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More inclusive monitoring of peace agreement implementation: barometer initiative in Colombia


Sean Molloy and Borja Paladini, drawing on recent experiences with the Barometer Initiative in Colombia, show how more inclusive monitoring mechanisms can open up the implementation of a peace process to a range of new, previously marginalised actors. They suggest that the sustainability of an agreement refers to the degree to which it is implemented, which means translating commitments into norms, institutions, policies and concrete actions – a long, uncertain and complex process. The peace agreement does not transform war economies, nor does violence necessarily reduce immediately. Political actors change and power-holders evolve. Unresolved and sometimes new conflicts emerge. Corruption and weak institutions remain. Divided communities, resistance to change and mistrust permeate the implementation environment.

Obstacles to implementation

Peace accords are produced through discussion among some or all of a conflict’s protagonists. They have two primary ambitions – to end violent military conflict, and to address its main causes and consequences. Peace accords can include provisions on the creation of institutional mechanisms to allow access to state power and economic resources, empower minority or identity groups, compensate victims, or demobilise combatants and integrate them back into society.

Various obstacles can hinder or derail efforts to implement peace agreements. Promising and effecting change are two different things. The translation of the peace accord – a political and ideological document – into norms, institutions, laws, policies, programmes and concrete actions is a long and uncertain path. Unrealistic timeframes exacerbate anxiety among the parties and affected society. As enthusiasm diminishes, international support can also dwindle. Lack of trust among negotiating parties can compromise their adherence to commitments. Spoilers can undermine progress. Elites can resist the conditions of inclusion in the peace process and reject the reality of sharing power. These impediments are exacerbated by the continued legacies of war (war economies, mistrust and polarisation), and changes in national and international priorities and configurations of power-holders.

The implementation stage invariably introduces many other negotiations, actors and constituencies. Different social, economic and political stakeholders typically excluded during negotiations now press for meaningful and transformative participation in order to overcome the ‘legitimacy gap’ created by negotiations among elites. Communities and many other stakeholders see implementation as their space for influencing change.

Certain peace agreement provisions are particularly resistant to implementation. Commitments on accountability for harm or crimes committed related to the conflict through punitive transitional justice mechanisms are clearly the most fiercely resisted as those responsible for implementing them are also most liable. But economic reforms and ethnic, gender and environmental commitments also have lower implementation rates than those related to disarmament, power sharing or political participation – as documented by Madhav Joshi, Jason Quinn and the Peace Accord Matrix team at the Kroc Institute. The knock-on effects of non-implementation compound the complexities of implementation in other areas.

Monitoring mechanisms

Monitoring is related to but distinct from verification. Monitoring refers to collecting information on implementation. It may be conducted remotely or locally, gathering data through sources such as the parties to an agreement, a specialist observer team, citizen reporting or technological surveillance. Verification refers to using monitoring information to evaluate parties’ compliance with an agreement. It can provide an opportunity for parties to demonstrate compliance, or a process to identify violations or deter potential violations, for example through threat of exposure and possible sanction.

Monitoring mechanisms can include international, regional, sub-regional or national actors, civil society groups, community and religious organisations, media or research institutions. In many cases, monitoring mechanisms will consist of variations of some or all of these. This was the case, for instance, in the 1999 Lomé Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front. Monitoring mechanisms can relate to an array of commitments, such as regarding cessation of hostilities, weapons stockpiles and decommissioning, prisoner release, and political participation and elections.

Responsibilities for monitoring can emerge in different ways and cover different aspects of an agreement. Peace agreements can establish commissions or nominate various constituents to oversee the implementation of entire accords. Examples include the 2002 Global and Inclusive Agreement on Transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (‘Pretoria Agreement’), and the 2002 Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Chad and the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (‘Tripoli Agreement’). Alternatively, agreements can provide for the monitoring of specific, discrete areas of implementation. In Bosnia, for example, responsibility to oversee refugee-related aspects of the Dayton agreement was designated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In other cases, while not formally mandated by the agreement, there is frequently a multitude of civil society actors monitoring discrete areas of the post-conflict landscape, such as post-agreement human rights violations, implementation of legislation, destabilisation factors, and gender inclusion.

Third-party actors have important roles to play in peace implementation processes, such as to overcome low levels of trust between conflict parties. However, less is known about how, when and why the inner workings of monitoring mechanisms affect implementation, or their ability to influence ongoing peace processes more broadly – beyond the provisions of the accords – and whether the process of monitoring offers opportunities to counteract the exclusive nature of peace agreements.

Barometer Initiative

As part of their 2016 peace agreement, the Government of Colombia and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) invited the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies to provide technical assistance to the main monitoring and verification bodies: the joint Government of Colombia and FARC Monitoring and Verification Commission; and the International Verification Component headed by Felipe Gonzalez and Pepe Mújica (former presidents of Spain and Uruguay).
The tasks of the Kroc Institute can be clustered in two distinct groups:

  1. Build an evidence-based assessment and monitoring model to measure compliance with the agreements, identifying in real-time the advances, difficulties, gaps and setbacks in the implementation, and providing contemporaneous analysis to key decision-makers.
  2. Enable and facilitate real-time decision-making and adjustments in order to facilitate continuous improvement of peacebuilding capabilities to support implementation.

In response, the Kroc Institute created the Barometer Initiative, a bespoke methodology for the Colombian context that was inspired by its own Peace Accord Matrix programme.

