Despite a host of challenges, the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) remained determined to ensure the successful implementation of the new peace agreement, the Head of the United Nations Mission in Colombia told the Security Council today.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission, Jean Arnault also emphasized the “overwhelming popular aspiration” in Colombia to end one of the world’s oldest armed conflicts, and underscored the significant role to be played by the Latin American region and the broader international community.
“Almost exactly one year ago today, on 19 January, the parties’ invitation to the Council to oversee United Nations monitoring of the ceasefire and weapons laydown process was widely viewed in Colombia, across political lines, as a guarantee of success,” said Mr. Arnault, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Colombia.
“As the process of implementation of the Peace Agreement gets under way, the attention and unanimous support of this Council, and its encouraging voice, will continue to be a very important source of confidence and strength,” he said.
Briefing the Council on recent developments, he noted the passage by Colombia’s Congress on 28 December — and its ratification by President Juan Manuel Santos two days later — of an amnesty law paving the way for the release of around 4,000 prisoners while facilitating the movement of FARC members to 26 designated zones to lay down arms.
Congress would take up two more key pieces of legislation next week, he said. One would enable the establishment of an “integral system for truth, justice and reparation” that would include a special jurisdiction for peace, a truth commission and a missing persons search unit. The other would add to the Constitution provisions in the Peace Agreement directly connected to fundamental rights and international humanitarian law.
The most difficult challenge so far, he said, involved the logistics of implementing the ceasefire and weapons laydown agreement. That was due in part to political uncertainty in the wake of a 2 October national referendum on the Peace Agreement and to the large number and remote location of disarmament zones. A 1 January target for concentrating FARC combatants and militias in those zones had been missed, Mr. Arnault said, adding it would be difficult to meet a 30 January deadline for destroying country-wide caches of unstable ammunition.
With the determination of all sides, however, it would be possible to meet the original goal of a comprehensive laydown of weapons by early June, he said, explaining that there was room to review timelines once logistical imperatives had been met.
Speaking after the briefing, María Emma Mejía Vélez (Colombia) drew the Council’s attention to the recent developments, including the security deployment, construction of new zones, establishment of the Mission, resumption of the Mission’s tasks, deployment of international observers and the investigation of incidents. Despite such progress, it was difficult to materialize ideas suggested in Havana, particularly the operationalization of the tripartite mechanism. It was critical to seize the momentum to finalize the structure of the Mission and to initiate relevant activities such as the laydown of weapons.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said the ratification and entry into force of the new peace agreement was proof of both parties’ commitment to ensure a swift transition. However, moving forward required the laydown of weapons, combat against illicit drug trafficking and the expansion of political participation.
Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) acknowledged that the peace process was not easy amid challenges on different fronts. However, the Colombian Government’s commitment to establishing a lasting peace gave the international community a firm hope. Drawing attention to the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, he stressed that there had been a significant decrease in violence since the beginning of the peace process. Also important was the reintegration of minors into the society, he said, calling upon Colombia to ensure that their best interest were protected.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) noted there had been seven attempts over 34 years to reach a peace agreement in Colombia. A long path had been travelled to reach an historic agreement. Colombia had become an example to the world, he said, and it had also given the Council an opportunity to fulfil its responsibility for maintaining peace and security. “The agreement to end the conflict fills us with hope,” he said, emphasizing how regional cooperation had been essential towards reaching an agreement.
Inigo Lambertini (Italy) said the peace process in Colombia could set an example for other countries facing similar challenges. He also noted the importance of addressing the issue of recruiting and using children in armed conflict.
At the outset of the meeting, Olof Skoog (Sweden), Council President for January, said it was important for the international community to continue to support implementation of the peace agreement so that it could deliver tangible benefits to the people of Colombia.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and adjourned at 3:44 p.m.