Consistent Vigilance Needed to Build Solid Foundation for Peace in Colombia, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12778
5 April 2017
7916th Meeting (PM)

Consistent Vigilance Needed to Build Solid Foundation for Peace in Colombia, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

Permanent Representative Applauds Resilience of Peace Process, Parties’ Commitment

While the first phase in implementing Colombia’s recently signed Peace Agreement between the Government and guerrilla fighters remained largely on track, the “relatively short window of opportunity” to build a solid foundation for peace required consistent vigilance, the senior United Nations official in that country said in a briefing to the Security Council today.

Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, declared:  “This is precisely the juncture at which the international community — and this Council in particular — should voice its interest, its encouragement and its support for the parties and all those involved in the building of peace in Colombia.”  The laying down of weapons, the reintegration of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combatants and the delivery of peace dividends to those most affected by more than five decades of conflict would be particularly critical, he added.

Expressing support for the Council’s decision to undertake a mission to Colombia in May, he also briefed members on developments since the issuance of the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2017/252) on 24 March.  They included the passing of legislation on the Integral System of Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, as well as creation of the Truth Commission and the Special Unit tasked with searching for “disappeared” persons.

Describing other important developments, he said that Felipe Gonzalez, a former Prime Minister of Spain, and Jose Mujica, former President of Uruguay had been appointed to the Peace Agreement’s international verification component.  Additionally, progress had been made in separating minors from the FARC and in eradicating the illegal drug economy, he said, adding that Oscar Naranjo, a retired police general, had assumed the vice-presidency.

He went on to outline strides made by the United Nations Mission in Colombia, noting that the process of identifying, marking and registering weapons handed over by the FARC was nearly complete.  The Mission had also met with the FARC to draw up a detailed plan for the collection and destruction of weapons located in arms caches that were difficult to reach.

During the ensuing debate, Council members applauded the commitment of both the Government and the FARC, with many speakers pointing to the Colombian peace process as a source of hope and inspiration.  Nevertheless, several delegates warned that the first phase of the process was both the most difficult and particularly critical, with speakers noting that the “real work” of implementing the Peace Agreement was just beginning.

Uruguay’s representative said the peace process continued to convey the message “where there is a will, there is a way”.  He joined other speakers in voicing support for the Council’s visit to Colombia, planned to take place in May, under Uruguay’s presidency.  Welcoming the positive recent developments on the ground, he underlined the need to address any delays or faults in the peace process immediately.

Italy’s representative also voiced support for the upcoming mission, emphasizing that it would demonstrate support and encourage the parties to implement agreements within agreed timelines.  Spotlighting the importance of legal, security and socioeconomic measures relating to the reintegration of former FARC combatants, he said such issues constituted a precondition for building confidence and improving living conditions.

Senegal’s representative was among a number of delegates who welcomed the FARC’s commitment to transform itself into a political party.  However, some non-State armed groups had taken over areas evacuated by the FARC and were now involved in illegal mining and drug trafficking, thereby creating a climate of insecurity marked by attacks on civil society and human rights defenders.

Pointing to a number of other obstacles, the Russian Federation’s representative voiced concern about challenges in the Government’s implementation of the Peace Agreement, which had led to a deteriorating economic situation for the former FARC members.  Warning that the situation could lead to a “new spiral of violence”, he emphasized that “we need to avoid endowing the Mission with excessive powers” and prevent it from becoming a watchdog for the Government.

That country’s representative declared:  “Colombia’s remarkable journey towards peace has continued,” describing its historic steps forward as a testament to the resilience of the peace process and the commitment of the parties.  She praised the work of the United Nations Mission.  With women participating in the Mission at a rate of 20 per cent, the Mission could serve as a model for similar peace operations elsewhere, she said, adding that the Council would see its results first hand during the visit next month.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Bolivia, Japan, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Egypt and the United States.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:27 p.m.

Briefing

JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, provided an update on implementation of the Peace Agreement and the Mission’s mandate since the Secretary-General’s last report (document S/2017/252).  Two significant events had taken place since that time, including the passing, on 22 March, of legislation on the Integral System of Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, a critical part of the Peace Agreement and the core of efforts to reconcile the rights of victims with the requirements of the transition from war to peace.  Today had witnessed the establishment of the Truth Commission and the Special Unit to search for disappeared persons, as well as the Selection Committee to designate the magistrates of the Special Peace Jurisdiction and fill other vacancies.

