Swift Action Needed Against Lingering Violence, Terrorism in Colombia to Bolster Support for Peace Accord, Incoming Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/13675
23 January 2019
8450th Meeting (AM)

Swift Action Needed Against Lingering Violence, Terrorism in Colombia to Bolster Support for Peace Accord, Incoming Special Representative Tells Security Council

The broad public consensus in Colombia in support of the country’s 2016 peace agreement — which ended more than 50 years of bloody civil strife — must be preserved and bolstered, with swift action to address lingering violence and terrorist acts, the Secretary-General’s newly appointed Special Representative told the Security Council today.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, who is also head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the 15-member organ for the first time in his capacity as Special Representative.  Describing recent developments including a 17 January car bomb that killed 21 people at a police academy in Bogotá, he stressed that the incident was swiftly rejected by stakeholders across the political spectrum and that Colombians took to the streets to march against it.  The country’s ever-broader consensus to reject violence must continue to be nurtured, he said.

Outlining the Verification Mission’s work to those ends, he described meetings with President Iván Duque Márquez, Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo, leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other stakeholders committed to the country’s peace process.  Among recent progress, the High-level Forum on Gender — responsible for the implementation of the peace agreement’s gender provisions — met for the first time on 16 January; the Special Jurisdiction for Peace completed its first year of work; and the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission embarked on its three-year mandate.

Turning to the economic reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC‑EP) members, he welcomed the approval of additional productive projects by the National Reintegration Council, as well as advances in disbursements for those projects.  Meanwhile, he said, President Duque expressed his commitment to addressing the spate of deadly attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders.  “The security of communities, leaders and FARC members are ultimately tied to the ability of the State to establish an integrated security and civilian presence in conflict-affected areas,” he stressed, welcoming the Government’s new “Peace with Legality” plan.

Council members taking the floor following that briefing expressed solidarity with the Government and people of Colombia as they confront violence and terrorism, and strongly rejected the recent car bombing.  Many stressed that, despite such challenges, Colombia remains a success story on which other nations around the world can model their exits from civil war.  Several delegates, hailing the early work of the various bodies mandated by Colombia’s peace agreement, emphasized the need to ensure that they stay independent from the Government and retain their full credibility.

Miguel Vargas Maldonado, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic and Council President for January, said in his national capacity that irrefutable, tangible progress has been made in Colombia over the past two years.  The second anniversary of the 2016 peace agreement provides a space to reflect on what has been achieved and the path ahead to lasting peace, he said, emphasizing that the deep-seated conflict will require long-term solutions.  The convening of local and regional elections in October, in which FARC will participate, is an important step, he stressed, adding that peacebuilding must be upheld by social and economic development.

The representative of Germany was among those delegates who spotlighted the threat posed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) group — which claimed responsibility for the 17 January bombing — saying that it should promptly release all those it has kidnapped and detained.  Urging the parties to leave the doors open to a political solution through negotiation, he echoed concerns raised by other speakers about Colombia’s challenging security situation.  In addition, he said a growing sense of legal uncertainty among former combatants could prove detrimental to the consolidation of the peace process.

France’s delegate declared:  “Unity must prevail now more than ever, including within this Security Council.”  All parties in Colombia must stay focused on the hope emanating from the peace agreement and on reintegrating former combatants, he said, emphasizing that the murders of human rights defenders are part of a strategy of terror “that must be fought as such” before it erodes public trust.  More broadly, there is a need to step up efforts to ensure security ahead of regional and local elections planned for October, he said, underlining the economic reintegration of former combatants as a crucial pillar of the peace process.

The Russian Federation’s representative agreed that the murder of civilians — including former combatants — constitutes an alarming trend that must be overturned.  Describing the situation in Colombia as a window into how international support can and should be provided, he pointed out that the country itself requested United Nations assistance and is working closely with the Verification Mission.

Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, told Council members that new legislation is being considered to overhaul the way drug trafficking, kidnapping and gender-based crimes are addressed in his country.  Outlining work planned for the coming months, he said the Government will initially carry out development projects in 170 towns, building on the Peace with Legality plan.  Nearly 50 projects for the economic reintegration of former FARC members have been approved.  “This Government attaches the greatest importance to security guarantees for former FARC members,” he said, also spotlighting efforts to accelerate illicit crop substitution programmes and ensure security for elections in October as top priorities.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia also participated in the meeting.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Peru, Kuwait, China, Belgium, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland and Cuba.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:17 p.m.

Briefing

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, presented the Secretary-General’s recent report (document S/2018/1159) and briefed the Council on recent progress and developments on the ground.  The tragic 17 January car bomb in Bogotá which killed 21 people and left dozens injured stands as a reminder of the urgency of ending Colombia’s violence, he said, noting that the incident was swiftly rejected by stakeholders across the country’s political spectrum.  Stressing that the ever-broader consensus of Colombians to reject violence — demonstrated in widespread marches following the bombing — must continue to be nurtured.  He went on to outline his recent efforts to those ends.  Since taking up his role as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on 7 January, he held meetings with President Iván Duque Márquez, the Foreign Minister and the High Commissioner for Peace, as well as civil society representatives and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

At the same time, he said, Government progress continued with the High-level Forum on Gender — responsible for the implementation of the Peace Agreement’s gender provisions — which met for the first time on 16 January.  Colombia’s Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission embarked on its three-year mandate and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, entrusted with ensuring transitional justice, completed is first year of operation.  Turning to the economic reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC-EP) members, he welcomed the approval of additional productive projects by the National Reintegration Council, as well as advances in disbursements for those projects.  “The challenge ahead […] is to further accelerate such efforts, and to ensure their sustainability, to advance the acquisition of land and to work for the development of markets for good and services produced,” he said.

Welcoming the Government’s decision in December 2018 to extend food distribution to former combatants in the Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration for an additional eight months, he said a near-term challenge is to define the status of the 24 Territorial Areas whose current authorization — set to expire on 15 August — is a matter of concern and uncertainty for thousands of former FARC-EP inhabitants there.  “Time is of the essence” in that regard, he stressed.  Regarding political reintegration, he said that, on 27 October, FARC will participate, for the first time, in regional and local elections, marking another advance in their political participation.  Colombia’s presidential elections in 2018 were the most peaceful in decades, he said, adding that ensuring similar conditions in the 2019 election will require comprehensive prevention and protection measures to ensure the safety of all parties’ candidates, communities and leaders.

Recalling that a wave of killings of social leaders in the first days of the year underscore the Secretary-General’s previous concerns, he said three quarters of those killings were committed by criminal and illegal armed groups.  President Duque has expressed his personal commitment to addressing the issue and the Government activated its action plan on the protection of leaders in specific departments.  Calling for that plan and similar measures to be swiftly implemented — and coupled with broader efforts to ensure an effective State presence across the country — he welcomed the President’s decision to convene the National Commission on Security Guarantees on 30 January, aimed at defining a strategy to dismantle armed groups with civil society participation.  “The security of communities, leaders and FARC members are ultimately tied to the ability of the State to establish an integrated security and civilian presence in conflict-affected areas,” he stressed, welcoming the Government’s “Peace with Legality” plan in that respect.

