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International IDEA provides key support to political reform in post-conflict Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia

Colombian President and Nobel Peace Laureate Juan Manuel Santos with Daniel Zovatto

Colombian President and Nobel Peace Laureate Juan Manuel Santos with International IDEA’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Zovatto in the forum “In the road to peace – Political dialogue for democratic opening”, in Cartagena, Colombia, on 24 March 2017. During the forum the Special Electoral Mission presented its proposals for advancing political reform in Colombia. Photo credit: Presidency of the Republic of Colombia.

International IDEA’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Zovatto, participated as keynote speaker at the forum “In the road to peace – Political dialogue for democratic opening” held in Cartagena, Colombia, on 24-25 March 2017, where the Special Electoral Mission presented its proposals for political reform in Colombia. (Read this news article in Spanish)

The seminar was led by the Colombian President and Nobel Peace Prize, Juan Manual Santos, and the Colombian Minister for the Interior, Juan Fernando Cristo, and was attended by the highest electoral authorities, including the President of the State Council, the National Registrar and members of the National Electoral Council. 

The event took place in the context of the implementation of the Peace Agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2016, after four years of negotiations that put an end to more than 50 years of internal conflict. The implementation of the Peace Agreement requires, inter alia, the introduction of reforms to the Colombian political system to allow for the reincorporation of the guerrilla to the democratic system and to overcome the social, economic and political challenges brought by decades of armed confrontation. The Special Electoral Mission was created for the implementation of Point 2 of the Agreement, with the main purpose of elaborating recommendations for improving the electoral process and strengthening democracy in Colombia.

Cartagena’s seminar, organized by the Colombian Ministry of the Interior along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Carter Center, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) and International IDEA, was attended by representatives of political parties, the judiciary, academics and civil society organizations. 

The members of the Special Electoral Mission presented their preliminary recommendations, and took note of comments and input from stakeholders to inform their final report. The Mission’s recommendations focused on three main areas: amendments to the electoral structure, electoral reform and changes to the political system. Also, the Mission’s recommendations addressed issues related to electoral institutional frameworks, including the proposal to create an Electoral Court and to reform the National Registry. 

Daniel Zovatto, International IDEA’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, a special guest of the Colombian Government acted as main commentator. Zovatto emphasized the importance of avoiding “bulldozer reform” and highlighted the need to acknowledge the positive aspects of Colombia’s democratic institutions, taking in consideration that in the following year Colombia will hold both congressional and presidential elections in March and May 2018, respectively. 

Zovatto noted that the integrity of the Colombian electoral authority is recognized internationally, due to the efficiency in releasing electoral results and because of the general acceptance of such results. Also, Zovatto praised Colombia’s consensus-seeking tradition and highlighted the importance of ensuring the legitimacy of any reform process. 

In conversations held with President Santos and the Interior Minister Cristo, International IDEA’s representative discussed further opportunities for supporting Colombia’s implementation of the Peace Agreement and the incorporation of Colombia as a Member State of International IDEA.
 

About the Author

FORMER Programme Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean
Pablo Schatz

Pablo Schatz is a former Programme Officer in the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office since 2017.