Concerns Aired over Broken Ceasefire, Challenges to Reintegrating Ex-Combatants, as Security Council Tracks Implementation of Colombia’s Historic Peace Accord

SC/13158
10 January 2018
8154th Meeting (AM)

Concerns Aired over Broken Ceasefire, Challenges to Reintegrating Ex-Combatants, as Security Council Tracks Implementation of Colombia’s Historic Peace Accord

Although the reintegration of former guerrilla combatants in Colombia was on track, the level of accumulated frustration with that process would not be easily overcome, the Security Council heard today, as representatives also expressed concern about the possible ramifications stemming from the broken ceasefire between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The Security Council was meeting to review progress since the signing of the historic peace agreement in November 2016 between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP), which brought an end to more than 50 years of conflict in the Latin American country.  The meeting was also taking place amid reports that ELN had broken the temporary national ceasefire it had signed with the Government on 4 September 2017.

Highlighting that 2017 marked the least violent year in Colombia since 1975, Óscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, the country’s Vice‑President, said the peace agreement had saved the lives of more than 3,000 people in the last year.

On reintegration, Colombia had more than 14 years’ experience in that field, which made the country a global model, he said.  Today, 12,848 former combatants were integrated in the process, of whom 11,362 were already receiving a basic monthly stipend.  At the same time, the Government was undergoing a sweeping political transformation in which FARC‑EP was reborn as a new political party, the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC), that would participate in the elections scheduled for March, as well as the forthcoming presidential elections.

He said that 2017 had also been a busy legislative year, with six legislative acts that had introduced many reforms.  Further, the Victoria plan of the armed forces and the security and peace plans of the national police had been made more comprehensive to overcome violence in any part of the country.

Turning to the broken ceasefire with ELN, he questioned why the group had rejected the Government’s goodwill and failed to pay heed to the Catholic Church and non‑governmental organizations who had called for continuing talks.  His Government stood ready to ensure that the ceasefire would continue, and regretted that ELN had not heeded calls to do the same.

Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, introducing the Secretary‑General’s first 90‑day progress report on the work of the Mission (document S/2017/1117) since its mandate began on 29 September, expressed concern about the socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former FARC‑EP combatants.  “While the building blocks of stabilization are being put in place, we cannot lose sight of the challenges of reintegration,” he said, stressing that the next few months represented an opportunity to turn the corner and transform what was still a fragile process into a more durable solution.

The disposal of FARC‑EP arms caches had resumed under the responsibility of the military and with the cooperation of ex‑combatants, although the outcome of that effort was still modest, he said, stressing that it should continue in order to keep weapons out of the reach of illegal groups.

Security forces would be deployed in about 600 of the most vulnerable rural districts in the areas most affected by the conflict, including where community leaders, human rights defenders, promoters of coca substitution and land restitution advocates had been murdered.  “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of that decision,” he said, adding that State control of the territory was inseparable from the permanent physical presence of State institutions in those areas.

He expressed regret over the announcement that the ceasefire had been broken following the resumption of attacks against pipelines by ELN.  He hoped that upcoming talks in Quito would deliver an outcome consistent with calls by social organizations, and members of academia, the private sector and local authorities from different regions for maintaining the ceasefire.

The United Kingdom’s representative also lamented that with its recent actions ELN had broken the ceasefire and the chance for sustained peace.  He urged both sides to work together to find a way to avoid more civilian suffering.

Notwithstanding the recent developments concerning ELN, neighbouring countries hailed the laying down of arms by ex‑combatants as a milestone in the peace process, including Peru’s representative, who said the reintegration of FARC combatants was vitally important and supported the comprehensive strategy to protect them based an approach that sought to reduce risk.  He pointed to the actions by the Attorney General’s office and the importance of ensuring that Government measures to protect all citizens were upheld.

Bolivia’s representative called for reintegrating former combatants into everyday life, increasing security in zones formerly under FARC control, and for concrete reform measures.  He noted that more than 100 new laws had been put in place dealing with challenges ranging from reintegration, security guarantees, reparations and other issues.

