Colombia in NATO: what will the Latin American country gain with this new alliance?

The Colombian president announced on Friday May 25th the country's entry as a global partner of this organization of military nature, an alliance that entered into force as of May 31st

Colombia in NATO: what will the Latin American country gain with this new alliance?

Since December 2016, Colombia had made a military cooperation agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to manage the post-conflict after the agreement reached with the FARC guerrilla. However, the history between the country and the organization has deeper roots that come from the government of former President Álvaro Uribe. In order to become a Global Partner of the organization, Colombia had to comply with specific requirements, being the first country in Latin America to obtain this category.

Leer en español: Colombia en la OTAN: ¿qué obtendrá el país latinoamericano con esta nueva alianza?

Colombia as a NATO Global Partner

For Colombia to be accepted as a Global Partner, the member countries of NATO analyzed an approach to develop cooperation with this country in areas of common interest. The objectives of the type of agreement reached are: "to achieve common approaches to global security challenges such as cybersecurity, maritime security and terrorism and their links to organized crime, support peace and security efforts, including human security, with a particular focus on protecting civilians and children, and promoting the role of women in peace and security, as well as building the capabilities of the Colombian armed forces".

All this translates into practical cooperation, that is to say in activities in which the country has participated since 2013 with which it is intended to promote the values ​​and beliefs of the Organization. Colombia has participated in training in defense, education, military conferences on the fight against narcotics, and even supported the maritime operation of NATO to counteract piracy in the Horn of Africa with a ship. Although President Santos has been emphatic in saying that the agreement with NATO is not of a military nature, it is pertinent to recognize that it is the military forces that will receive the benefits of the alliance.

NATO's global partners not only develop military cooperation with this organization, but also rely on global issues, such as challenges in human rights, peace, sharing information, practices, and experience. Colombia, to be accepted in the organization, fulfilled the specific requirements that were imposed, mainly the search of improvements of the internal conditions of the country: specifically the use that is given to the military forces, and the living conditions of the population. To comply with the requests of the Organization, the country initiated a campaign with the military forces in which in conflict zones; these had to provide a role beyond security, hence they were trained in matters of education, engineering, and rescue situations.

According to Rafael Piñeros, a professor at the Universidad Externado de Bogotá, being a NATO global partner means being "in a strategic alliance of military cooperation", but it does not necessarily mean that Colombia will participate in NATO military operations in the face of an international crisis. This category was created "to generate strategic alliances beyond" Europe, the United States and Canada in order to maintain global peace, hence only 8 countries so far have such a classification. These countries have used cooperation with the Organization to increase state capacities in remote areas or that lack the same services as others.

The idea does not come from the current Government

In 2006, the then president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, expressed interest in being part of the organization. Nevertheless, he responded that his approach was not possible due to its geographical position (it was not in the northern part). of the continent, and not part of Europe either). However, in 2013, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a cooperation agreement with NATO in Brussels to exchange information and security with the idea "to strengthen the construction of integrity and transparency in security issues, as well as to bring closer cooperation of the Armed Forces with this multilateral organization in exchange for the experience that Colombia can offer in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking", as the parties said at the time.

The Congress of the Republic endorsed the cooperation agreement in 2014, but the Attorney General's Office requested in 2015 the Constitutional Court to declare the agreement inadmissible because "it does not define its purpose with precision (...), there is no clarity on what type of information it is the one that will be exchanged "and for" vagueness that could have practical consequences of great importance". At that time the agreement with the organization was terminated.

However, for President Santos, NATO was an important opportunity and in 2016, he announced a new agreement, focused on military cooperation with the Organization, mainly focused on post-conflict and peacebuilding. At present, the agreement seeks to empower the military forces with the NATO guidelines for peace missions that involve (health, education, construction, among others).


Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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