Chilean Armed Forces Support Peace in Colombia
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo September 15, 2016With an initial contingent of four Army, four Navy, and three Air Force personnel, the Chilean Armed Forces (FACh, per its Spanish acronym) came together to work as an observer country in the peacekeeping mission in Colombia. The mission was established by the United Nations (UN) Security Council through Resolution 2261, adopted on January 25th, 2016. It is a special political mission made up of international observers who will work to verify and guarantee the process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, its Spanish acronym). "It is very important to participate in a peace process of this nature," said Chilean Minister of Defense José Antonio Gómez on July 17th, during the official farewell ceremony for the military contingent. "We are collaborating with a sister nation so that a 50-year-long situation of conflict can finally end in a peaceful manner," he added. The first group of 11 Chilean military members are responsible for planning the deployment of the international force and the procedures for the surrender of weapons and demobilization of the guerrilla fighters at the Mission Headquarters in Bogotá. Chile will send 75 military personnel in total (50 officers and 25 permanent cadre personnel from the three institutions) for the entire duration of the peace process. On January 19th, 2016, the Colombian Government and the FARC committed to reaching a final agreement to end the conflict and to build a stable and enduring peace. In this context, the parties decided to create a tripartite monitoring and verification mechanism for the agreement, which will comprise the Colombian Government, representatives from the FARC, and one international component. Shaping this international force is up to the UN Security Council, through a peace mission made up of unarmed international observers who will be responsible for monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and the definitive end of bilateral hostilities. Along with the Chilean military, this first stage of the mission will include delegates from seven countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States: Argentina, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Aspects of the mission The observers, defined by the UN as "experts on mission," will be deployed gradually for 12 months at a time to complete their work in Colombia. They will not use military uniforms. Instead, their dress code will identify them as international members of the tripartite supervision and verification mechanism. According to a UN Security Council report, "They will carry out monitoring, verification, dispute resolution, reporting and investigation tasks. They will work in close collaboration with civilian personnel from the UN, along with representatives from the Colombian government and the FARC." For example, Chilean Army Lieutenant Colonel Andres Barros was named Chief of Security and Threats at UN Headquarters in Bogotá. "It is a huge challenge, a huge source of pride, and more than anything, it's a huge responsibility to be able to participate in such an important mission," he said. Although the Chilean troops won't be part of an armed contingent like in other peacekeeping operations that Chile participates in, such as in Haiti, they will be working in equally difficult and challenging conditions which the UN and the World Health Organization expect, such as the Zika virus. Before leaving for the mission, the Chilean military contingent was trained at the Chilean Joint Staff’s Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center. When they arrived in Colombia, the observers received another basic peacekeepingoperations training from September 1st–6th. The training addressed aspects of the final agreement, methods for verification, logistical and security issues, as well as operational procedures issues to be used in the field. Because a large number of FARC combatants were women, the UN Mission requested the participation of female observers. In Chile's case, Chilean Air Force Squadron Commander Ingrid Melgarejo, is the first female military member joining the mission. History Chile has been involved in the peace process since 2012, when the Colombian Government and the FARC met in Havana, Cuba, and committed to initiating dialogue to reach a final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and enduring peace. Chile has committed to supporting Colombia to see this transition through. "We are prepared to provide anything they consider to be of use in terms of experts, attorneys, and specialists in transitional justice," said Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Muñoz after the ceasefire agreement was signed on June 23rd, 2016. According to the official website of the United Nations, the mission will begin all its activities after the official signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC, which is expected to take place on September 26th. As planned by the Joint Staff, Chile will be ready to send a new military contingent to support the mission by the end of the year.