Colombia and SOUTHCOM Align Victoria Plus Plan’s Objectives
By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo July 20, 2018The main focus of the First Interinstitutional Seminar for Unified Action was the integration of Colombian institutions to stabilize the region, consolidate peace, and transform areas affected by the conflict. The U.S. Southern Command- (SOUTHCOM) sponsored symposium, by way of its Information Operations (IO) division, was held in Bogota, Colombia, June 26-29, 2018.
“Arauca, Catatumbo [Norte de Santander], Tumaco [Nariño], and Bajo Cauca Antioqueño are the [four] areas requiring joint and permanent control with all state capabilities. Colombia is now a bigger, better country,” said Army Brigadier General Hugo Alejandro López Barreto, commander of the Colombian Army’s Comprehensive Action and Development Support Command. “The map isn’t covered in red anymore, mostly green and yellow. We have to work hard and coordinate to eradicate the red zones.”
The strategy consists of synchronizing, coordinating, integrating, and harmonizing operations between the government and private sector. International cooperation and community participation are also a must. The goal is to achieve stability in the various regions of the country through joint efforts, as established by the Comprehensive Action and Development initiative known as Victoria Plus Plan—the strategic planning umbrella of the Colombian Military Forces.
Four phases, one purpose
The seminar is the third phase of a program developed with the Military Forces’ General Command to lay the foundations of the strategy. IO specialists conducted the first phase in April with an academic and hands-on seminar on interinstitutional planning. During the seminar participants determined the operations in need of urgent comprehensive expansion.
“In the second phase, a mobile committee visited the four areas to show commanders the joint strategic and comprehensive plan. In phase three [the June seminar], we analyzed the results of the mobile teams’ planning, and reformulated,” said Cristóbal Díaz, IO coordinator at SOUTHCOM. “There are many agencies in the field, but they aren’t in synch. We contribute to coordinate the design of the strategy. We work with the military, we support their leadership, but this issue should be intensified and addressed as a state policy,” he told Diálogo. Phase four will take place at the end of July 2018, at which point SOUTHCOM will deliver its final evaluation.
A shared vision
Representatives of the Colombian ministries of Defense, Education, Interior, and Transport; the High Council for Post Conflict; the National Authority on Aquaculture and Fisheries; the departments of Sports, Public Service (DAFP, in Spanish), Social Prosperity (DPS, in Spanish); and Comprehensive Action elements of each of the Military Forces of Colombia participated in the seminar. Participants recognized the importance of a permanent state presence to strengthen ongoing programs and start other projects to neutralize factors of instability.
“We targeted 1.06 million homes in rural areas. Our social workers, 5,600 people, visited 1,102 municipalities, which allowed us to understand what people need and how to connect the state’s social support,” Catalina Moyano, DPS deputy director to overcome poverty, told Diálogo. “We need the Armed Forces. In many cases, we don’t have the [resources] to go to different areas or even knowledge of the territory. They do.”
Regaining the trust of inhabitants is a must to provide basic needs in critical areas. “We are coordinating efforts for institutions to be there on a permanent basis. What we need in Colombia is for national order to be able to focus on the territory as well,” Alejandro Becker, director of Organizational Development at DAFP, told Diálogo.
“We designed a Comprehensive Planning and Management Model that brings 10 entities together and merges 16 management policies to dictate how processes should be conducted,” Becker added. “It’s a golden opportunity to integrate it to the joint action initiative led by the Armed Forces, whose entry into remote areas creates expectations that other institutions should support. We need to carry the comprehensive strategy forward for the state to work.”
Assessing results to move forward
The Victoria Plus Plan is part of the agenda of the state, private sector, and community. “We need to put this concept to work. We’ll have results in the short, medium, long, and very long term, which should culminate in the transformation of the territory,” Army Colonel (ret.) Samuel Alberto Ríos Sepúlveda, advisor on Project Planning, Social Innovation, Monitoring and Disposal at the Ministry of Defense, told Diálogo. “We should raise impact indicators in social, productive, and environmental management until the regions of Tumaco, Catatumbo, Arauca, and Bajo Cauca Antioqueño become productive and free of crime and narcotrafficking.”
To that end, Colombia created the Intervention and Social Interinstitutional Management Template. The tool measures the development of state programs and public approval rates in the main areas of concern.
“It’s not only about reaching the communities. The analysis of each stage is necessary, knowing at what point we overcome distrust to enforce management [to] create other scenarios and achieve transformation,” Col. Rios said. “Measuring tools for the communities are necessary, because they have to be committed. Otherwise, the effort is useless. This effort will take more than 20 years.”
In search of a coordinator
The seminar made it clear that there is progress in understanding the model and methodology to begin interinstitutional interaction exercises in the area. “Processes are built with time, knowledge, and support, like what we have with SOUTHCOM. There are two important channels: assessment and resources. The transfer of knowledge is essential for the exercise. The other is the contribution of resources to make it real. We can’t do it alone,” Col. Ríos said.
Each of the forces made recommendations to strengthen joint actions. Among the proposals: state prioritization of municipalities and townships as per the Victoria Plus Plan; and training of a team composed of naval forces, divisions, task forces, and brigades to draft projects at a strategic level for the project.
The military also recommended the creation of centralized joint action centers. The goal is to maintain control of operations, execute programs and objectives of regional institutions. The centers would also raise awareness among the population about the state’s opportunities and warn against illegal actions.
“The challenge is to find a good coordinator,” Marine Corps Colonel Fernando Moreno, chief of Comprehensive Action and Development of the Colombian Navy, told Diálogo. “We think that the Colombian vice president could be great to present the results of Victoria Plus after a four-year-run. And we—the Military Forces, ministries, agencies—would facilitate these results,” he concluded.