Two days ago, a law intended to contribute to the legal security and stability of the implementation process had also been passed, he said, describing a number of other steps taken.  They included the transmittal of the Final Peace Agreement to the Council; the appointment of former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain and former President Jose Mujica of Uruguay as members of the Peace Agreement’s international verification component; the separation of 57 minors from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); steps to eradicate the illegal drug economy; and assumption of the Vice-Presidency by retired police General Oscar Naranjo.

Turning to the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, he said the process of laying down weapons had moved forward in the past 15 days.  Since 24 March, the Mission had identified, marked and registered weapons brought by FARC combatants to the camps, and that process was nearly complete.  The next step for the Mission was to collect the weapons and to destroy unstable armaments stored in arms and ammunition caches spread over vast, difficult-to-reach areas.  The Mission had met with FARC today to work on a detailed plan to ensure access to the caches, he said, adding that the Colombian army had pledged its full cooperation in that endeavour.

Despite those positive developments, however, concerns had been raised about the slow pace of implementation in a number of sensitive areas mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, he said.  In March, the parties had made important and detailed commitments to accelerate implementation in those areas and in adopting the Peace Agreement’s legislative agenda.  “Like the parties, we believe that, while the consolidation of peace will be a long-term process, there is a relatively short window of opportunity to establish solid foundations for it,” he said.  That could be achieved through laying down weapons, reintegrating FARC combatants and delivering peace dividends to the most affected people and areas, he added.  Expressing his full support for the Council’s visit to Colombia, scheduled for May, he concluded:  “This is precisely the juncture at which the international community — and this Council in particular — should voice its interest, its encouragement and its support for the parties and all those involved in the building of peace in Colombia.”

Statements

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) welcomed the shared resolve of FARC and the Government to rebuild the town of Mocoa following the landslide, saying the same resolve would be needed “as we write a new chapter in the country’s history”.  The Government had committed to fostering peace, while 6,800 FARC members had gone to transition zones to lay down their arms.  Stressing that building peace required a sustained effort, he said there had been progress towards passage of the amnesty law, the special jurisprudence for peace, and in the in reports that 1,000 FARC weapons had been taken off the battlefield.  While encouraging both sides to work towards complete disarmament, he expressed concern about the actions of non-State armed groups, including the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), emphasizing that their attacks threatened public confidence in the peace agreement.  A robust, coordinated Government response was needed, he said, welcoming the creation of the Committee on Security Guarantees.

CARL SKAU (Sweden), commending the strong commitment of the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) to the peace process, welcomed the Peace Agreement’s strong emphasis on child protection and full engagement of women, saying it could serve as a model for other peace processes.  The active and full inclusion of women in the peace process, and of women’s groups in implementing the Peace Agreement, would help to ensure that a gender-sensitive approach was maintained.  With the Peace Agreement marking a new beginning for Colombia, it was important that the international community stand behind a committed and sustained effort to support the peace process, he added.  It was a unique opportunity that must not be missed.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) expressed solidarity with Colombia following the tragic events there, saying his country was available to respond to any request for assistance.  He expressed support for the peace process and welcomed the parties’ determination to adhere to the ceasefire since the signing of the Peace Agreement.  “This provides us with hope and courage,” he said, noting that France had provided €811 million in gifts and loans for rural development and demining, in particular.  France had also contributed €3 million to the trust fund, he added.  Describing FARC’s movement towards demobilization areas and their rendering of weapons to the United Nations Mission was the first step towards peace, he said, expressing hope that the 180-day timeline for rendering all arms would be respected.  There was need to create the conditions for integrating those who had been demobilized, he said, adding that he trusted the Government to address the trend of intimidation between community leaders and human rights activists, which was a concern.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said the Peace Agreement’s adoption had marked a historic moment for Colombia and the world, ending the more than five-decades-long conflict in that country.  “This is one of the most complicated phases of the peace process,” he said, emphasizing, however, that there was no doubt as to the commitment of the Government and FARC.  He highlighted a number of priority issues, including the need to ensure the protection of land-tenure rights; promoting equality; the transition of FARC members; implementation of the amnesty law; and the Government’s commitment to provide all necessary infrastructure, such as health and emergency care.  The United Nations Mission, for its part, must frame its efforts in accordance with the commitments of both sides, he said, adding that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was providing full support to both the Government and the Mission, while Bolivia had contributed troops to the latter.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) reaffirmed his country’s support for, and encouragement of, the peace process and its main actors, who continued to convey a hopeful message that “where there is a will, there is a way” to peace.  In May, under the Uruguayan Presidency, the Council would travel to Colombia to send a clear signal of solidarity, he said.  Noting that arriving at the Peace Agreement had been the easiest part of the process, he said the “real work” had begun on day one of its implementation.  Both the Secretary-General’s report and the Special Representative’s briefing spoke to the positive developments and progress made in implementing the Peace Agreement, he said, emphasizing that any delay or fault in that process must be addressed immediately.  He welcomed the adoption of the amnesty law and the establishment of the Integral System of Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, as well as the marked improvements in communication processes, the resolution of logistical problems and the provision of health care.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), welcoming the fact that the peace process was largely on track, also applauded the commitment of the parties, expressing hope that the success of the early stages would contribute to a firm national commitment to peace.  Urging the Council to remain united in support for the peace process, he said the Special Representative’s presence was vital in bridging gaps and overcoming mistrust between the parties.  It was also critical that the laying down of arms succeed in order to secure a sustained peace, he added.

ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said implementation of the peace agreement had generally been moving smoothly, with some 7,000 FARC members beginning to lay down their arms.  The Government and FARC were committed to the ceasefire and no violation had been observed.  Moreover, both sides had committed to the arms-delivery process in the coming months, all of which had much to do with the United Nations Mission.  Emphasizing that healing from trauma was no easy task, he noted that the FARC had agreed to transform into a political party.  China hoped the Government and the FARC would enhance their cooperation to ensure full implementation of the Peace Agreement, and that the international community, especially regional countries, would continue to provide assistance.  He also expressed hope that the Mission would, in respect of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, enhance communication with the parties and provide help to the peace process.  China expected to learn about the situation through the Council’s visit to Colombia, he said.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) expressed strong support for the Peace Agreement, applauding the parties’ commitment to ending the decades-long conflict.  Italy looked forward to the Council’s visit in May and encouraged the parties to implement agreements within the agreed timelines, especially the laying down and registration of weapons, as well as legal, security and socioeconomic measures relating to reintegration.  Indeed, reconciliation and reintegration were preconditions for building confidence and delivering peace dividends in terms of improved living conditions, he noted.  For its part, Italy was ready to help address the challenges ahead, and supported European Union actions, including through the trust fund to which it had contributed €3 million, he said.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said it was essential to continue the open dialogue that had led to the Peace Agreement, encouraging both parties to maintain positive cooperation and momentum.  All political forces and sectors of Colombian society should be actively engaged.  Concerning acts of violence against human rights defenders, he emphasized the crucial need to end impunity.  The Council should continue to back the parties, he said, adding that its visit to Colombia would demonstrate its full commitment to a lasting peace.  “We hope that the Colombian experience of engaging the United Nations as an international component of the tripartite mechanism will become an illustrative success story for the region and our Organization,” he added.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) welcomed the progress made in implementing the Peace Agreement, commending the efforts of both sides.  He also welcomed the fact that the cessation of hostilities remained in place, reaffirming the parties’ determination to hold to established timelines, and FARC’s commitment to transform into a political party.  Emphasizing that laying down weapons was an important step, he recalled that the oversight and verification commission had reported a large number of weapons handed over as of 11 March.  However, some non-State armed groups had taken over areas evacuated by the FARC and were now involved in illegal mining and drug trafficking, creating a climate of insecurity marked by attacks on civil society and human rights defenders, he noted.  It was important to fill the security vacuum quickly and to address the issue of FARC deserters, who numbered around 2 to 5 per cent of the group.  He also urged the dismantling of FARC camps and the reintegration of former combatants into society.  Senegal’s support for peace in Colombia arose from a belief that the conflict would end, given international support, he said, adding that the Council’s visit would be timely.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) expressed hope that the parties would faithfully, and in timely fashion, implement the Peace Agreement, noting that the FARC’s ability to realize its political commitments in Colombia’s upcoming elections would provide an added incentive to demobilize.  While there had been many positive developments, there was reason for concern about challenges in the Government’s implementation of the Peace Agreement, which had led to a deteriorating economic situation for former FARC members.  Warning that that situation could degrade the group’s commitment to demobilize and lead to a “new spiral of violence”, he emphasized that future steps by the United Nations Mission should only be taken once the relevant parameters were agreed by the Government and the FARC.  However, he warned against endowing the Mission with excessive powers and emphasized the need to prevent it from becoming a watchdog for the Government.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), commending the efforts of both parties to address the grievances of millions of victims, emphasized that the laying down of weapons must be carried out “religiously” by the Tripartite Mechanism comprising the United Nations, the Government of Colombia and the FARC.  Additionally, the parties must comply not only with the provisions of the Peace Agreement, but also with international law.  