Permanent Representative Calls Situation ‘Ray of Sunlight’ on Council’s Agenda
Despite numerous challenges, the parties to Colombia’s six-month-old peace agreement were committed to “stay the course” in order to preserve the impressive gains already made, the co-leads of the Security Council’s recent mission to that country said this afternoon as they recapped their visit.
Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom) and Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) described the significant progress made towards implementation of the 24 November 2016 Peace Agreement, which ended more than 50 years of civil conflict between the Government of Colombia and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP). Outlining the mission’s activities during its visit (3-5 May), they spotlighted meetings with Government officials, civil society leaders and community members, as well as staff of the new United Nations Special Political Mission in Colombia and former members of the FARC-EP who had already laid down their arms at “transition zones” throughout the country.
Mr. Rosselli (Uruguay), Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the mission’s purpose had been to underscore the Council’s support for the Peace Agreement, and to learn first-hand about progress made and challenges to its implementation. On 4 May, members had held key meetings in Bogotá, the capital, including one with Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, and they had also met with the United Nations country team and the Resident Coordinator, as well as high-level Government officials, President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón among them.
He said a number of those actors had emphasized the importance of safeguarding the significant gains already made, especially in respect of Colombia’s comprehensive economic recovery strategy and its strong gender perspective. Meanwhile, former FARC-EP combatants had underlined the importance of effective implementation of the political and legal guarantees enshrined in the Peace Agreement. He noted also that a number of civil society members had expressed concern over lingering insecurity and the killings of local leaders, adding that some had also called for a successor United Nations operation after the end of the current mission’s mandate. Those actors had demonstrated both good will and high hopes for the outcome of the peace process, he said, emphasizing that they had exhibited their commitment to pushing forward with peace — even in the face of current and future challenges.
Mr. Rycroft (United Kingdom) then described the mission’s second day, saying it had travelled to the southern municipality of Vista Hermosa to visit a transition zone run by the Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism comprising representatives of the Government, the FARC-EP and the United Nations. The mission had attended a town hall-style meeting with members of the local community, toured the transition zone and gained important insights into the Tripartite Mechanism’s “unique character”.
Outlining a number of conclusions that had emerged from that “fascinating” day, he said he had been particularly struck by how much had already happened since the signing of the Peace Agreement. For example, some 7,000 members of FARC-EP had already arrived to lay down their weapons in the transition zones, he added. While the mission had learned much about the impact of Colombia’s long conflict on its communities, it had also been impressed with the commitment of the parties to ensuring full implementation of each element of the Peace Agreement. There was an overall view that peace was irreversible, he added, describing the situation in Colombia as a “ray of sunlight” on the Council’s agenda.
Following those briefings, Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz (Bolivia) described the mission as a “historic event”, adding that its meetings on the ground had helped the Council better understand both the progress made towards implementation of the Peace Agreement and the challenges faced — including the difficult weather, the remoteness of the transition zone sites, and the fears of former combatants about the future. “The path ahead is not an easy one,” he said, emphasizing that strong political leadership would be crucial going forward.
Maria Emma Mejia Vélez (Colombia), agreeing that “we are at a decisive phase of building peace”, said the Peace Agreement was informed by the people, civil society members, former FARC-EP combatants and many other stakeholders. Expressing confidence that its implementation would bear fruit in spite of challenges, she drew particular attention to the Government’s efforts to provide reparations to victims and ensure the restitution of their lands.
Welcoming the Council’s first-hand view of former combatants laying down their weapons, she announced that yesterday President Santos had visited Colombia’s Antioquia Department — which once contained the highest number of landmines in the country — to declare it mine-free. While acknowledging the many persisting challenges, including continuing attacks on human rights defenders, she nevertheless reiterated the Government’s commitment to addressing them and thanked the Council for its “extraordinary” support.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:33 p.m.