The initiative examines the degree of implementation in 578 stipulations (actionable commitments) in the peace accord. These are grouped for analytical purposes into 18 themes and 70 sub-themes. The Barometer also assesses the level of implementation of cross-cutting priorities within the agreement: gender, ethnicity, territorial peace and human rights. A team of local peacebuilders gathers, verifies and systematises in a qualitative database information from hundreds of sources, including government officials, FARC advisors, the international community, NGOs, think tanks and universities, and women’s and ethnic organisations. Means of data gathering include perception studies, field visits, ethnographic assessments and press monitoring.

Through a coding process, the information updates a monthly quantitative assessment of the implementation of each stipulation, theme and sub-theme. In addition, data and assessments are shared regularly with hundreds of local stakeholders through ‘reflexive dialogue spaces’, creating an engaged participatory process to make sense of the main qualitative advances, difficulties, alerts, setbacks and gaps, as well as of the positive and negative cascading effects of the implementation. Kroc also develops a comparative assessment using analysis from the 34 different cases in the Peace Accord Matrix.

Using this analysis, the Barometer Initiative prepares regular reports assessing the implementation process. Some comprehensive reports are public, evaluating the state of implementation including on cross-cutting priorities. Other reports are confidential policy briefs provided to the key decision-makers which present evidence-based quantitative, qualitative and comparative information. These can respond to questions from the parties, identify concerns, highlight difficulties, gaps and setbacks, and provide comparative insights about how other countries responded to similar dilemmas. In partnership with key local and international actors and local civil society platforms, Kroc also prepares assessments of the implementation of the gender equity and other cross-cutting priorities in the accord in order to influence debate and decision-making and encourage more meaningful and transformative participation of key actors.

Kroc sees its approach as an opportunity to facilitate an adaptive implementation that, among other things:

  1. supports key decision-makers with information and timely options to respond to emergent dynamics
  2. increases resilience by identifying local opportunities and processes that can be nurtured to sustain peace
  3. facilitates implementation processes that are more inclusive, participatory and open to social and community actors, including women, young people, ethnic groups and other strategic stakeholders
  4. provides access to credible information for increasing social and political support to the transition from war to peace

Kroc also provides timely information about key destabilising factors such as narcotrafficking, corruption and human rights violations, and comparative options about how to respond to these. Kroc’s approach seeks to build trust between the parties.

Participatory and adaptive monitoring

Monitoring mechanisms often produce reports at the end of their mandates. This is too late to make improvements or alter the trajectories of implementation. By contrast, the Barometer Initiative provides information to parties in real-time. It does not seek to ‘finger-point’ but rather to highlight advances, difficulties and implementation gaps while at the same time maintaining the commitment of the parties involved. In doing so, the Barometer Initiative seeks to build trust between parties by demonstrating goodwill and adherence to commitments.

Real-time reporting allows parties to assess what has worked and what has not. Highlighting areas of limited development can inspire either side to increase their efforts, leading to a ‘positive cascading’ effect. Similarly, quantitative and qualitative data can help to identify high-risk areas. In both cases, by providing information on implementation, parties are afforded the necessary data to help navigate the process of implementation.

Kroc’s access to comparative information can also draw on the approaches adopted in other processes to address difficulties or to create ideas. The availability of comparative data makes it easier to identify common empirical patterns, outlier cases, and in some instances, possible solutions to gaps in implementation, including early preventive measures.

In providing information on implementation, monitoring bodies also offer the general public insights into the progression, regression or inertia of the peace process. In Colombia, Kroc issues nonpartisan analyses and periodic assessments of the pace of implementation and any strengths or gaps. This information has also been made available to around 300 organisations, which can offer their own interpretation of the data. These efforts have a pedagogical effect, helping to inform the wider public about both the substance of the agreement and the state of implementation.

Groups have used Barometer data to identify lags in implementation on issues such as land reform and social justice to support advocacy efforts. Data on the current status of implementation can, in this way, help to promote improved implementation. Implementation data often focus on failures, but an important factor in helping to sustain a peace process is acknowledging and celebrating success. Kroc can provide early detection warnings, but it has also made sure to highlight the achievements of the Colombian implementation process so far – for example, the significant progress of the disarmament process.


Kroc’s activities in Colombia highlight the opportunities for monitoring mechanisms to play more proactive and positive roles in facilitating the implementation of peace agreements. Important factors that monitoring mechanisms should take into account include the following:


  1. The need to adapt implementation to the evolving and changing context. This is not an option, but an inescapable requirement.
  2. Implementation is not an easy path. The peace agreement does not transform war economies immediately. Political actors change, power-holders evolve.
  3. Communities use implementation processes as opportunities to make claims for inclusion and meaningful and transformative participation.
  4. Unresolved and sometimes new conflicts emerge.
  5. Corruption and weak institutions remain.
  6. Divided communities, polarisation, resistance to change and mistrust impregnates the implementation environment.  Violence does not necessarily reduce immediately, as seen in Colombia with the targeted killings of social leaders, human rights defenders and former FARC combatants.

In attempting to respond to these realities, Kroc’s effort acknowledges and addresses constructively the many dilemmas of post-agreement transitions. Of course, more and more concerted efforts are needed to sustain peace and facilitate peacebuilding. Drawing on the example of the Barometer Initiative in Colombia, monitoring mechanisms have the potential to surpass simply observing and reporting on the status and rate of implementation. Inclusive monitoring mechanisms can open up the implementation process to a range of actors, many of whom may well have been marginalised from peace negotiations, creating a more inclusive peace process.

Issue editor

Andy Carl


Andy Carl is an experienced peacebuilding practitioner with a career of leadership in the NGO sector. Andy currently works as an independent writer and advisor to individuals, groups and organisations engaged in working on peace, justice and social change processes. He helped establish International Alert in 1989 and in 1994 he co-founded Conciliation Resources where he was Executive Director for 22 years.