Special Representative Says Colombia’s People Must Focus on What Unites Rather than Divides Them, During Briefing to Security Council

SC/13892
19 July 2019
8581st Meeting (AM)

Special Representative Says Colombia’s People Must Focus on What Unites Rather than Divides Them, During Briefing to Security Council

Foreign Minister Pledges to Fulfil Government’s Commitment to More Than 10,500 Former Rebel Fighters Who Remain on Legal Path

The people of Colombia must focus on what unites them rather than what divides them, as they follow the path of peace and reconciliation under the 2016 peace agreement that ended the country’s civil conflict dating back to the mid-1960s, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

A week after the 15-member Council’s visiting mission to the South American country, Carlos Ruiz Massieu reported that, as Council members saw for themselves, progress in implementing the peace process is mixed, with Government efforts to reintegrate former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, FARC-EP) starting to show results but security in conflict-affected areas still a grave concern.  Mr. Ruiz also heads the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC).

He said the great majority of former FARC-EP members and the leadership of the FARC party remain strongly committed to the peace process, adding that the Government has reassured former combatants of its commitment to formalizing land arrangements for the 24 territorial areas intended for training and reintegration, the legal status of which is scheduled to expire on 15 August.  However, the security situation in former conflict areas is extremely concerning, he said, noting that a total of 127 former FARC-EP members have been killed since the signing of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace on 24 November 2016.

Welcoming President Iván Duque Márquez’s new measures for improving security and protection for former combatants, he emphasized that every effort must be made to ensure that local elections in October — another important step in FARC’s political reintegration — will be as peaceful as the 2018 presidential and legislative polls.  However, he expressed grave concern about the situation of social leaders and human rights defenders, stressing:  “The plight of hundreds of brave leaders under threat around the country is unacceptable.”  Given the presence of illegal armed groups, the importance of establishing an integrated State presence in former conflict areas cannot be overstated, he added.

While applauding Colombia’s peace process as an example to inspire conflict-stricken areas elsewhere around the world, Council members broadly agreed with the Special Representative’s assessment, encouraging the Government as well as citizens to stay the course.  Several speakers welcomed the enactment in June of legislation to establish the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a judicial mechanism created under the peace agreement that will deal with cases involving serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

“There is no turning back in Colombia,” emphasized Peru’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for July, explaining that this was a message the Council delegation heard loud and clear during its visit.  Underlining the need for comprehensive land reform and crop substitution, he said remarkable progress has been made towards reintegrating former FARC combatants.  Welcoming Government measures to improve security in rural communities, he also stressed the need to redouble efforts to combat the illicit trade in cocaine, pointing out that crop substitution provides economic and trade opportunities.

Welcoming President Duque’s request that the Council extend UNVMC’s mandate by one year, the United Kingdom’s representative — who co-led the visiting mission alongside his counterpart from Peru — commended the Government for setting out plans to counter attacks against social leaders, human rights defenders and other actors.  The peace process goes hand-in-hand with strengthening the rule of law, he added.  Applauding the inclusive peace process, he declared:  “Colombia is a bright spot on the Council agenda and a shining example for the world.”

The representative of the United States said Colombia and the international community must remain vigilant because the illicit production of and trade in cocaine threatens Latin America and the world.  Thanks to President Duque’s counter-narcotic efforts, cocaine production has decreased for the first time since 2012, he noted, adding that the United States is committed to a whole-of-Government approach to halving production by the end of 2023.

The Dominican Republic’s representative said there is no doubt that the Government is working towards a national consensus on polarizing issues, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and coordinated dialogue.  The independence and autonomy of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and other judicial channels must be upheld, he added.  He went on to express concern over the killing of former combatants, community leaders and women, saying his country is “filled with sorrow” for acts of violence and intimidation by organized criminal groups.

Finally, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said the Government is determined to fulfil its commitment to the more than 10,500 former combatants who remain on the legal path.  The vast majority are complying with the peace agreement and are optimistic about their future, he added.  However, the decision by Seuxis Hernández Solarte — also known as Jesús Santrich — to leave his security detail on 30 June in a territorial area near the Venezuelan border reflected his intention to flee from justice, since he was due to appear in court for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking after the signing of the Final Agreement.

He went on to emphasize that the Government will not leave those living in the territorial areas to fend for themselves after the expiry of their legal status in mid-August.  The biggest challenge is ensuring security for former fighters residing outside the territorial areas, often in places where illegal armed groups are present, he said.  Military and police operations are under way to contain the threat posed by such groups, which — together with criminal economies — pose the greatest challenge to the peace agreement, to stability and to co-existence.  He reiterated President Duque’s request for the extension of UNVMC’s mandate.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Indonesia, South Africa and China.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:26 p.m.

