputy Chief of Party–Technical, Alejandro Tellez. Although the level of transition in leadership positions is significant, we have mechanisms and plans in place to ensure that the transition occurs smoothly and efficiently. For example, our new COP, Anna Knox, and outgoing COP, Christian Kolar, have a four-week overlap period following Ms. Knox’s two-month consulting assignment with LRDP. Vanessa Martinez, as our former Operations Manager, brings institutional memory and sound experience to the DCOPAdministration/Finance position, allowing for a smooth transition and for continued efficient operations of our administrative and financial areas. While we finalize selection of a new DCOP–Technical, LauraViñoly will serve in an acting capacity, bringing more than 20 years of international development implementation experience to ensure that technical activities are strategic and remain on schedule.