As Colombians bid farewell to ‘decades of flames,’ Ban pledges UN support to historic peace deal

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses attendees at the signing of the Colombia Peace Agreements, in Cartagena. Photo: OSSG

26 September 2016 – Colombians are “bidding farewell to decades of flames and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in Cartagena, welcoming the signing by the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC-EP) of a peace deal ending more than 50 years of conflict.

Deeply moved to see thousands of Colombians at the signing ceremony, Mr. Ban said he was honored to celebrate the achievement of the parties “and that of countless Colombians who never lost hope in peace.”

Since 2012, parties have been in talks hosted in Havana, Cuba. Throughout, negotiators have reached agreements on key issues such as political participation, land rights, illicit drugs and victims' rights and transitional justice. Among other developments, the Government and the FARC-EP announced in May an agreement to release and reintegrate child soldiers from the opposition force. The parties also announced the establishment of a gender sub-commission to bolster the voice of women in the peace process.

In his remarks today, the Secretary-General recalled that when he first visited Colombia five years ago, the adoption of the Victims’ Law had begun to build the foundations for peace.

“You had the vision to bring the victims to the forefront. What they have lost can never be restored. Yet victims have been among the most forceful voices for peace and reconciliation, and against bitterness and hatred. Their example should be an inspiration to all,” he said.

Commending the parties for the first steps they have taken to acknowledge responsibility for tragic events of the conflict, the UN chief encourages them to continue on this path and, welcoming the commitments made to ensure truth, justice and reparations for all victims, he said: “This is how healing begins.”

With a ceasefire now in effect and violence in the country reduced significantly, the Secretary-General said that lives have already been saved. Moreover, the initial release of minors is a welcome beginning, he noted, commending the negotiating teams that worked tirelessly in Havana who had shown the courage that will be needed in the crucial period ahead.

The agreements promise not only to stop the armed conflict, but to create the conditions for lasting peace based on equitable development, human rights and inclusion. They envision a peace that values and ensures the participation of women, and a future in which there is room in politics for all, “but no room in politics for violence,” underscored Mr. Ban.

And while the divisions and distrust from decades of conflict run deep, “I hope that the Colombian people can overcome the pain, join together and make this a truly national project.” He also stressed that the peace process has been led by Colombians “every step of the way.” With the peace accord reached, the parties have now entrusted important responsibilities to the UN, which the Security Council has unanimously endorsed. In that regard, he said the UN Mission in Colombia, tasked with the verification of the ceasefire and the laying down of arms, is already deployed throughout the country.

Now, thanks to painstaking, visionary dialogue, you can look ahead with optimism.
“Its verification mandate is activated with the signing of this agreement. I thank the countries from within and beyond the region that are providing observers,” explained the UN chief.

Further, the United Nations system in Colombia will also be there to help implement the agreements, building on many years of engagement on peacebuilding and its work with victims and communities. “We will continue to offer our support to address the human rights and humanitarian challenges that persist. I am encouraged to know that there is already excellent collaboration among the Mission, the larger UN system in the country and our Colombian partners,” the Secretary-General added.

He went on to recognize the invaluable contribution of Cuba and Norway, as guarantors of the process. He also commended Chile and Venezuela as accompanying countries. In addition, peacemakers working in other parts of the world are already studying Colombia's peace process for lessons that can inform their efforts, he noted.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hails Colombia peace as “powerful message” of hope to the world (21 September). Credit: UN News Centre

“The challenge now is to convert the vision that was so carefully crafted in Havana into transformative change here in Colombia, especially in some of the most remote and historically neglected regions of the country. Demonstrating early dividends will be crucial for building confidence,” he stressed.

Encouraging the parties to remain as strongly committed to implementing the agreements as they were to reaching them, the Secretary-General also encouraged them to welcome in this endeavour the contributions of all who are part of the diverse and vibrant nation: civil society, the private sector, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, women and youth.

“But now, thanks to painstaking, visionary dialogue, you can look ahead with optimism.You are inviting Colombians to join you in pasando la página a un futuro en paz – turning the page to a future in peace,” said Mr. Ban, adding: Today, Colombians are bidding farewell to decades of flames, and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the entire world. Viva la Paz! Viva Colombia!

Also present at the signing ceremony, Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, congratulated all involved in the process and welcomed the historic opportunity, which brings an end to more than 50 years of armed conflict and opens a new chapter of peace in Colombia and Latin America.

“The 2030 Agenda clearly states that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development,” and as such, he looked forward to the full implementation of the agreements and to continue “our strong engagement and support so the remarkable progress achieved may be reconfirmed in the coming months and years. Colombia and this process are an example and a beacon of hope to the international community.”


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