Statements

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), reiterating her condolences for the victims of the car bomb attack, stressed the importance of pressing ahead with implementation of the 2016 peace agreement.  The Council has been pleased and united in supporting Colombia to advance the peace process.  As a penholder on the agenda relating to Colombia, her delegation welcomes the new steps taken by the new Administration, including the Peace with Legality plan.  The upcoming year could be used to cement progress made over the past two years, she said.  The United Kingdom is concerned about the increase in killings of human rights defenders and social leaders.  The lack of State presence in remote areas would undermine the peace process.  Security and development issues are interlinked and need to be addressed in an integrated manner.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), noting that 24 November 2018 marked the second anniversary of the signing of peace agreement, said Colombia is an inspiration for peace in the region and around the world.  This is irrefutable.  But, now is not the time to become complacent as the recent terrorist attack showed.  He strongly condemned the car bomb attack, stressing the need for accountability, which is vital to national reconciliation.  Poverty, illegal activities and the security vacuum in the country must be addressed.  Implementation of the peace accord and the fight against narcotic drugs are linked.  Noting the call of President Donald Trump for action to counter drug trafficking, he said his Government will help Colombia cut coca and cocaine production in half by the end of 2023.  He also expressed appreciation for Colombia for hosting 1.1 million Venezuelans.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) reiterated its condemnation of the terrorist attack by the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and expressed full support for Colombia’s Government and people.  His delegation supports a move towards full implementation of the peace agreement.  He expressed regret over the situation in which social leaders and human rights defenders are increasingly targeted.  He welcomed Government efforts in the areas of security, reintegration and national reconciliation, including the establishment of the Ombudsman Office and early warning mechanism.  The Peace with Legality plan should build on the development and territorial focus plans.  It is vital that former combatants have access to land and alternative income.  The role played by Special Jurisdiction for Peace is crucial in truth and justice operation.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), hailing the Verification Mission’s remarkable work, said the 17 January bombing was a shock at a time when Colombians are striving for peace.  Strongly condemning the attack, he said “unity must prevail now more than ever, including within this Security Council”.  All parties must stay focused on the hope emanating from Colombia’s peace agreement and on reintegrating former combatants.  The security situation in the former conflict areas are the absolute top priority, he said, emphasizing that several murders of human rights defenders are part of a strategy of terror “that must be fought as such” before it erodes public trust.  More broadly, there is a need to step up efforts to ensure security ahead of the elections planned for October.  The economic reintegration of former combatants is another priority for 2019, he said, calling for the creation of real prospects for reintegration as a crucial pillar of the success of the peace process.  Underlining the importance of access to land and sustainable development, he said the implementation of the Government’s unique transitional justice system will also be critical.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) joined others in condemning the recent heinous attack in Bogotá and calling for its full investigation.  Welcoming steps to stabilize the situation and consolidate public support for the peace process, he said the peace agreement’s signatories must stand behind the process.  Describing the murders of civilians, including former combatants, as an alarming trend that must be overturned, he said the Verification Mission will be a reliable partner to Colombia in its implementation of the peace agreement.  Colombia is a window into how international support can and should be provided, he said, pointing out that the country itself requested United Nations assistance and is working closely with the Verification Mission.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), hailing Colombia’s Peace with Legality plan as crucial, also underlined the importance of rural development and continued international support for the country’s peace and stability.  Also essential are the complete reintegration of former FARC-EP members and the full implementation of transitional justice, he said, calling on the Government to step up efforts to substitute illicit crops.  The continued killing, violence and threats against social leaders and human rights defenders — as demonstrated in the 17 January attack in Bogotá — constitutes a major obstacle to the peace process and must be addressed swiftly.  He further commended the ongoing work of the Verification Mission, in conjunction with the Government and regional players, describing Colombia as a success story to be emulated by other countries around the world.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) condemned the ELN car bomb attack and stressed that there is no justification for this atrocious crime, urging Colombian parties to leave the doors open to a political solution through negotiation.  The release of all kidnapped and detainees by ELN is crucial first step.  In that regard, he underlined the importance of the role of the United Nations and the international community as a partner for peace in Colombia.  Several challenges remain as the country marks the two-year anniversary of its peace agreement, he said, pointing to the security situation, in which social leaders and human rights defenders are increasingly becoming a target of violence.  The independence of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the other transitional justice mechanisms is of crucial importance.  A growing sense of legal uncertainty among former fighters could be detrimental to the consolidation of the peace process.  Progress has been made on the reintegration of former FARC members, he said, encouraging the Government to expedite the process.

