“The peace process is an objective that everyone shares”: Security Council visit to Colombia

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From 11 to 14 July 2019, the 15 members[1] of the UN Security Council made a four-day visit to Colombia on a mission led by the United Kingdom and Peru. The aim of the visit was to assess the progress in the implementation of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord, and to better understand the concerns of different stakeholders in the peace process. The delegation met with the President, Government officials, transitional justice institutions, political parties, former FARC combatants, civil society organisations and UN bodies based in Colombia.

The Security Council first met with President Iván Duque and officials in Bogotá, including the Foreign Minister of Colombia, Carlos Holmes Trujillo. They then travelled to Cauca to visit the Santa Rosa Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration for former FARC combatants, and the nearby community of Caldono, Cauca, one of the areas most affected by the armed conflict.

As pointed out by the Secretary General in his report, and as the Council was able to observe on the ground, the assessment of the peace process is mixed: While efforts by the Government to advance the reintegration of former FARC-EP members have begun showing important concrete results, security in conflict-affected areas remains of great concern.”

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia

In Caldono, the Security Council members heard from community leaders and human rights defenders, including Indigenous leaders and Indigenous Guards, about the serious concerns related to violence against social leaders. According to UN figures, at least 116 Human Rights Defenders were killed in Colombia in 2018. The figures of other organisations, including the Colombian Ombudsman, are much higher. The Security Council acknowledged that the violence against social leaders is a major obstacle to the peace process:

The peace process is an objective that everyone shares in Colombia at the moment as a very important objective. However, we also know that there are challenges, which we have seen and heard, including the issue of killings of social leaders.”

Peruvian Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, at the end of the UN Security Council Visit to Colombia

Civil society groups also particularly highlighted the need to effectively implement the chapters on the comprehensive rural reform and illicit crop substitution. In relation to political participation, civil society expressed their concerns regarding the threats they are facing and highlighted the importance of dismantling paramilitary structures; they also called for an end to violence against vulnerable groups and emphasised the importance of facilitating the political participation of ethnic groups and women.  

We remain gravely concerned about the situation of social leaders and human rights defenders. One leader from Cauca, Francia Marquez, was not able to attend the meeting with the Council after being threatened by an illegal armed group. The plight of hundreds of brave leaders under threat around the country is not acceptable.”

Carlos Ruiz Massieu

Victims’ rights, including the rights to truth, justice and reparation, were among the points that were highlighted by the stakeholders in Colombia. Representatives of the three bodies of the transitional justice system also met directly with the Security Council delegation and shared “the difficulties and sensitivities” related to their work. One core difficulty for the transitional justice system is the lack of adequate funding, an issue that was also acknowledged by Security Council members:

One part in our very rich programme (…) was a meeting with the Truth Commission, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Unit for the Search for Missing persons. I was really impressed by their commitment, their professionality and their willingness to really contribute to the reconciliation of the Colombian people. And I would urge the Government to continue the adequate financial support.”

Christoph Heusgen, German Ambassador to the UN

The extension of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate

ABColombia welcomes that during the Security Council visit, President Duque officially requested an extension of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate for one year, recognising its fundamental role in the peace process.

…hoy le he entregado al señor Presidente del Consejo de Seguridad, la carta que ratifica que queremos el acompañamiento de la misión por un año más. Porque consideramos que su trabajo, su escrutinio y su acompañamiento es vital para el éxito de este proceso de reincorporación.”

President Duque [2]

However, in light of the slow progress with the implementation of the Peace Accord, civil society organisations have asked for a renewal for a longer period of time, in order to ensure continuous international monitoring of the peace process. 

The UN’s “mixed” assessment of the peace process

Whilst the UN reiterated its full commitment to the Colombian peace process and the implementation of the Peace Accord, they also raised concerns around security, the continuing challenges to the implementation process and the slow progress in relation to some aspects of the Peace Accord.

Video statement of Peru & UK at the end of the visit

For instance, the Head of the UN Verification Mission to Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu expressed concern that the National Security Guarantees Commission, which was established by the Peace Accord, had “not met for many months”. In fact, the Commission has not met since Duque came into power.[3]

The National Security Guarantees Commission, mandate is essential if Colombia is an essential element to sustainable peace building, it is to design and implement a policy to dismantle paramilitary structures.  This is vital if Colombia is to begin to address and prevent the violence against social leaders and human rights defenders, as the dismantling of the paramilitary structures will mean investigating and prosecuting both the material and intellectual authors of these crimes.

ABColombia’s recommendations to the Colombian Government:

  • To implement security guarantees for social leaders and human rights defenders and to ensure the National Security Guarantees Commission can effectively carry out its mandate and that it meets on a regular basis;
  • To ensure full, adequate funding for all three components of the transitional justice system;
  • To ask for a renewal of the mandate of the UN Verification Mission for another three years, to allow long-term planning and continuous support for the implementation of the Peace Accord;
  • To renew the full mandate of the UN Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia for another three years, including its mandate to write an annual report on the human rights situation in Colombia.  

Background on the UN Verification Mission

Point 6.3.3 of the Final Peace Accord establishes that a political mission from the United Nations should verify the reintegration of former FARC combatants into civilian life, as well as the implementation of the individual and collective security and protection measures as outlined in the Peace Accord. The Second UN Verification Mission started in September 2017, with a mandate to verify the political and socio-economic reincorporation of the FARC-EP into civilian life and the implementation of individual and collective security measures in regions most affected by the conflict.

In July 2019, President Duque requested an extension of the Verification Mission’s mandate for a further year.

Notes

[1] Germany, Belgium, China, Ivory Coast, United States, France, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Peru, Poland, UK, Dominican Republic, Russia and South Africa.

[2] Unofficial translation: “Today I handed the President of the Security Council the letter that confirms that we want the accompaniment of the Mission for one more year. That’s because we believe that its work, its scrutiny and its accompaniment is vital for the success of this process of re-incorporation.”

[3] Since Duque took office, the National Commission on Security Guarantees has only held regional and thematic sessions, see report of the UN Secretary General, S/2019/530.

Further Reading