Engaging with influencers: Peace Accords Matrix visits Washington, D.C.

Author: Kate Chester

Josefina Echavarría Alvarez, director of the Peace Accords Matrix at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, presents program research to policy makers at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center in Washington, DC, where she met the US-Colombia Advisory Group on security and peacebuilding.

When the historic Colombian peace accord was signed in 2016, ending more than a half-century of violent conflict, Notre Dame’s Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) was charged with monitoring and measuring its implementation through its Barometer Initiative.

Now, more than seven years later, Colombia has made significant progress implementing the terms of the agreement, but important work remains. Notre Dame has identified key factors for success as well as challenges to implementation, according to Josefina Echavarría Alvarez, director of PAM.

“At this midway point of implementation, it is essential to redouble efforts and address challenges with determination,” Echavarría Alvarez said. “At the Kroc Institute, we remain committed to peacebuilding in Colombia, and we look forward to working with our essential stakeholders to overcome the remaining obstacles.” PAM and the Barometer Initiative are housed within the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, part of the university’s Keough School of Global Affairs.

Echavarría Alvarez recently briefed policy makers at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center in Washington, DC, where she met the US-Colombia Advisory Group on security and peacebuilding. The group was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired in a bipartisan effort by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), who are both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Echavarría Alvarez provided key takeaways for policymakers, representatives of Think Tanks and former diplomats, who are navigating the potential changes in US-Colombia relations as they recognize how a new administration in Colombia represents a unique opportunity to deepen US-Colombia economic and diplomatic ties.

Also in the audience was Notre Dame graduate Lucie Kneip, now a program assistant at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center where she contributes to the center’s work on Venezuela and Colombia. Kneip earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and global affairs from the Keough School.

Said Echavarría Alvarez, “This process of monitoring and evaluating implementation levels of Colombia’s final accord has given us the ability to share valuable information about implementation status with the signatory parties and the general public, and it has also allowed us to identify factors that have driven and hindered implementation so far.”

Echavarría Alvarez said the PAM team has identified three elements that have been crucial in facilitating the final accord: support and momentum of the public for peace; support from the international community, especially the United States; and the operationalization of territorial implementation agendas that allow for greater integration and coordination at the local level.

PAM also identified three factors that have hindered progress, including the persistence of the armed conflict with pre-existing and newly organized groups; the COVID-19 pandemic, which redirected resources and attention; and persistent political and social instability.

When it comes to implementation, Echavarría Alvarez said significant progress has been made over the past seven years, with nearly a third of commitments having been implemented,—predominantly commitments related to ceasefire and disarmament.

As of February 2024, out of the 578 commitments derived from the final accord, 10 percent had not yet started implementation, 38 percent were at a minimal level, 19 percent were at an intermediate level, and 32 percent had completed implementation, according to Echavarría Alvarez.

While progress has been made, she said the data and qualitative analysis also highlight the significant challenge of substantively mobilizing almost 50 percent of accord commitments that have either not started or the actions recorded so far do not guarantee their complete implementation in the first half of the agreement timeline.

According to PAM’s research, stipulations around ending the conflict and on implementation, monitoring and verification mechanisms have higher implementation levels than points around comprehensive rural reform and political participations. Points on drug problem solutions and on victims of the armed conflict have average implementation levels.

Echavarría Alvarez also shared the complex progress around the implementation of the accord’s requirement to focus on gender, ethnic and territorial dimensions.

Of the 130 gender commitments in the accord, 15 percent have yet to be initiated, 53 percent were at a minimal level, 19 percent were at an intermediate level and 12 percent had completed implementation, she said. Of the 80 ethnic commitments, 13 percent had not initiated implementation, 61 percent were at a minimal level, 14 percent at an intermediate level, and 13 percent had completed implementation, as of February 2024.

Echavarría Alvarez said support for implementation of the accord, and therefore for peace in Colombia, must remain strong.

“This is a critical moment for the United States to continue its support for peace accord implementation in order to help Colombia successfully fulfill its 15-year deadline and provide a sustainable foundation for peace,” she said.

Added Geoff Ramsey, senior fellow at Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, “Josefina’s presentation to our US-Colombia Advisory Group offered significant insight into the long-term importance of implementation for the success of the peace accord. With what we’ve learned from Josefina, our members are well positioned to support the ongoing needs and opportunities associated with PAM’s work in Colombia.”

To date, the PAM program just published its eighth comprehensive implementation report and four special reports monitoring the implementation of provisions related to gender and ethnic concerns within the agreement. The program was also cited during a formal statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security. And in 2023, Echavarría Alvarez briefed the United Nations Security Council during an Open Consultation on “Peace Through Dialogue,” in NYC.

Led by Echavarría Alvarez and funded in part by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, the program’s research findings confirm that international monitoring and verification of peace agreements result in higher rates of implementation, which has many short- and long-term benefits, including less likelihood of a return to armed conflict, greater economic development, greater access to education and improved public health.