Calling for a truly “bottom up” vision of peace, he stressed the need for social and economic infrastructure capable of supporting the young democracy.  It would be critical in that regard to create jobs, establish infrastructure and State services in former FARC strongholds, and to eradicate criminal networks.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said she was encouraged by the significant developments in disarming former FARC members, as well as the bilateral ceasefire between the parties.  However, the disarmament process was a sensitive phase in the peace process, she said, adding that Colombia’s forthcoming elections would pose a particular challenge.  Both sides deserved praise for their commitment to advancing the Peace Agreement, she said, adding that it was crucial to maintain the momentum generated so far.  Spotlighting the important role of the United Nations Mission, she also echoed expressions of support for the Council’s decision to visit Colombia, noting that the mission would lend support to the parties in their pursuit of peace.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) commended the parties’ efforts to uphold the Peace Agreement and its timelines, despite logistical obstacles that had led to delays.  He also welcomed the cantonment of former combatants in the agreed zones, noting that efforts should now focus on reintegrating FARC members into society.  Egypt also welcomed the Government’s legislative efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes committed during the conflict, he said, expressing hope that the parties would overcome differences over the Peace Agreement’s implementation and agreed timelines.  More broadly, Egypt hoped the Council’s mission to Colombia would give impetus to the accord.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, noting that while the United Nations Mission in Colombia was not a peacekeeping operation, the same principles of effectiveness and accountability applied.  Missions must have the cooperation of host countries, realistic goals with identifiable exit strategies, and the ability to adjust those strategies, she said, commending the Mission for having met those criteria.  “You have a carefully designed mandate supporting a clear and established peace process”, as well as a deadline for FARC demobilization and disarmament, she noted.  The Government must establish authority over every corner of the State, while the FARC must now work with it to make that happen.  Describing the political vacuum as a danger to peace that must be filled before other armed groups stepped in, she said the United States enjoyed strong cooperation with Colombia and stood with that country in its efforts to build a lasting peace for its citizens.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA (Colombia), citing the Secretary-General’s report, said her country’s remarkable journey towards peace continued, with images of FARC members making their final march towards zones in which the group would transform into a political organization.  Those historic steps forward were a testament to the resilience of the peace process and the commitment of the parties.  In the past seven months, unprecedented indicators of de-escalating violence had been noted, she said, pointing out that 1,546 days had passed without attacks against communities, 580 days without abductions and 307 without incidents for which the FARC bore responsibility.  Homicides down 12 per cent in the first quarter for the corresponding period in 2016, and there was now a register of FARC-EP members and more than 7,000 registered weapons, she said.  Furthermore, significant progress had been made in creating the legislative agenda for transitional justice, she said, adding that, just this morning, decrees had been signed to establish a truth commission.

Spotlighting aspects of the Mission that could serve as a model for others, she pointed to the 20 per cent participation of women, including the female Deputy Special Representative, and the reinforcement of the major gender dimension present throughout the peace process.  Additionally, the CELAC had demonstrated the important role that regional mechanisms could play in helping to end conflict.  In order to ensure the legitimacy of the Tripartite Mechanism — comprising the Government, FARC and the United Nations — effective coordination was needed among its members, in compliance with the protocols for the ceasefire, for laying down arms, and for reintegration and transit preparations.  Colombia would provide the logistical and legal measures needed for such efforts.

She went on to emphasize that it was premature to say that all the homicides mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report were associated with the work of human rights defenders, or the sole responsibility of criminal organizations that had succeeded paramilitary groups.  While that was the case in some places, it was impossible to make generalizations about criminal activities, she stressed.  Nonetheless, the Government was taking the necessary public security actions, she said, noting that the Council would see the United Nations Mission’s results during its visit next month.

For information media. Not an official record.