Briefing

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC), said Council members could see during their visit that progress in the peace process is mixed, as the Secretary-General states in his report (document S/2019/530).  While Government efforts to advance the reintegration of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, FARC-EP) are beginning to show concrete results, security in conflict-affected areas remains a grave concern, he explained.  Despite some recent examples to the contrary, the great majority of former FARC-EP members and the leadership of the FARC party remain strongly committed to the peace process, as reflected in their participation in Congress, their preparations for upcoming elections and their efforts to reintegrate into civilian life.

He went on to note that the Government of Colombia has reassured former combatants of its commitment to formalizing land arrangements for the 24 territorial areas intended for training and reintegration — the legal status of which is scheduled to expire on 15 August — and to maintain their monthly allowances.  Emphasizing the urgent need to grow the number of productive projects for former combatants, he said proper attention should also be paid to the 8,000 ex-fighters living outside those territorial areas and who require options for reintegration and guarantees of security.  As Council members heard directly from communities in Cauca department, south-western Colombia, the security situation in former conflict areas is extremely concerning, he noted.  Since the release of the Secretary-General’s report three weeks ago, four more former combatants have been killed, bringing to 127 the total number of former FARC-EP members killed since the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace was signed on 24 November 2016.

Welcoming new measures announced by President Iván Duque Márquez for improving security and protection for former combatants, he stressed that every effort must be made to ensure that local elections in October — another important step in FARC’s political reintegration — will be as peaceful as the 2018 presidential and legislative polls.  He expressed grave concern, however, about the situation of social leaders and human rights defenders, recalling that one leader from Cauca was unable to attend a meeting with Council members following threats by an illegal armed group.  “The plight of hundreds of brave leaders under threat around the country is unacceptable,” he said, while welcoming the Government’s announcement of protective measures for leaders of the illicit crop substitution programme as well as efforts to address the specific situation of women leaders.  Given the presence of illegal armed groups, the importance of establishing an integrated State presence in former conflict areas cannot be overstated, he emphasized.

He went on to state that it is no surprise that local communities and authorities are unanimous in their desire for the continued existence of the territorial areas, since the resulting increased presence of State institutions has led to security and economic improvements.  There is also greater participation by victims in the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, he said, pointing out that Colombia’s innovative model of restorative justice is starting to deliver on its promise of justice and reparations.  Continued support, including financial resources, is essential, he stressed, noting that Congress will take up topics related to the spirit of the peace agreement during its new term.  Colombians should focus on what unites them rather than what divides them, he emphasized, quoting the Secretary-General.

Statements

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that, three years on, Colombia’s peace process continues to set a positive example for the rest of the world.  Welcoming President Duque’s request that the Council extend UNVMC’s mandate by one year, he commended the Government for setting out plans to counter attacks against social leaders, human rights defenders and other actors.  The peace process goes hand-in-hand with strengthening the rule of law, he emphasized, urging the Government also to provide full financial support for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and transitional justice.  Reiterating the need to redouble efforts to protect social leaders and human rights defenders, he underlined the importance of bringing those responsible for killing them to justice.  Applauding the inclusive peace process, he declared: “Colombia is a bright spot on the Council agenda and a shining example for the world.”

RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) said the historic 2016 peace agreement and the commitment demonstrated by stakeholders to its implementation ushered in a new era of hope.  Expressing his delegation’s strong support for the process, he said that, despite ongoing challenges, progress has been made on the integration of ex-combatants, support for the rural population and transitional justice.  However, Colombia and the international community must remain vigilant because the illicit production of and trade in cocaine threatens Latin America and the world, he warned.  Thanks to President Duque’s counter-narcotic efforts, cocaine production has decreased for the first time since 2012, he noted, adding that the United States is committed to a whole-of-Government approach to halving production by the end of 2023.  He went on to emphasize, that while his delegation is encouraged by the extension of State presence into rural areas, it is growing deeply concerned over attacks on social leaders, human rights defenders, and members of vulnerable groups.  Stressing that transitional justice is essential to the peace process, he called for accountability on the part of FARC members.  Colombia’s peace process is a stark contrast to the chaos in Venezuela, he noted.

NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France) condemned the killing of social leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, among others, while welcoming the Government programme to protect former combatants who lay down their weapons as a step in the right direction.  Emphasizing the need to implement all aspects of the peace agreement, he described the signing of the statutory law on the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) as a milestone.  However, its implementation poses challenges due to its retroactive nature, he said, stressing that justice cannot be separated from the peace process.  Long-term solutions for former combatants, including agrarian reform, must be found, he said, underlining the essential need for the Council’s support.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), expressing trust in the political will of Colombia’s Government and political elite, invited those not yet participating in the peace process to release hostages, lay down their weapons and work towards a full and inclusive peace.  Noting that the peace agreement demonstrates that political solutions are possible, he expressed concern, however, over the persistent atmosphere of polarization around certain elements of the peace agreement, calling upon the parties to work together through an inclusive dialogue based on mutual respect.  He also called for Government measures to ensure the security of social leaders and others upholding the peace agreement.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said the adoption in June of legislation creating the Special Jurisdiction for Peace marks an important step, adding that proper resources must be allocated to that entity.  Looking ahead to the October elections, he said parties must overcome their differences, preserve what has been achieved and work towards ensuring stability.  Emphasizing the need to protect human rights defenders and former FARC-EP combatants, he also called for efforts to address the parallel economy, and appealed to bilateral and multilateral partners to support development initiatives in furtherance of the peace process.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said there is no doubt that the Government is working towards a national consensus on polarizing issues, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and coordinated dialogue.  The independence and autonomy of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and other judicial channels must be upheld, he added.  Expressing concern over the killing of former combatants, community leaders and women, he said his country is “filled with sorrow” for acts of violence and intimidation by organized criminal groups.  Warning that efforts to spread responsibility for atrocity crimes across an unspecific generic group is dangerous for social cohesion, he called upon the authorities to make the greatest effort to locate those responsible and punish them in a timely manner.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled that all the stakeholders he met during the visiting mission underscored the importance of UNVMC and the need for its continued presence.  He added that the mission allowed him to see things with his own eyes, which is better than hearing things 100 times.  Colombians themselves made a life-changing decision, he said.  Noting that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has begun its work, he described the signing of the statutory law as a milestone.  He emphasized that former combatants must become full-fledged citizens with socioeconomic and political rights, adding that agrarian reform is essential because they must feed themselves.  Expressing concern that former combatants are leaving Government programmes and taking up arms again, he stressed that genuine peace is not possible without including all stakeholders, including ELN.  Colombia has been a showcase for the world, but it must become a showcase of national ownership, he said, while underlining that Colombia’s peace does not depend on the situation in Venezuela.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said Colombia has proven that a country can overcome the past and set an example for the world of how to end conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.  However, Kuwait shares the concerns expressed in the Secretary-General’s report over lack of sufficient funding to implement all aspects of the peace agreement, including access to land, he said, adding that his delegation looks forward to the outcome of reintegration projects, including crop substitution.  Unfortunately, killings continue, targeting social leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and former combatants, he said, pointing out that about 230 people have been killed since the signing of the peace agreement.  Welcoming national programmes to provide security guarantees for such targeted groups, he also emphasized the need to include women and young people in the implementation of the peace agreement and in peacebuilding.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) called upon Colombia to continue its financial support for the reintegration of ex-combatants and to redouble efforts for the implementation of the peace accord’s gender provisions, especially those relating to female former fighters.  Building perspectives for young people will also be crucial, as will the independence and proper functioning of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, he noted, encouraging the Government to provide such entities with full political backing and appropriate financial support.  On the security situation, he said social leaders and rights defenders — notably advocates for indigenous and women’s rights — are at particular risk, he said, encouraging the Government to engage more meaningfully with civil society and to investigate crimes.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), acknowledging progress in such areas as the reintegration of former combatants and the search for a pragmatic solution in relation to territorial areas, said the upcoming elections will mark an important stage in FARC’s reintegration.  Turning to the murders of hundreds of social leaders and former FARC-FP combatants, he emphasized the need for security guarantees, especially in the context of the growing State presence in former conflict areas.  The actions of a small minority of detractors cannot be used by others to undermine implementation of the peace agreement, he added.  Encouraging the Government to give priority attention to the protection of children, he said Belgium is very worried by a sharp increase in the recruitment of youngsters by non-State armed groups.  As for the visiting mission, he said the sight of former combatants putting all their energies into cultivating tomatoes was “a very powerful image”.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) stressed the need for greater guarantees of protection for human rights defenders and social leaders.  Full reintegration of former FARC-EP members is also essential to building trust and confidence in the peace process, she said.  Welcoming the Government’s approval of a national development plan intended to expand public investment in conflict-affected areas, she expressed hope that the necessary arrangements regarding the legal status of the 24 territorial areas for training and reintegration will soon be in place.  She went on to point out that not enough has been done to address the concerns of the nearly 1 in 10 former combatants with disabilities arising from the conflict.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), commending the courage and resolve of Colombia’s people, said the Council’s visit was a sign of support for the determination of the Government and FARC to see the peace process succeed.  Underlining the absolute necessity to ensure security in areas vacated by FARC in order to prevent armed groups from filling the void, he said the Government has the capacity and capability to resolve all issues on the ground, but cannot undertake that task alone.  He called upon the international community to mobilize resources in that regard, declaring:  “We must not lose the existing positive momentum.”