The representative of the United States called the lack of security and governance in areas formerly held by FARC a grave threat and applauded the Government’s efforts to occupy former conflict areas to keep paramilitary groups from replacing FARC.  Political reconciliation and reintegration must balance the need for justice with unity to ensure a lasting peace, and there must be accountability for those who had committed crimes, she stressed.

That sentiment was echoed by the speaker for Sweden, who said that the increasing number of incidents of intimidation, reprisals and killings of human rights defenders, community leaders, FARC members and their families was worrisome, and underscored the need for the State to fill the power vacuum and safeguard the rule of law.

Poland’s representative stressed the importance of women’s participation in the peace process, as did the representative of the Netherlands, who said women should participate fully in the drafting and implementation of a solid national re‑integration plan necessary to make the political, economic and social reincorporation of former combatants into society a reality.

Also speaking today were representatives of the France, Côte d’Ivoire, the Russian Federation, Kuwait, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Kazakhstan.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:54 a.m.

Briefing

JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the Mission (document S/2017/1117), noted that on 8 January, the Interior Minister convened the first meeting of the inter‑agency body responsible for ensuring that early warnings by the Ombudsman Office of impending violence against individuals or communities were acted upon quickly, while on 5 January, the National Protection Unit decided to establish additional protection teams in Training and Reintegration Areas so that more ex-combatants could travel safely outside those areas.  Further, the disposal of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP) arms caches had resumed under the responsibility of the military and with the cooperation of People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) combatants.  The outcome of that effort was still modest, he said, stressing that it should continue in order to keep weapons out of the reach of illegal groups.

An upsurge in violence in recent months had brought about several of the more important developments noted in the Secretary‑General’s report, he said.  He stressed the importance of the decision to proceed with the long-term deployment of security forces in about 600 of the more vulnerable rural districts in the areas most affected by the conflict, including the districts where community leaders, human rights defenders and promoters of coca substitution and land restitution advocates had been assassinated.  “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of that decision,” he said, adding that control of the territory by the State was inseparable from the permanent physical presence of State institutions in those areas.  The deployment of security forces was not a panacea, although it was hoped it would pave the way for more proactive social and economic support by civilian State institutions.

The demands from the communities that had borne the burden of war were simple, few, and well known:  tertiary roads to break their isolation, health and education services, and the titling of their land, without which integration in the legal economy was gravely hampered, he said.  The recovery of the conflict zones, the reduction of violence against communities and their leaders, and the long-term success of counter-narcotics efforts started with the stabilization programme undertaken last month.  “While the building blocks of stabilization are being put in place, we cannot lose sight of the challenges of reintegration,” he emphasized.  The political reintegration of the former guerrilla organization was on course, although he viewed the socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former combatants with concern.  It must not be forgotten that there was a large group of former fighters whose level of accumulated frustration with the reintegration process would not be easily overcome.  The next few months represented an opportunity to turn the corner and establish what was still a fragile process into a more durable solution.

Turning to the temporary ceasefire between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), he said he would have preferred to be in a position to make recommendations regarding the Mission’s involvement in the supervision of the ceasefire beyond 9 January, but was not yet in that position.  The clamour for the continued suspension of military action had been unanimous, notwithstanding the many imperfections of the ceasefire.  Social organizations, members of academia, the private sector and local authorities from different regions had called upon both parties to maintain the ceasefire, and in that context, he hoped that the talks in Quito would deliver an outcome consistent with those aspirations.  He proposed allowing some time for the Secretary-General to make recommendations to the Council on the basis of those discussions, although he noted that it had just been announced that attacks against pipelines by ELN had resumed.

