Members of the Security Council joined the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia today in welcoming progress in the implementation of the South American nation’s landmark peace agreement, while expressing worries over a rash of violence that risks imperilling hard‑won gains.
Briefing the Council, Jean Arnault, who is also the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Colombia, put a spotlight on positive developments, from the election of a new President, Iván Duque of the Centro Democrático political party, the inauguration of a new Congress that includes members of the now‑disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP), and the first hearings of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a key accountability mechanism under the final agreement to end the armed conflict and build a stable and lasting peace signed in November 2016 between the Government and FARC‑EP.
Voicing concern over post‑election attacks on civil society activists, human rights defenders and former FARC‑EP members, he praised a “pact of repudiation” signed by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the President‑elect and others that reflected national outrage at the killings. Such broad consensus is significant, he said, hopeful that a sense of unity and urgency will give momentum to the implementation of security measures set out in the peace agreement while galvanizing judicial efforts to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.
Going forward, the Special Representative looked ahead to a similar consensus being forged around the core challenge for consolidating peace — namely, addressing poverty, violence and illegal economies in the zones of conflict. In that regard, he called for dialogue and cooperation between the new Government, local authorities, social organizations and civil society.
Colombia’s Vice‑President, Óscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, participating in today’s meeting, said that 12 days from the culmination of the Santos Calderón Presidency, the Government and 50 million Colombians wanted to thank the Council for its unwavering support for peace after 53 years of violence that cost 250,000 lives.
Caring for peace requires carrying out what was agreed on in the peace accord, he said, noting that in a span of just nine months, weapons have been laid down and FARC‑EP has become a political party with seats in Congress. It also requires multiplying efforts to ensure that violence decreases, he added, noting that while Colombia has seen its lowest murder rate in the last 42 years, threats and attacks against social leaders and rights defenders have increased.
Taking the floor, Council members unanimously encouraged further progress, with many holding up Colombia as a model for resolving other conflicts. At the same time, they echoed concerns about deadly attacks, including those on civil society activists and human rights defenders, and called for greater efforts to reintegrate former FARC‑EP combatants and their families into mainstream life.
The representative of Peru said the security situation in Colombia calls for redoubled efforts to combat organized crime, which thrived on the scant State presence in areas formerly controlled by FARC‑EP. Sustainable development is required, including for the success of the reintegration process, in which the region’s social and economic dynamics must be considered. The rule of law is essential in promoting trust, he added.
Bolivia’s delegate, emphasizing that it can take years to consolidate a ceasefire, urged that investigations into killings continue so that those responsible are brought to justice and punished. He also drew attention to the feelings of uncertainty and fear among former FARC‑EP combatants vis‑à‑vis the transitional justice system following the arrest of one of its former leaders.
The representative of the United States, describing the Mission’s work as vital to the ongoing peace process, said successful implementation hinges on curtailing narcotics trafficking. In that regard, he highlighted his country’s supporting role in curbing the production of coca, as well as Colombia’s leadership at the regional level in welcoming people fleeing Venezuela.
The representative of the United Kingdom, the Council’s penholder on Colombia, said dialogue and cooperation will remain essential for consolidating the peace process. At the same time, he expressed concern over the security situation in post‑conflict areas due to the proliferation of armed groups and expressed hope that parties will work to improve security.
Also speaking today were representatives of China, Côte d’Ivoire, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Ethiopia, Poland, France, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait and Sweden.
The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 4:48 p.m.
JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, presenting the Secretary‑General’s latest report on the Mission (document S/2018/723), said it was an honour to share the floor with the country’s Vice‑President, who among others in the Government has been at the forefront of efforts to press forward with implementation of the final peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP). Since the report was finalized on 20 July, Independence Day in Colombia, he said a new Congress was inaugurated. It includes representatives of the FARC‑EP political party, whose presence fulfilled a core objective of the final peace agreement to end the armed conflict and build a stable and lasting peace. The Congress itself is among the most diverse, plural and representative in Colombia’s history.
Other achievements in the past month included the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, he said. Its first hearings on 10 and 13 July involving a former army general and the former General Command of FARC‑EP were important to start dispelling the perception of impunity, he said, emphasizing that the pursuit of accountability through the Jurisdiction as well as the Truth Commission will be critical for the legitimacy of the peace process. The positive response from victims, and the recent decision of senior army officers to voluntarily accept the Jurisdiction, indicates that the peace process may be close to striking the right balance between the demands of peace and justice. The international community should therefore keep supporting the Jurisdiction, the Truth Commission and the Unit for the Search of Missing Persons, he stated.
