A NEW CONTINENTAL ORDER

Colombia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ernesto Samper Pizano, Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), on working with regional powers to bolster the peace process, boosting citizen participation at home and in the region, and forging a new concept of hemispheric security.

Ernesto Samper Pizano
BIOGRAPHY
Ernesto Samper Pizano was President of Colombia from 1994 to 1998. He began his career as a congressman in Cundinamarca from 1982 to 1984, was Councilor of Bogotá from 1982 to 1986, and a member of the senate from 1986 to 1990. He has also held various executive positions, including ambassador to the assembly of the UN in 1983; Ambassador of Colombia to Spain from 1991 to 1992; Minister of Economic Development from 1990 to 1991, and coordinator of the meetings of ex-Presidents of Latin America in the Global Agenda from 2000 to 2005.

In what ways will UNASUR continue to support the ongoing peace process in Colombia, both with FARC and the newly opened negotiations with the ELN?

Some UNASUR countries, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil, are actively participating in this process. As Secretary General, I have been collaborating in Havana and, as agreed upon in the accord, I am responsible for contributing to citizen participation and democracy. Likewise with Uruguay we participated in defining the criteria for military de-escalation for the ceasefire, demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration. We are fully committed to the peace process.

Through UNASUR and its South American Defense Council (CDS), what role can Colombia play in promoting and maintaining regional security?

For UNASUR, hemispheric security no longer has to do with the strategic defense that for many years and during the Cold War defined the defensive criteria of the region against possible external interventions. At UNASUR, we are working through the South American Council of Defense, which brings together all the Ministers, the Center for Strategic Defense Studies in Buenos Aires, and the Defense College in Quito to forge a new concept of hemispheric security that is based on confidence and combating transnational crimes and citizen insecurity. It also includes protection from natural disasters and the sovereign defense of natural resources. We are working on a new articulation of concepts of defense, security, and justice as a part of our integral answer to new challenges. South America is the most peaceful regions in the world in terms of intra-state violence.

How is UNASUR working with Colombia and other Andean Community countries to better promote development and cooperation between the two organizations?

For two years now, UNASUR has been promoting a “convergence" process between the two mechanisms of sub-regional integration. In the past five months of convergence, we have found the Organization of Amazonia Pact with the Andean Community, Mercosur, ALBA, and the Pacific Alliance to increase our efforts to eliminate duplicities and specialize each process, all from the convergence blueprint that we built for the task. The results have been so positive that in the sixth convergence meeting we are extending CARICOM and SICA to include the Caribbean and Central America.