Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Billion-Dollar “Plan Colombia” to End Decades of Civil War

Published January 2016

A guerrilla organization known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo, FARC–EP and FARC) has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964, marking it as the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict. The FARC has claimed to be a Marxist-Leninist army representing the rural poor against Colombia’s wealthy, opposing imperialism and the privatization of natural resources. The FARC funded its campaign through the drug trade, kidnapping, illegal mining, and extortion.

Experts believe that the FARC continues to be active in 25 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, with around 8,000 fighters, down from 16,000 in 2001. The conflict between the rebels and the government has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced almost five million people over 50 years. In 2016, the UN Security Council approved a political mission to monitor implementation of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), following a joint request by the parties.

Both sides sought negotiations to create an environment where violence is no longer the means of securing social change. The two sides began formal peace talks in Cuba in 2012 and have reached an agreement on four key topics in preparation for signing a final peace document. Read more

A Peace That Couldn’t Last – Negotiating the Paris Accords on Vietnam

Signed on January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were intended to finally end the Vietnam War, which had cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers, not to mention the millions of Vietnamese civilians who were killed, injured, or displaced. Initially, the Accords were negotiated in secret by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the lead North Vietnamese negotiator. These secret negotiations took place over the course of five years in Paris, from 1968 to 1973, but it was only in the early 70’s that any real progress was made.

The secrecy of the negotiations, along with slow technology and the time differences between Washington, D.C., Paris, Hanoi, and Saigon, ensured that the negotiating process was time-consuming and tedious. In spite of these challenges, the two sides were, after many deadlocks and near agreements, able to come to a compromise in January 1973. For their efforts, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1973, although Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award since he believed the U.S. and South Vietnamese were in violation of the Accords. Read more

Creating Yaounde’s First Consulate

The first official U.S. diplomatic post in Cameroon was founded in 1957 during its waning days as a United Nations trust territory. The country was divided between the French and the British; both colonial powers had been preparing their respective territories for self-rule since the end of the Second World War. With other nations, including Morocco, Libya, and Ghana having declared independence, there was confidence among the people of Cameroon that their turn would be next. In 1959, the people of British Cameroon voted to join their French counterparts to form the greater Republic of Cameroon, which was still technically under French jurisdiction. The following year the largely Muslim two-thirds of British Cameroon in the north voted to join Nigeria, while the largely Christian southern third opted to join the new republic. 

Independent elections were held for the first time, and Ahmadou Ahidjo was elected as the Republic of Cameroon’s first Prime Minister. Although Ahidjo had been a key leader in the independence movement, a political party known as the Union des Populations Camerounaises (UCP) grew impatient with the slow pace of negotiations towards full sovereignty and initiated a guerrilla war to speed up the process.  Cameroon became a sovereign nation in 1960. Read more

The Diplomacy of Extraditing an Alleged Terrorist

In 1973 three bombs, timed to explode with the arrival of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to the U.S., were found in rental cars in New York City. The cars were parked near two Israeli banks and the El-Al cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The explosives did not go off, but rendered fingerprints that led investigators to Khalid Duhham Al-Jawary, a known passport forger affiliated with Black September, a militant group that targeted world leaders during the 1970’s. It took eighteen years to track Al-Jawary down, and once he was found in Rome, the U.S. needed Italy’s permission to arrest him there.

Getting the authority to arrest and extradite Al-Jawary required the skillful negotiations of U.S. Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia. Secchia spent months working individually with Italian ministers to get the votes for extradition.  He recalled this episode in an interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy in June 1994. Please follow the links to learn more about terrorism, Black September, and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro.

Read more

Negotiating the UNFCCC – Moving to the Endgame

In Part III, Robert Reinstein, the United States’ top negotiator at the United Nations, and Stephanie Kinney, one of the State Department representatives, give a behind-the-scenes look at some of the negotiating tactics and backroom dealing used to draft the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They discuss the crucial negotiations in Nairobi, which marked the beginning of the endgame, and touch on the flurry of meetings around the globe, many of which were less than productive and resulted only in heated exchanges. Reinstein discusses at length some of the tactics he used in negotiating in a multilateral setting. Read more

Negotiating the UNFCCC – “The Whole World Was Against Us”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a landmark international climate treaty which entered into force in March 1994, provided the basis for future agreements, including the one reached in Paris in December 2015. 

Robert Reinstein, the United States’ top negotiator at the United Nations, and Stephanie Kinney, one of the State Department representatives, recount the considerable obstacles the U.S. faced in reaching an agreement, including demands by developing countries for an upfront guarantee of money and technology and how they were able to finesse this with well-crafted language — after a high-stakes poker match. They note how then-Senator Al Gore followed the U.S. delegation everywhere and was often critical of its bargaining positions, in part because the U.S. kept to its position of “no on targets, no on money and we’re going to come back to you on technology.” Read more

Negotiating the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

One of the most critical problems facing the world today is the issue of climate change. Scientists have predicted that if drastic measures are not enacted soon, global warming will lead to catastrophic changes in the climate, desertification, and a rise in coastal flooding, which would all but destroy many communities and even small countries located at sea level.

International efforts to address this issue go back more than two decades. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was an international climate treaty finalized at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, which entered into force in March 1994. The text was initially agreed to by an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in New York between April and May 1992. The objective of the Convention was to curb and stabilize greenhouse-causing emissions in the atmosphere. Though there were no binding limits on emissions for individual countries and no enforcement mechanism was introduced, the Convention was seen as a key first step in addressing global climate change. Read more

I Was So Wrong For So Long: The Art of the Apology

The words “I am sorry” can be difficult to say and sometimes even more painful to accept. Working as representatives of the United States, individuals in the Foreign Service are accustomed to using apologies as powerful tools to repair tense relationships and acknowledge mistakes.

These excerpts form a collection of both serious and humorous accounts of apologies in the Foreign Service. The selections range from an officer working towards reconciliation in post-WWII Germany to a school teacher’s experience with an unruly student. The common link between the excerpts demonstrates the often ignored and under-appreciated roles that apologies serve in the Foreign Service, and, more generally, in interpersonal relations.  Read more

Dress for Success

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference, especially during tense moments when the stakes are high. For example, during the negotiations to resolve the 16-year-long Mozambique civil war, which killed over one million people. The warring factions, the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO), met in Rome in the early 1990s. Dennis Jett, who served as Ambassador to Mozambique from 1993-96, recalls how one small gesture was tailor-made for a successful outcome. Read more

Transnistria — Life in a Russian Bear Hug

Transnistria is a small breakaway state located between the Dniester River and Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine. In November 1990, limited fighting broke out between Russian-backed pro-Transnistrian forces and the Moldovan police and military. The fighting intensified in March 1992, and lasted until an uneasy yet lasting ceasefire was established on July 22, 1992.

Transnistria’s Russian-speaking population believes that its identity would be overwhelmed by the ethnic Moldovan majority and thus sees the Russian military presence as protection. Moldova contends that those Russian troops violate its territorial integrity and that Moscow has repeatedly blocked any attempts to reach a settlement. For these reasons, many see parallels between this long-simmering “frozen conflict” and the ongoing situation between Crimea and Ukraine. (Photo of Young Communists: Davin Ellicson)
Read more