12 July 2023
In a meeting with the UN Security Council, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia presented the latest report of the Secretary General to the Council. The report indicates that Colombia has made good progress towards the implementation of the Peace Accord as well as peace building efforts. He highlights some noteworthy steps taken by the Gustavo Petro government including several peace-related provisions in the National Development Plan, increased attention to the comprehensive rural reform, the allocation of a Peace Budget for the implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord and the establishment of the Equality Ministry led by Vice President, Francia Marquez. Marquez was also praised for progression made on the ethnic chapter of the Accord which is particularly important for improving the situation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in addition to other vulnerable groups.
Massieu credits the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz -JEP) which he says is continuing to advance the macro-cases. The centrality of victims and their demands for truth justice, reparation and non-repetition is an obligation and a fundamental principle of the Accord. Therefore, the presence of the different parties to the conflict, government ministers and officials appearing before the Jurisdiction is a significant step in ensuring non-repetition. Despite many threats to judges and personnel, the JEP has continued its work, and both victims and civil society organisations have persisted in seeking justice for crimes including sexual and gender-based violence that have occurred during the conflict. Massieu reiterated his solidarity with victims and the JEP and added that the move towards the issuance of the first restorative sentences will mark another milestone in the progression of Colombia’s peace process.
Massieu also praises the efforts of the government for their community-based reintegration with an emphasis on ‘reconciliation, access to land and gender and women’s empowerment,’ as well as their willingness to engage in dialogue with armed groups. For Massieu, such dialogues are an opportunity to build concrete commitments, to reduce the suffering of victims and to reduce violence against former combatants and community leaders. Massieu condemns the violence, against community leaders, members of the Catholic Church in Cauca, and former combatants.
He reiterates the conviction of the Secretary General that the Mission can make an important contribution through monitoring and verification of ceasefires. To avoid repetition of the conflict, Massieu states it is essential ‘to preserve and build upon the progress made’.
However, the violence continues to hinder the full potential of the Accord, particularly in rural areas where citizens often face insecurities due to drug traffickers and lack of state presence. In a recent humanitarian visit to the region of Catatumbo, community leaders and NGOs pleaded for more state presence and for an alternative to illicit crops. Additionally, they also asked for perseverance in resolving the armed conflict that continues to affect those who reside in rural areas. To some extent, the implementation of rural reforms has led to increases in violence against peasant leaders and land claimants. In addition, there has been violence committed against former combatants, five of whom were killed recently. He considers that the implementation of the new security and defence policy provides some optimism that the situation will improve soon.