Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Faculty of Business and Economy, Department of Political Science and International Relations academician and EMU Cyprus Policy Center head, Prof. Dr. Ahmet Sözen evaluated the Colombian referendum result, noting that a great opportunity was lost. Prof. Dr. Sözen stated that the ‘narrow margin’ between the yes and no votes (%49.78-yes, %50.21-no) during the Colombian referendum shows us that reaching peace isn’t easy and that from this result we have a lot to learn.
After a negotiation period of approximately 6 years (secret for 2 years and open to the public since 2012) supported by the Obama administration, the European Union and the Cuban government, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC) and the Colombian Government signed an agreement. On the 2nd of October 2016, Colombia went to referendum to accept or reject the agreement. However, the agreement wasn’t accepted and Colombia missed the opportunity to end Latin America’s oldest and most bloody civil war. During the conflict that has gone on for 52 years, 220 thousand people have lost their lives and more than 7 million people have lost their homes. Many of the ‘no’ votes appear to be as a result of anxiety regarding the privileges (especially political) to be given to FARC. However, because of the dignified behavior of the Colombian public during the referendum, the fact that neither side got involved in violence and stayed true to the ceasefire still keeps alive positive expectations regarding the peace process. In summary, the sides need to keep using democratic processes instead of violence to solve their problems.
Before the referendum took place, Prof. Dr. Sözen attended and gave a speech at a panel titled “The Colombian Referendum, Repercussions of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote: Experiences from Successful and Unsuccessful Referendums in Other Peace Processes” that took place at the Geneva Graduate Institute. The panel organized by the United Nations Geneva Permanent Mission, Extensive Peace and Change Initiative and the International Development and Geneva Graduate Institute aimed to obtain substantial data from the respectively successful and un successful referendums in Cyprus and Northern Island in order to guarantee public support in the Colombian referendum. In his speech, Prof. Dr. Sözen noted that the Annan Plan was presented to both communities and a simultaneous referendum took place on the 24th April 2004. The referendum didn’t aim to form two separate states but rather a common state run by the involvement of both communities. The sharing of state functions would result in self-determination. The referendum that aimed to form a Federal Cyprus failed as it did not make clear what would happen if the three outcomes other than a two ‘yes’ outcome was to materialise. The isolations on Turkish Cypriots were lessened as it was made clear that they were not the side that didn’t want a solution.
In his speech, Prof. Dr. Sözen noted that the Cyprus situation is now more difficult to solve because many people with the experience of living together have died and new equations been added to the problem. He concluded his words by noting that over the last 12 years the demographic structure has changed and constructions have continued in controversial areas.