Tove Gravdal and Dag Nylander - Selected Title Authors

The agreement between Farc and the government in Colombia is a sort of golden standard for international peace agreements. Out of the Jungle is about this peace process, which went on from 2011 to 2016. – Dag’s perspective is unique, since he was there from the beginning to the end, and knew everyone and spoke to everyone involved, the authors explain.

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From the left: Dag Nylander and Tove Gravdal has written the book 'Out of the Jungle'. Photo: Katinka Hustad and Mats Bakken.

Out of the Jungle. About the Peace Process in Colombia is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles for autumn 2023. Here, authors Tove Gravdal and Dag Nylander tells you about the book, who it is written for, what inspired them to write it and where and when they works best.

What is your book about?

The book is about the six-year peace process between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group FARC, which lasted from 2011 to 2016. Norway and Cuba were the guarantor nations during the peace negotiations; this means that Norwegian diplomats were present at all negotiation meetings and played various roles to ensure that the process stayed on track. Dag led the Norwegian team from the top-secret initial phase up until the signing of a peace agreement in 2016. He was an eyewitness and impartial actor in the most significant peace process of our time, which ultimately ended a 52-year-long civil war in Colombia.

Dag’s tasks ranged from participating in risky helicopter trips into guerrilla-controlled jungle areas to briefing The White House in Washington, D.C. on the progress at the negotiation table. He maintained close contact with both parties, who had chosen to negotiate for peace – even at the risk of their lives – instead of continuing to wage war. Alongside the Cubans, the Norwegian diplomats had to handle many acute crises while also thinking long-term to assist the parties in finding solutions. In the book, we describe all these events – big and small – while also providing insight into what peace diplomacy entails and how challenging it is to end armed conflicts.

What inspired you to write this book?

The agreement between FARC and the Colombian government is considered a kind of “gold standard” for peace agreements internationally. The story of how they reached that point deserves to be shared with a wider audience, both because of its inherent excitement and because those trying to end other conflicts can learn from it. Dag’s perspective was unique since he was there from beginning to end, knew everyone, and spoke with all involved, including those doing the negotiating and the many international and national actors who mattered in the process. This gave him an exceptionally solid foundation for writing a credible history of this peace process. When Russia invaded Ukraine, we saw that this book became even more important; the story from Colombia demonstrates how much it takes to resolve a deadlocked armed conflict through negotiations.

Who is this book for?

Anyone who enjoys reading exciting real-life stories! It doesn’t require prior knowledge of Colombia, and it has particular value for those interested in international politics and peace diplomacy. We also believe readers in Colombia would benefit from the book as it describes a significant part of their national contemporary history from an impartial perspective.

Where and/or when do you work best?

It was great to be in Bogotá to interview many of those who participated in the process. Their accounts of the events were essential for retelling what happened in the most credible way possible. Dag had fortunately taken notes during negotiations, and along with the interviews and information from articles, TV reports, and books, we used these notes to piece together a substantial and intricate puzzle of a peace process. We typically did this work in Tove’s living room, where the texts were reviewed, reshaped, rewritten, and re-edited. The work often continued late into the night – just like during the peace negotiations in Havana, the capital of Cuba.

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See full presentation of the book here

See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for autumn 2023 here