He drew attention to the “Pact of repudiation of violence against social leaders” signed by the President and the President‑elect, among others, marking the first time that violence against social leaders was received by a strong sense of outrage. In the context of an electoral campaign, and in a society at times indifferent to developments in the zones of conflict, such a national consensus against social leaders is significant. Hopefully that consensus and sense of urgency on the part of Colombian society will give momentum to the implementation of security measures contained in the final peace agreement, as well as galvanize judicial efforts to prosecute those responsible for attacks. Supporting efforts to curb violence will remain a priority for the Mission, he said, adding that he hoped a similar consensus can be forged around the core challenge for consolidating peace — namely, addressing poverty, violence and illegal economies in the zones of conflict. In that regard, he called for dialogue and cooperation between the new Government, local authorities, social organizations and civil society.
Turning to the “very much unfinished business” of reintegrating former FARC‑EP members into civilian life, he said that completing the work started by the current Government will require dedication and resources. Fulfilling guarantees given to those who have laid down their weapons is essential not only for the country itself, but also to make Colombia a source of motivation for parties to conflicts in other parts of the world. Concluding, he expressed the Mission’s appreciation to the Government of the outgoing President, the FARC‑EP leadership, national institutions and civil society for cooperating with its work during the past two years. Going forward, the new authorities can count on the Mission’s support as they take on the hard work of consolidating peace and achieving reconciliation, he said.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said FARC‑EP’s participation in the elections and joining in the new Congress should inspire all. The 2018 elections mark the start of a new phase in consolidating the peace process and broadening its ownership. Dialogue and cooperation will continue to be an essential part of that work. While elections were the most peaceful in recent history, he expressed concern over the security situation in post‑conflict areas due to the proliferation of armed groups, whose fighting is particularly active in the Pacific Coast region. He welcomed the commitment by the President and the President‑elect to new special protective measures for social leaders in rural areas and the recruitment of women to the National Protection Unit. Expressing hope that parties would work to improve security and accelerate the reintegration of former combatants and initiate crop substitution programmes, he said the United Kingdom would welcome any outcome to the talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), taking place in Cuba, that reduced violence.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) calling the recent elections in Colombia the most peaceful in decades, nonetheless said the security situation there required redoubled efforts to combat organized crime, which thrived on the scant State presence in areas formerly controlled by FARC‑EP, posing challenges to democratic governance. Sustainable development is required, including for the success of the reintegration process, in which the region’s social and economic dynamics must be considered. The rule of law is essential in promoting trust, he said, welcoming the start of hearings by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and signing of the “Pact of repudiation of violence against social leaders”. He also underscored the importance of the working group on gender in the National Council for Reintegration.
MA ZHAOXU (China) commended all parties concerned in carrying out the peace process, noting the smooth conduct of Presidential elections in that context and agreement by the Government and FARC‑EP on the reintegration strategy for former combatants. He also cited progress on the ceasefire between the Government and ELN, noting that implementation of a peace accord involved social, security and social cohesion elements, among others, and thus, required a systematic approach. The peace process is irreversible and he expressed hope that all actors will remain firmly committed to it, implement the peace agreement and resolve any issues as they arise through dialogue and consultation. The Council should provide continued support to the pursuit of peace and respect Colombia’s ownership in such work.
DESIRE WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) commended the different Colombian parties for the recent peaceful elections and noted with satisfaction significant progress in several areas, including preparations for a referendum on combating corruption. Côte d’Ivoire also welcomed close cooperation between former FARC‑EP leaders and the Truth Commission. However, it is worrying that some recent developments might undermine progress, he said, citing the arrest of a former FARC‑EP leader, Seuxis Hernández (also known as Jesús Santrich), as well as attacks on former combatants, their families and human rights defenders. He urged Colombia’s new leaders to pursue implementation of the peace agreement and continue negotiations with ELN while creating the conditions for sustainable development.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), emphasizing that it can take years to consolidate a ceasefire, noted how much progress was made by the outgoing President and the leaders of FARC‑EP. It is important for the process to continue. Noting the huge level of voter participation amidst a climate of calm, he said the peace process applied to all Colombian society. Wishing the new President success, he said the challenges ahead are many, but the Latin American and Caribbean region are committed to cooperating with Colombia to consolidate a stable and lasting peace. Expressing concern over the killing of social leaders, former FARC‑EP members and human rights defenders, he urged that investigations continue so that those responsible are brought to justice and punished. He drew attention to the feelings of uncertainty and fear among former FARC‑EP combatants vis‑à‑vis the transitional justice system following Mr. Hernández’s arrest. The peace process is the most important in Colombia’s history and requires continued support from the international community as well as the continuing of leadership and political will that have prevailed so far, he said.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the work of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia is vital to the ongoing peace process. His country trusts that the new Government will continue the momentum established by the peace agreement and consolidate security gains. Successful implementation is linked to curtailing narcotics trafficking, he said, emphasizing efforts to slash coca production and the United States’ supporting role in that regard. That effort is also bringing down coca production, he added. While challenges remain, the Government of Colombia has shown strength as a regional leader, including through the reception of Venezuelans fleeing their country. Colombians know peace is both precious as well as fragile, he said, emphasizing that the United States will stand by them.
KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), recalling that his nation comprised four countries, three of which are close neighbours to Colombia, said the Prime Minister of Curaçao looks forward to attending the inauguration of the President‑elect. He expressed deep concern about insecurity in the zones most affected by the armed conflict, where social leaders, rights defenders and journalists are threatened and sometimes killed. While the Government has strengthened mechanisms to prevent such violence, protect civilians and hold perpetrators to account, the patterns behind the fighting, identifying the intellectual authors, should be analysed and he looked forward to a stabilization approach that asserts the State’s presence in the most vulnerable regions and communities. He encouraged the Government, former FARC‑EP combatants, the private sector and local authorities to jointly design a strategy to reintegrate former combatants, stressing that women and youth must have a voice in the process. He also called for the operationalization of various transitional justice institutions.
MR. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the Mission is mandated to monitor the Government’s respect for the peace agreement. There have been many positive changes over the year, with the former guerrilla movement transitioning into a political party and elections held amid record turnout. Despite difficulties, Colombia is resolved to push forward the peace process. Nonetheless, deep disagreements hampered the consolidation of peace and he welcomed the assistance provided by the United Nations on that front, as well as the Mission. He expressed serious concern over reports of killings of former combatants and community leaders and the seizure of liberated lands, stressing that those challenges required a responsible approach by the country’s leaders and all groups, as well as a commitment to peace. He underscored the importance of international attention to such issues, highlighting Colombia’s desire to achieve a sustainable solution. The 2016 peace accord must be upheld, unchanged by all parties, he added.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said Colombians face mounting challenges in turning the peace agreement into reality and the Council should continue to provide all necessary support to parties in handling those challenges. Underscoring that greater caution is needed when exercising improvements in the peace agreement in order to avoid unintended consequences, she recognized the major achievements of the Constitutional Court in reviewing peace‑related legislation, including acts that created congressional seats for FARC‑EP and established the land fund, as well as modifications to the National Protection Unit to include FARC‑EP members as close protection officers. The signing of the national pact against violence by the President, incoming President, State institutions and political parties will be instrumental in addressing the patterns of violence in rural parts of Colombia, she said, also urging the country and ELN to engage in the sixth round of negotiations “in good faith” towards reaching a ceasefire and permanent peace agreement.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland), calling the peace process an undeniable success, acknowledged the role of President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and FARC‑EP leaders who made it possible, turning the peace agreement from “paper sheets into life”. Intense political will is still required on both sides to drive the process forward and he expressed hope that, despite the difficulties in implementing the accord, the timetable for its accomplishment will be maintained. He cited the sixth cycle of talks recently launched with ELN in that regard. While Congressional acceptance of the rules of procedure for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, along with that body’s first public hearings, sent a positive message, he nonetheless expressed concern over insecurity in conflict‑affected areas, including killings of rights defenders and social and community leaders.
