Human Rights Essential Component for UN Security Council Political Mission

ABColombia welcomes the end of the process of the Laying Down of Arms by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). The next crucial challenge is to get the Mandate right for the second phase of the United Nations Security Council’s Special Political Mission to Colombia. This requires the inclusion of a robust human rights mandate as part of the Political Mission, a tried and tested approach by the UN Security Council in other parts of the world; and reflected as an essential element in the Colombian Peace Accord [1] agreed on 24 November 2016.

ABColombia welcomes the news that the FARC has completed the phase of the Laying Down of Arms – it is a historic moment for Colombia.

The next challenge which Colombia faces is the reincorporation of the FARC into civilian life as the first UN Resolution for a Political Mission to Colombia for the monitoring of the Laying Down of Arms comes to an end.

Second Mission

On 27 June 2017, the FARC and the Colombian Government held a ceremony to say, “Farewell to Arms, Farewell to War”.At this ceremony, the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and the head of the FARC Secretariat, Timoleon Jimenez, both re-iterated their commitment to the implementation of the Peace Accord.

On 5 June 2017, President Santos and Timoleon Jimenez requested a second UN Mission to monitor and verify the next phase of the process: re-incorporation. Support for this request was publicly given by the UN Security Council on 30 June 2017.

The role for the Second UN Mission to Colombia as laid out in the Peace Accord is to verify the process of political, economic and social reincorporation of the FARC and the implementation of individual and collective protection and security measures, and integrated security and protection programmes for communities and organisations in the regions, among other topics (point 6.3.3).

The Mandate of the Second Mission

The UN Security Council will need to ensure that the Second Mission to Colombia has a strong human rights brief that is monitored by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (OHCHR). The UK holds the pen (will take the lead) on this UN Security Council Resolution, and in this position the UK must ensure that the mandate given to the mission includes the participation of, and collaboration with, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The participation of the UN High Commissioner is essential, given the human rights elements of the verification process.

The combining of a robust  human rights mandate in a political mission is an approach which has been tried and tested by the UN Security Council in other contexts. The UN Security Council, states that it recognises that the “realisation of human rights is essential for building and keeping peace.” In 2014 alone, there were 15 UN peacekeeping operations and political missions mandated by the UN Security Council with a robust human rights mandate: to promote, protect and monitor human rights.

The UK and other UN Security Council members should ensure that in the drafting of the mandate for the second phase of this Mission the mandate is specific on the coordination and complementarity of the various UN mandates. The mandate’s design, structure and functions should be between the UN Department of Political Affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; such articulation will make it possible to form a suitable civilian team with extensive experience to verify all aspects relating to human rights in Colombia. It will also respond fully to the description of the responsibility of the Mission in the Colombian Peace Accord to, “verify the process of political, economic and social reincorporation of the FARC and the implementation of individual and collective protection and security measures, and integrated security and protection programmes for communities and organisations in the regions, among other topics”.

Security and Human Rights Protection

Integral security protection measures for rural communities and human rights defenders are essential given the current context. Whilst the FARC have laid down their arms and are beginning the process of reincorporation, there are other illegal armed groups that operate in Colombia. The guerrilla group the Ejerecito de Liberacion Nacional (National Liberation Army – ELN), the Ejército Popular de Liberación (Popular Liberation Army – EPL) and the neo-paramilitary groups which did not demobilise with the rest of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (Self-defence Forces of Colombia – AUC), a paramilitary force that demobilised over 30,000 troops in 2005 and are referred to in the Peace Accord in point 3.4.3 as sucesoras del paramilitarismo” (heirs of the paramilitaries).[1]

When the FARC moved to the Transition and Normalisation Zones they left major power vacuums in many areas of the country that have not been filled by the State. As a result, illegal armed actors (mainly the ELN and the neo-paramilitary groups) are fighting to control these areas and resources such as the cocaine and informal gold mining. This has disproportionately affected rural communities, with many indigenous, afro-Colombian and peasant farmer communities being forced to flee their homes, and others have been confined within their territory. The neo-paramilitary groups are also supporting elites who continue to illegally occupying land from which people were forcibly displaced.

Human rights defenders are being killed at an unprecedented rate. According to the Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman, 156 defenders were killed between 1 January 2016 and 31 March 2017.

If the need for coordination and recognition of the complementarity of the UN mandates is not included in the mandate of the Second Mission, then instead of strengthening these UN mandates, the Security Council risks weakening them and with it weakening the sustainability of the peace process.

  • The mandate and design of the Mission should be for the Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations, with the participation and collaboration of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the supervision of the Secretary General;
  • Promote an environment of harmonious collaboration with all agencies of the UN system present in the country, by ensuring that the necessary protocols for collaboration are defined;
  • The Second Mission should maintain a proactive and plural dialogue with the social and human rights organisations nationally, regionally and locally;
  • To integrate an ethnic and gender focus into the mandate of the mission and to continue to seek a gender and ethnic balance in the formation of working teams.


[1] Peace Accord (English / Spanish), 24 November 2016: paras 62; 6.3.3. Misión política de verificación de las Naciones Unidas; and 6.3.4. Calidades del verificador.

[2] 3.4.3. Comisión Nacional de Garantías de Seguridad para el desmantelamiento de las organizaciones y conductas criminales responsables de homicidios y masacres, que atentan contra defensores/as de derechos humanos, movimientos sociales o movimientos políticos o que amenacen o atenten contra las personas que participen en la implementación de los acuerdos y la construcción de la paz, incluyendo las organizaciones criminales que hayan sido denominadas como sucesoras del paramilitarismo y sus redes de apoyo, en adelante la Comisión Nacional de Garantías de Seguridad. P80

Other Links

> OIDHACO supports new UN Mission in Colombia including a human rights component. ABColombia is a member of OIDHACO.