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said that consolidating peace after decades of conflict and mistrust is not an easy task, emphasizing that the only viable solution lies in a nationally-led negotiated and inclusive political settlement.  Urging the signatories to implement the peace accord in its entirety, he also called upon all political parties to fully respect the agreement and to desist from actions that could undermine its implementation.  Expressing concern about the security of all stakeholders amid increased killings of FARC-EP members as well as social and community leaders, he pressed the Government to quickly approve plans for the disbursement funding to ensure former combatants have adequate access to economic activities.  Speaking from his own country’s experience with truth and reconciliation, he said that hearing the different views and versions of events in Colombia will ensure the road to peace is based on an inclusive political process.

WU HAITAO (China), describing the visiting mission as “fruitful”, said the peace process is essential to lasting stability and socioeconomic development.  It is vital that the Government and FARC strengthen mutual trust, he emphasized.  Welcoming the extension of Government support for remote areas, he called for the acceleration of social and economic reconstruction and for the creation of conditions favourable to peace, stability and development.  He encouraged UNVMC to uphold its mandate with full respect for Colombia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru and Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the visiting mission gave Council members more accurate knowledge of the situation in Colombia, entailing not only challenges, but also progress.  “There is no turning back in Colombia,” he said, explaining that this was a message the Council heard loud and clear.  Underlining the need for comprehensive land reform and crop substitution, he said remarkable progress has been made towards the reintegration of former FARC combatants.  Welcoming Government measures to improve security in rural communities, he also stressed the need to redouble efforts to combat the illicit trade in cocaine, adding that crop substitution provides economic and trade opportunities.  Turning to the peace agreement’s human component, he said it takes into account the needs of indigenous peoples and women, among others, emphasizing also that reconciliation efforts must pay tribute to victims.  Peru fully supports the request to extend UNVMC’s mandate for one year, he said.

CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, reiterated President Duque’s request for the extension of UNVMC’s mandate for one more year.  Reviewing the Colombian Government’s efforts in favour of the peace agreement’s implementation, he said they include establishing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace after taking the concerns of various parties into account.  The Government will maintain support for the Truth Commission, among other entities, and respond to the expectations of victims and all Colombians, he emphasized, adding that reforms to combat impunity are also going forward.  Sex crimes against girls and boys will now be dealt with by ordinary courts, and it will no longer be possible to claim that cases involving kidnapping and drug trafficking are politically related and therefore subject to amnesty or pardon, he stressed.

Turning to the reintegration of former FARC-EP members, he said the Government is determined to fulfil its commitment to the more than 10,500 ex-fighters who remain on the legal path.  The vast majority are complying with the peace agreement and remain optimistic about their future in civilian life, he added.  However, the decision by Seuxis Hernández Solarte — also known as Jesús Santrich — to leave his security detail on 30 June in a territorial area near the Venezuelan border reflected his intention to flee from justice, since he was due to appear in court for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking after the Final Agreement was signed, not to mention non-compliance with his obligations in relation to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.  It is deplorable that such an individual should escape justice and take advantage of the good faith of Colombia’s citizens, he stressed, while hailing the fact that FARC has distanced itself from the conduct of Jesús Santrich and others who are failing to comply with the peace agreement.  Noting the Government’s obligation to strengthen security for FARC candidates in the local and regional elections, he said progress is also being made on the social and economic reintegration of former combatants.

He went on to underline that the Government will not leave those living in the territorial areas to fend for themselves after the legal status of those areas expires in mid-August.  With the number of murdered former combatants declining, the biggest challenge is ensuring security for those residing outside the territorial areas, often in places where illegal armed groups are present, he said.  Military and police operations are under way to contain the threat posed by such groups, he said, adding that the Government has redoubled its efforts to shut down criminal economies.  As a whole, illegal armed groups and criminal economies pose the greatest challenge to the peace agreement, stability and co-existence, he said, adding that the Government will not be satisfied until there is better security for former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders.  On the drug problem, he said the Government is employing a range of mechanisms and, after a great effort, the number of hectares under illicit crops is decreasing, he said, stressing that fighting coca cultivation is essential to peace and security.

For information media. Not an official record.