How U.S. Aid can Help a Post-Peace Accord Colombia

Latin America and the Caribbean

U.S. faith leaders have stated their support for the peace process in Colombia, and they have some recommendations for how the U.S. can adjust its aid to help the country’s effort for peace. On Monday, 32 faith-based leaders released a letter through the Latin American Working Group (LAWG) calling for the United States to support civilian institutions and civil society over the military. 

The letter urges: Instead of military aid, assistance should be transformed to support peace accord implementation, address humanitarian needs, and strengthen civilian institutions.

They went on to provide several recommendations for U.S. assistance to Colombia, including:

  •  Focus on displacement. Support initiatives to return land to the some six million men, women, and children who have been displaced by the conflict.
  •  Protect vulnerable communities. U.S. aid should finance more effective protection programs for returning communities, human rights defenders, union members, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and new political groups. Additionally, the U.S. must put pressure on Colombia to denounce, investigate, and prosecute threats and attacks on activists.
  • Respect drug policy reforms for sustainable rural development. Stand behind recent drug policy agreements, like the end of aerial spraying programs. The U.S. should promote small-scale, farmer led rural development in Colombia.
  • Support human rights programs. The U.S. can help find justice for families of the disappeared. They can help establish a truth commission through an inter-agency order to declassify U.S. documents. They should also aid demobilization and reintegration programs, including rehabilitation for child soldiers and victims of sexual violence.
  • Advocate for demilitarization. The U.S. must help the Colombian government break up new and existing paramilitary groups, investigate and prosecute members of Colombian armed forces, police, civilian authorities, landowners and businesses that continue to aid and tolerate these groups.
  • Promote civilian justice and labor rights. The U.S. should advocate social and political inclusion in a post-peace accord Colombia. This includes pushing for full implementation of the Labor Action Plan, an agreement signed in 2011 aimed at protecting and improving the rights of workers, which continues to be a serious problem four years on.


The United States has a key role to play in bringing an end to Colombia’s seven-decade civil war. While U.S. funding to Colombia has totaled $9 billion since 2000, the vast majority – about $7 billion – has been allocated towards strengthening the military and police.

As The Guardian noted, the appointment of a U.S. envoy to the peace process and the United States’ instrumental role in reaching an agreement to remove land mines are promising signs of U.S. support for peace building. The U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, also said in a January El Tiempo article, that post-peace accord, he would ask Congress to redirect aid to give more funding to humanitarian and civilian projects. The letter commended the Obama administration’s repeated public support for the talks.

As the authors clearly outline, this shift in U.S. assistance should move to focus on institution building to increase civilian participation, education, economic and labor opportunities in Colombia. Civilian government presence in rural areas, particularly in coca-producing regions where aerial glyphosate spraying will end, will also be key in terms of reducing coca production and improving the security situation in these volatile areas.

The signers also encouraged the Colombian government go further to engage other armed actors and engage with “the ELN guerrillas to open serious negotiations and to the United States and international community to encourage this important step.”