Program of Humanitarian Attention to the Demobilised: FARC Operation Christmas

Principal Authors: Mihir Warty and Jane Dorsett, Lowe and Partners; Marialejandra Urbina and Juan Pablo García, Lowe-SSP3

1. Introduction

This entry is about Colombia's 60 years of struggle against the oldest guerrilla group in the world, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. 8,000 guerrillas are in action, committing a terrorist act on average once every three days.

We were asked to create an idea to demobilise them. To invite them to recover their life, their freedom.

Delivering demobilisation messages to the guerrillas is a very difficult task. The remaining guerrillas are hardcore fanatics. They eschew conventional media in the main and connecting with them is fraught with danger and risk.

Insight from group sessions and interviews revealed that Christmas time is the most sensitive and emotional period for guerrillas. Consequently we created Operation Christmas: two professional anti-guerrilla contingents, 2,000 LED lights, and two Black Hawk helicopters travelled into the jungle to find and cover giant trees (75 feet tall) with Christmas lights. Placed alongside the guerrillas’ strategic walking paths the lights would come on when they approached, with banners exhorting them to lay down their arms becoming visible too.