The Government and the leadership of FARC remained committed to moving forward with the peace process, irrespective of the many difficulties that had been in evidence in the past few months, he said.  “Much is still needed to keep the process on track and make it stronger,” he underscored, adding that with the political will, appropriate resources and a sustained effort, much could be accomplished.  While the outcome of the peace negotiations had generated controversy and divisions, building peace was a project whose constituency went beyond the signatories.  It was an effort of many; from local authorities to universities, to the private sector and civil society, all of whom were eager to partake in the opportunities offered by the peace process.

Statements

MATTHEW JOHN RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that the courage and diligence of both parties had allowed many positive steps to take place since the peace agreement was signed.  The new political party could participate in Colombia’s elections and FARC had handed over its final caches of weapons to the United Nations, but the hardest part was yet to come.  Challenges included the killing of human rights defenders and former FARC members.  He welcomed the Government’s steps to tackle those concerns, including the establishment of a more visible and permanent presence by the security and police forces.  He encouraged the Government of Colombia to maintain its focus on passing the remaining peace legislation through its Congress.  He had hoped that there would be a renewed ceasefire between the Government and ELN.  ELN had broken both the ceasefire and the chance for sustained peace.  He urged both sides to work together to find a way to avoid further civilian suffering.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that his country was committed to the peace process in Colombia, which was a model for the international community.  The peace process was complex and there had been many challenges at the implementation stage.  However, he was optimistic, and through the building of peace, sustainable development would follow.  On the protection of former combatants of FARC, Peru supported the comprehensive strategy based on an approach that sought to reduce risk.  The laying down of arms was a milestone in the peace process, and he hailed the efforts of the authorities.  He pointed to the actions by the office of the Attorney General and the importance of ensuring that measures taken by the Government to protect all citizens were upheld.  On the reintegration of FARC combatants, he said that the retraining of fighters was vital.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said while a year had passed since the final agreement between the Government and FARC was ratified and the conflict had come to an end, ensuring peace required a continuous effort.  He commended the strong commitment to peace of both parties.  However, the increasing number of incidents of intimidation, reprisals and killings of human rights defenders, community leaders, FARC members and their families continued to be worrisome, he said, and underscored the need for the State to fill the power vacuum and safeguard the rule of law.  He welcomed the updated stabilization plan as one measure to address that, and looked forward to its speedy implementation.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that the achievements of the Government of Colombia and FARC in the peace process were remarkable and gave hope to many other war-torn regions in the world.  The Secretary-General’s report on the Verification Mission contained a clear and realistic overview of the results of the Mission and the progress of the implementation of the peace agreement in general.  Full implementation of the agreement was key, and a solid national re-integration plan was necessary to make the political, economic and social reincorporation of former combatants into society a reality.  In addition, given their important role in the peace process, women should be able to participate fully in the drafting and implementation of the re-integration plan.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said that despite numerous obstacles, the Government had managed to launch a historic peace process with FARC that had entered a critical stage over the past few months, particularly concerning the reintegration of former fighters.  France applauded the efforts of the Government of Colombia to put in place necessary legislation for implementing the peace agreement.  Regardless of the outcome of the elections, France called upon all political parties to continue with those efforts.  Although former fighters were relatively protected within areas of training and reintegration, she deplored the uptick of violence in the areas formerly held by armed groups, especially the violence targeting human rights defenders.  She drew attention to the important issues surrounding access to land, which was the key to the successful social and economic reintegration of former fighters.  She went on to express hope that the ceasefire that had been reached between the Government and ELN would be renewed.

AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said that as Colombia entered the second year of the peace accord that had brought Latin America’s longest war to an end, Colombia was now a country that had firmly stepped back from the brink of a failed State.  Significant progress had been made in the disarmament efforts of FARC, which had transitioned into a political party, exemplified by the relinquishment of weapons and a dramatically declining crime rate.  Political reconciliation and reintegration must balance the need for justice with unity to ensure a lasting peace, she emphasized, stressing that there must be accountability for those who had committed crimes.  The lack of security and governance in areas formerly held by FARC was a grave threat, and in that context, she applauded the Government’s efforts to occupy former conflict areas to keep paramilitary groups from replacing FARC.  The reintegration of former fighters was also crucial, and in that connection, it was urgent for Colombia to execute a reintegration plan that provided security for the people as well as opportunities for former combatants.  The United States was fully committed to supporting Colombia with regard to the peace agreement, although she expressed disappointment about the resumption of attacks by ELN.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that his country joined its voice with those of previous speakers, and welcomed the progress that had been achieved with the peace process in Colombia, which had been seen with the signing of the peace agreement, as well as the disarmament of FARC and its conversion into a political party.  He also commended the determination of the various parties to achieve peace and national reconciliation.  Those gains notwithstanding, his country remained troubled by delays in certain provisions, including the reintegration of FARC and the implementation of the necessary measures to improve living conditions for people.  Peace and security were prerequisites for harmonious and sustainable development.  All Colombian stakeholders should seek to further engage in the political process that was underway.  He welcomed the efforts undertaken by the Government of Colombia and encouraged it to persevere, to guarantee success for the process through tangible, concrete measures.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that more than one year after the signing of the peace agreement, she was happy to see that the peace process had brought about positive results.  The Verification Mission’s role was critical in the next phase of the peace process, and she stressed the importance of women’s participation in the process.  The success of the peace process remained essential for Latin America, and served as an example for the positive involvement of the Security Council and a much‑needed success story for a United Nations‑brokered peace deal.  She underlined the role of the United Nations Mine Action Service through its programme in Colombia.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) applauded the determination demonstrated by both the Government and FARC, which was something that should be replicated in other conflicts.  2017 was the year of peace in Colombia and there were many positive steps being taken in the peace progress.  The peace agreement represented a remarkable success story, and thanks to that accord, more than 50 years of conflict had been brought to an end.  There could be no turning back in the peace process now.  The most complicated phase of the peace agreement was now under way, which was encountering some strong headwinds.  More than 100 new laws had been put in place dealing with challenges ranging from reintegration, security guarantees, reparations and other issues.  The Government and FARC were both delivering real results.  Every effort must be made to guarantee former combatants were reintegrated into everyday life, security in zones formerly under FARC control must be increased, and there was a need for concrete reform measures, including those addressing access to land, which was critical for guaranteeing lasting peace.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the situation in Colombia had demonstrated positive momentum, including the laying down of weapons and the conversion of FARC into a political party as well as the temporary ceasefire of ELN.  The national ownership demonstrated by Colombians was the primary reason for those accomplishments.  He hoped that all stakeholders would make decisions that would enable the Security Council to renew the Mission’s mandate.  He called attention to portions of the report that contained information that had been provided by non‑governmental organizations, calling some of that information “misleading”.  He supported efforts of the Mission focused on ensuring that Bogota followed through on its commitments.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that he welcomed the signature of the final agreement and the steps that had been taken to resolve the conflict.  He underscored the need for both parties to not let up in their commitment to the process.  He welcomed the temporary and bilateral ceasefire that had been reached by the Government and ELN, although it expired yesterday, and hoped that it could be built upon.  He also welcomed the participation of many social and civil society organizations in that temporary bilateral process.  He thanked the observers and the guarantor countries, and all those who supported the process, in particular Chile and Venezuela.

