Colombia is in the midst of a lethal decades-long conflict, which threatens to turn into a full-blown civil war and already has seen its impact and its violence affect neighbouring countries. The conflict pits the Colombian state against two well-armed, dangerous, violent guerrilla organisations and similarly dangerous, brutal and growing paramilitary forces. All of the irregular forces finance themselves largely through the narcotics industry, which now produces 80-90 per cent of the world’s cocaine, through kidnappings and extortion, and through other crimes.
The democratically-elected government of Andres Pastrana is in its final year in office, after three years of giving priority to the search for a negotiated solution to the internal conflict. Parallel efforts have sought to strengthen the capacity of the military and police forces to confront the irregular forces.
Virtually all governments and international organisations have expressed their support for the Pastrana government’s attempts to arrive at a negotiated settlement to the conflict, for achieving respect for international humanitarian law by all parties, and for pursuing national reforms. While recognizing the destructive impact of the drug industry and its links to the conflict, there has been criticism of some elements of the counter narcotics efforts.
ICG established a project in Bogota in the fall of 2001 which will support a comprehensive policy agenda to strengthen efforts to bring a negotiated end to Colombia’s long-running conflict. The focus will be on helping identify key strategies to reduce internal violence, to avoid cross-border consequences and to help Colombia pursue national reforms to strengthen governance, reverse economic downturn and reduce social inequalities.