ANTOINE IGNACE MICHON (France), noting that his Minister for Foreign Affairs is currently visiting Colombia, said that that country’s authorities, by demonstrating exceptional political courage, have inspired the entire international community. He encouraged the ongoing implementation of the peace agreement, with particular attention to be given to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. He firmly condemned the killing of civil society leaders, human rights defenders and people working in coca substitution programmes. The situation is worrisome, he said, with illegal armed groups fighting to seize areas previously under FARC‑EP control. Security services and civil institutions must be promptly deployed in those areas, he added. He emphasized the urgent need for social and economic projects that will give former combatants prospects for a real future, for which France and the European Union are providing broad support. Whatever their political affiliations, all Colombians should be proud of the peace agreement, the success of which hinges on national unity, he stated.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed hope that Colombia’s new administration will respect and guarantee full implementation of the peace agreement. With the swearing in of a new Congress, the pace of implementation of peace‑related legislation — including those pertaining to rural and political reforms — must be stepped up. Expressing deep concern about deadly attacks on social leaders, community activists and human rights defenders, as well as the vulnerable state of former FARC‑EP members and their families, he said the Government and all parties concerned must make every effort to avoid an escalation of violence and to guarantee the success of the peace process. He also noted with regret the hostile activity of militia groups in the Colombian‑Ecuadorian border region, which resulted in the killing of innocent people.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed great concern over ongoing clashes despite the pact recognized by the President, the President‑elect, all institutions and parties and other stakeholders, as well as over the risk that the sizeable gains made would be “reduced to an empty shell”. She encouraged implementation of the peace agreement, stressing that to guarantee development of the political process, the new Government must work to reintegrate former FARC‑EP combatants, and provide necessary protection and security in those areas formerly occupied by that group, which will also protect thousands of women and children displaced by the fighting. She called on the Government to act in the interests of all Colombians, who for so long had fallen victim to differences, and to continue putting in place the negotiation process in Cuba with ELN. The causes of the conflict also must be tackled, she stressed.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) reaffirmed full support for the peace process, expressing hope that the upcoming negotiations between the Government and ELN will ensure Colombians’ aspiration for peace will be met. Noting that recent elections had taken place in a safe environment, he welcomed efforts by President Santos Calderón and FARC‑EP leaders who prioritized Colombia’s needs, efforts notably seen in having FARC‑EP members join Congress. Progress also had been made in reintegrating former combatants, he said, underscoring the need to provide security, economic and social guarantees for their reintegration, as well as for protecting human rights and religious leaders, with particular attention to women and young people, who must be the custodians of the future.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, said ensuring the full benefits of Colombia’s peace process will require a continued investment in its implementation. Welcoming the start of the Special Peace Jurisdiction’s work — as well as the National Pact signed by President Santos Calderón, President‑elect Iván Duque, key State institutions and political parties — he nevertheless voiced concern over the continuing violence against and increased killings of human rights defenders, community leaders, FARC‑EP members and their families. The full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC‑EP members is of key importance, including setting up productive projects and addressing the question of access to land. Also critical, he said, is combating the drug trade as part of efforts to advance peace, development and the rule of law in former conflict areas.
ÓSCAR ADOLFO NARANJO TRUJILLO, Vice-President of Colombia, said 12 days from the culmination of the Santos Calderón Presidency, he brought words of thanks from the Government and 50 million Colombians to the Council for being an unwavering source of support for peace. It is from an ethical conviction that parties had ended 53 years of violence that had cost 250,000 lives. “Five decades of confrontation had led us to more than 4.4 million victims,” he stressed.
Caring for peace requires carrying out what was agreed on in the peace accord, he said, noting that in a record nine months, weapons have been laid down and FARC‑EP has become a political party with seats in Congress. Caring for peace means continuing to guarantee that the transition to legality of former combatants takes place in a context of human rights and security, hand in hand with political and socioeconomic security within the legal framework.
Reintegration is critical, he said, assuring that more than 12,000 former combatants are receiving monthly basic allowance equal to 90 per cent of a salary. “We are moving forward,” he assured, noting that the Government will be handing over a public political document for the medium and long term, a sustainable road map for the reintegration process.
Caring for peace requires multiplying efforts to ensure that violence decreases, he continued, noting that while Colombia has seen its lowest murder rate in the last 42 years thanks to the peace accord, threats and attacks against social leaders and rights defenders have increased. Under President Santos Calderón, an integral political pact has been created with no distinction from the most local to the most central level, which he hoped will help do away with the old culture in which death seemed to be part of the solution.
“The logic of death for life is the real challenge to address after 50 years of war,” he said. Caring for peace means strengthening the principles of truth, justice, reparation and non‑repetition, and allowing for a transitional justice system to evolve for punishing those involved in perpetuating the internal armed conflict and neglecting human rights.
Finally, he said caring for peace means ensuring that institutions are not just against insurgence, but rather, that Colombian lands are ripe with opportunities to transform. It means recognizing the invaluable support from the international community, he said, stressing that if there is one unifying factor it is the clear testimony of the Council. For the first time in decades, a strategy will be in place to combat drug trafficking, along with a programme to substitute illegal crop production with alternative solutions. President Santos Calderón will increase Colombia’s capacity to contain that threat until the end of his presidency, and ensure the country continues down the path towards sustainable peace.