SHEN BO (China) said that the Colombia peace process set a good example for the Council’s involvement in addressing hotspot issues, and his county commended the efforts by the Colombian Government.  The implementation of the peace agreement was facing challenges, and after half a century of conflict in the country, healing the wounds left by war was no easy task.  There was a high degree of consensus in different sectors of Colombia and the international community that the peace process was irreversible.  He hoped that the Security Council and the international community would continue to support the peace process in Colombia, and provide constructive assistance along the way.  China hoped the Government of Colombia and ELN would overcome current difficulties without delay and extend the ceasefire.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) welcomed the positive progress over the past year, including the laying down of arms which had been successfully completed, representing a significant milestone.  However, he was conscious of the remaining sensitive issues that needed to be handled carefully, including the reintegration of FARC combatants, the need for collective security and protection measures, the inadequate presence of State institutions as well as other issues highlighted in the report.  He noted the approval of the special jurisdiction of peace, which was the backbone of the peace agreement.  While commending the continued political will being demonstrated, he said more needed to be done to accelerate the implementation of the Agreement and maintain the gains that had already been achieved.  On the ceasefire agreement between the Government and ELN, he hoped the situation would improve despite the latest setback.  He reaffirmed support for the full implementation of the Agreement and stressed that the success of the peace process was critical not only for the people of Colombia, but for other nations that were struggling in their efforts aimed at “keeping the guns silent”.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country hailed the success achieved thus far as a result of the peace process, which was due to the determination demonstrated by the Colombian Government and FARC.  His country was particularly interested in the events occurring in Colombia due to the historic ties that united the two countries.  The necessary conditions were in place and there was much anticipation created by the direct talks between the Government and ELN.  Significant headway had been made, but major challenges lay ahead, including the reintegration of ex‑combatants and the legislative requirements that needed to be put in place to allow those former combatants to become full members of Colombian society.  The definitive success of the peace process would depend on all stakeholders upholding their commitments, and in that context, he called on all parties to show good political faith.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that it had been more than a year since the Government of Colombia and FARC had signed an historic peace deal, but there was still a long way ahead.  He said that, as Under‑Secretary‑General Jeffrey Feltman had noted during his visit to Colombia, there was some concern over how the process was evolving.  He appreciated the frank assessment by the Government of Colombia of the difficulties.  Some shortcomings in reintegration existed.  Both the Government and FARC had to ensure proper reintegration to prevent former FARC combatants from being recruited by dissident groups.  He reiterated his country’s commitment to the peace process and looked forward to the full implementation of the peace agreement.  He regretted that ELN had resumed its attacks and missed the opportunity to amplify the truce.  He hoped that ELN and the Government of Colombia would find a way to extend the ceasefire.

ÓSCAR ADOLFO NARANJO TRUJILLO, Vice‑President of Colombia, said that his Government, after more than a year of pressing ahead with the peace agreement, had the conviction that that the milestone was the best news story of the last 50 years for its people and the world.  He said he had witnessed the tragedies of war first‑hand as an officer in the armed forces.  The peace agreement had delivered and saved the lives of more than 3,000 people in the last year, which was welcome news.  The peacebuilding process was making headway in structural terms, to put an end to war and to silence the guns.  The Government had rolled out an effective process for the laying down of arms, allowing the transformation of FARC into a political party.

There had been a busy legislative year, with six legislative acts that had introduced many reforms, he said.  On reintegration, Colombia had more than 14 years’ experience in that field.  That experience allowed him to say that Colombia was a global model in reintegration.  Today, there were 12,848 former combatants that were integrated in the process, of whom 11,362 were already receiving a basic monthly stipend.  At the same time, the Government had proceeded with a cross‑cutting transformation at the political level, when FARC was reborn as a new political party that would participate in the elections, scheduled for March, as well as the forthcoming presidential elections.

2017 marked the least violent year in Colombia in the last 42 years, he said.  Sadly, there could be no denying that several people linked to the former FARC organization had been murdered, as had social leaders and human rights defenders.  To protect the former FARC combatants, the Government of Colombia had set up protection schemes, and it shared the concerns of the Security Council about those murders.  He acknowledged that it was happening and his Government was responding swiftly.

The Victoria plan of the armed forces and the security and peace plans of the national police had been overhauled to become more comprehensive, in order to overcome violence in any part of the country, he said.  Inexplicably, ELN had rejected the goodwill of the Government and failed to pay heed to the Catholic Church and non‑governmental organizations who had called upon ELN to continue talks and the ceasefire.  His Government stood ready to ensure that the ceasefire would continue, and regretted that ELN had not heeded calls to do the same.

For information media. Not an official record.