WU HAITAO (China) strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Bogotá, while noting that the peace process is moving ahead.  The national security condition is generally stable, and the peace process is bearing fruit.  Overall, the situation is improving.  Colombia, however, faces daunting tasks, including reintegration of former combatants, and economic and social development.  All parties should continue to work together to preserve the hard-won peace.  China joins other delegations in supporting the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Verification Mission.

MAC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that 2019 is a crucial year to consolidate peace in Colombia, commending the Government for developing the Peace with Legality plan, which recognizes rural poverty as a root cause of instability.  His delegation is deeply concerned about the killings of human rights defenders and social leaders.  In 2018, such killings took place every 48 hours.  He encouraged the Government to provide security throughout the country.  Socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC members is an essential part of the peace accord.  The Government must show former FARC fighters who laid down their weapons that they are on the right side of history and they have access to land and income.  Colombia is a source of inspiration and a role model in overcoming the past.  Concerted efforts by the Government, FARC and civil society are vital.

JERRY MATHHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) recognized the significant achievements Colombia has made since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement.  He expressed support for Colombia’s Truth Commission, adding that, in South Africa’s case, such a commission was invaluable in helping people heal from a painful past.  Colombia’s justice process must receive full support from all parties and its independence and autonomy must be fully respected.  He noted the achievements of the Verification Mission and underscored the need to empower local communities, women and young people.  The Government must work closely with the private sector and civil society to achieve progress.  Following the end of apartheid, South Africa’s fledgling democracy had to deal with similarly complex challenges, including reforming the security sector, reintegrating former combatants and delivering justice.  “Patience is needed,” he added.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), echoing condemnations of the treacherous terrorist attack in Bogotá, hailed President Duque’s work during the short of time of his tenure.  Noting that the President has reiterated the Government’s commitment to the peace process, he said the new Peace with Legality plan is both viable and important and should be fully supported.  The opening of the Truth Commission is equally critical in ensuring accountability and reconciliation.  Voicing regret about an October 2018 incident in which prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office gained forced access to the office of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, he underlined the importance of maintaining the latter’s complete independence.  He also joined others in emphasizing that ELN must also cease all violence and release its hostages, he said.

TIEMOKO MORIKO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed significant progress in implementing Colombia’s peace process, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s most recent report in December 2018.  He hailed the political resolve of the various stakeholders, which has allowed for Colombia’s movement “from a logic of conflict to a logic of peace”.  The Peace with Legality plan, as well as rural development projects and efforts to eradicate illegal crops, are equally crucial, as is progress in FARC’s political reintegration.  That party now holds five seats in Congress and will take part in the national election in 2019.  Calling for synergy among all parties and stakeholders, he said the broad desire for peace should be bolstered and protected.  In that context, he condemned the recent terrorist attack at a Bogotá police academy, urged ELN to renounce all violence and commit to the peace process and called for urgent action to address violence by armed groups — including those that are taking up arms again out of frustration — against local leaders and human rights defenders.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said Colombia’s peace process remains an undeniable success and serves as a source of inspiration worldwide.  Expressing hope that the implementation of its outcome will continue, despite some difficulties, she underlined the urgent need to address the killings of social leaders and human rights defenders and encouraged all parties to support the crucial work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and to help ensure its independence and autonomy.  “There is a need for clarity and certainty on the sustainability of the FARC reintegration process as soon as possible,” she stressed, adding that the issue of illicit coca crops remains the greatest threat to the peace process in some regions of Colombia.  Some 100,000 families have signed up for the National Comprehensive Programme for the Substitution of Illicit Crops, but it will be critical to ensure that the commitment to those families is upheld.  Calling for vigilance regarding the spillover effects of the massive influx of people from neighbouring Venezuela, she also condemned in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attack in Bogotá and terrorism in all its forms, and urged ELN to immediately release all hostages.

RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that the recent bombing in Colombia reflects the complexity of challenges the Government there faces.  While political reintegration is critical, socioeconomic reintegration is equally important.  Ensuring people’s livelihoods is vital.  Everyone must be able to enjoy the fruits of peace.  Her Government will continue to work closely with Colombia to help ensure those goals.  It is essential that security challenges are addressed, she continued, expressing concern about the assassinations of former FARC members, social leaders and human rights defenders.  Law enforcement must always respect human rights, she stressed.  And any commitments made must be honoured by all sides.  Colombia must remain on its historic journey towards peace.  To that end, the unity of the Council is essential to help Colombia achieve a stable and lasting peace, she added.

MIGUEL VARGAS MALDONADO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, expressed his Government’s support for the peace process in Colombia, noting that his country has contributed human resources to the Verification Mission there since its inception.  It is irrefutable that tangible progress has been made over the past two years.  The second anniversary of the 2016 peace agreement provides a space to reflect on what has been achieved and the path ahead to lasting peace.  The elements of conflict run so deep that reconciliation will require long-term measures.

The holding of local and regional elections, in which FARC will participate, is an important step, he stressed, adding that peacebuilding must be upheld by social and economic development.  The consolidation of peace in Colombia provides lessons that the Council can apply in its efforts to support the transition from armed conflict to political processes around the world.  It is crucial that former combatants enjoy equal opportunities.  He welcomed the maintenance of stipends and the Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration until August.  It is essential that projects under the peace agreement are sustainable.  The rule of law and security must prevail across the country.  Security guarantees must be extended to former FARC members, he said, noting the Government’s plan to provide such guarantees for the upcoming regional and local elections.

CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that, during the first 100 days of President Duque’s Administration, he repeatedly underscored his commitment to the country’s peace agreement.  During his tenure so far, legislation has been proposed to ensure that drug trafficking and kidnapping are no longer linked to political crimes; responses to gender-based crimes are overhauled; and the rights of victims are fully taken into account.  Outlining plans for the first phase of work in 2019, he said the Government will initially focus on 70 towns.  Development and territorial focus plans, building on the Peace with Legality plan, will be carried out in 170 towns, ensuring the peace process benefits thousands of Colombians living there.  Some 20 collective projects and 29 individual projects for the economic reintegration of 1,340 former FARC members, including 366 women, have been approved, and the Government is working to create the appropriate conditions and leadership to get the private sector involved in those reintegration efforts.

In addition, he said, the Government was able to extend the distribution of food to ex-combatants until August.  Meanwhile, critical elements of the peace process — including the Truth Commission — have begun their work.  On 16 January, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace reported that 11,675 people have joined, including 9,687 former FARC combatants and 1,938 members of the armed forces and national police.  “This Government attaches the greatest importance to security guarantees for former FARC members,” he said, adding that it also prioritizes efforts to accelerate illicit crop substitution programmes and ensure security for the local elections in October.  Condemning all acts of violence, he said the Attorney General’s office is making progress in investigating more than half of the many criminal cases before it.

While the new Administration inherited significant challenges, such as the reduction of violence and illegal economic activity, including drug trafficking, it is committed to tackle them, he said.  Citing progress already achieved, he said more than 30,000 hectares of illicit crops were eradicated between 7 August and 26 December 2018.  Turning to plans to provide Colombia’s population with more security and better access to public services — as well as alternatives to criminal activity — he said new guidelines were approved on those matters with the full participation of a wide range of stakeholders.  The Government will continue to lead efforts to implement Colombia’s peace agreement, but the continued support of the United Nations Verification Mission will also be crucial, he said.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), highlighting decades of her country’s contribution to the peace process in Colombia, said it is vital that all parties to the historic peace agreement implement it in full.  The accord, which brought more than 50 years of war to an end, faces some challenges, including a lack of security in vulnerable areas and slow progress in reintegrating former FARC members.  Expressing condolences to the families of the recent car bomb attack in Bogotá, she said Cuba rejects all acts of terror and never allows its territory to be used to wage a terrorist attack against any State.  Cuba will fulfil its role as a guarantor of the peace process in Colombia, she stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.