Foreign Minister Cites ‘Transformative’ Land Reforms amid Efforts to Curb Competition over Drug Trafficking, Illegal Mining
The international community should maintain firm support for those working hard and successfully to consolidate peace in Colombia, in light of the announced plans by some former combatants to take up arms again, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
“It is now more important than ever to support the women and men who remain resolutely committed to peace and to transforming their lives and those of their families and communities,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu. Presenting the latest 90-day report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document S/2019/780), he said that, two years after former guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) laid down their arms, the vast majority of ex-combatants remain committed to the Agreement to End Conflict and Build Peace, with many engaged in reintegration projects.
He went on to emphasize the “swift and categorical rejection” of the recent rearming announcement by some former FARC-EP commanders, while highlighting important achievements by the Government of President Iván Duque in consolidating peace, particularly in reintegration activities and planning for local elections due in three weeks. He urged the Government to release adequate funding for reintegration and to ensure Government programmes reach all former fighters and their communities.
Attacks against former FARC-EP combatants continue, however, and more must be done to ensure their security, as well as that of vulnerable civil society leaders, he reported, stressing also the need for action against criminal networks. He welcomed the joint declarations signed by 12 political parties in rejection of violence ahead of the elections and encouraged all parties to continue to work together to that end.
Welcoming the appearance of 10 former FARC-EP commanders before the Special Jurisdiction to seek forgiveness for kidnappings, he stressed the importance of the Peace Agreement’s truth and reconciliation provisions. Comprehensive implementation of the final accord is vital to ending recurring violence, including in the areas of rural development and political participation, he said. That can only be achieved if all stakeholders work together, he added.
Alongside the combined efforts of the Government, the FARC political party and Colombian society, support from international partners and a unified Security Council are instrumental to consolidating peace, he stressed, adding that the Verification Mission and the United Nations country team pledge to continue doing their part.
Council members then took the floor to welcome Colombia’s efforts towards full implementation of the Peace Agreement, while calling for increased efforts by the Government to reach all eligible ex-combatants and to strengthen security for them and for civil society leaders in rural communities. Delegates condemned recent killings, as well as the announced intention to rearm by some former FARC‑EP commanders, while reaffirming overall progress towards consolidating peace in the country.
France’s representative said the response to the rearming announcement demonstrated the resilience of the peace process, as did the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence by political parties.
Delegates also expressed strong support for the role of the United Nations Verification Mission, while underlining the importance of Colombian ownership of the entire peace process in the successes achieved thus far.
Equatorial Guinea’s representative hailed Colombia as an example of what a determined people can do to overcome violence and help Council carry out its mandate.
The Russian Federation’s representative stressed the importance of maintaining national leadership of, and responsibility for, the peace process.
Others, including the representative of the United States, hailed the hospitality Colombia extended to migrants from Venezuela, while still others expressed support for the country’s coca-eradication and crop-substitutions programme.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, affirmed the report’s view of his country’s progress, its strong commitment to the peace process and the challenges it faces. Describing land and territorial reforms as transformative, he said many other Government efforts are exceeding the requirements of the Peace Agreement, calling attention to plans for the protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, as well as special security protections ahead of the upcoming elections.
Condemning all attacks and killings, he said the Government is working to address what the main drivers of such violence — intensified competition for control of drug trafficking, illegal mining and other illicit activities. As for the rearming announcement, he described it as a flagrant violation of the Peace Agreement, concurring that it revealed strong support for the accord among more than 90 per cent of former combatants. They stand committed to reintegration and reconciliation with the Colombian people. Vowing to “bring down the full weight of the law” on spoilers, he declared: “Colombia will not flag in its determination to build peace.”
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Peru, Dominican Republic, Germany, China, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:43 a.m.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, said the peace process continues to move forward although the last 90 days have been challenging period. Two years after former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) guerrillas laid down their arms, the vast majority of them remain engaged and committed to the Agreement to End Conflict and Build Peace, with thousands pursuing studies, training, working in cooperatives or employed in activities related to the accord, he noted. More than 3,500 former combatants are involved in projects ranging from agricultural ventures to clothing manufacturing to ecotourism.
He went on to emphasize the importance of their commitment to the peace process, while noting the regrettable and unjustified actions of a few former FARC-EP commanders who recently announced that they had taken up arms again. He commended the “swift and categorical rejection” of their actions by all sectors across Colombia – including the FARC political party, which expelled them — and by President Iván Duque. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace declares that all those who announced their rearmament will be excluded from its jurisdiction and any related benefits, he pointed out. “It is now more important than ever to support the women and men who remain resolutely committed to peace and to transforming their lives and those of their families and communities.” While noting the important achievements of the Reintegration Council, he called for further efforts, saying that Government funding for its projects covers only 14.7 per cent of accredited former combatants. The disbursement of that funding must be accelerated and access to land guaranteed, he said, stressing that projects must become self-sustaining so that the former combatants and surrounding communities see the results of their hard work.
Unfortunately, attacks against former FARC-EP combatants continue, he said, noting that 20 were killed during the reporting period and 151 since the signing of the Peace Agreement. There has been some progress in strengthening security guarantees and investigations, but more must be done to provide adequate funding for the entities involved, he emphasized, adding that civil society leaders in vulnerable communities that he visited last week reported that they also need assurances of greater security. Action against criminal networks is also of critical importance, he said. Pointing out that local elections are three weeks away, he welcomed the joint declarations signed by 12 political parties rejecting violence and encouraged the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP to continue to work together, including through joint regional visits to ensure the peaceful nature of the elections and to ensure progress on reforms.
Recounting the appearance before the Special Jurisdiction of 10 former FARC‑EP commanders seeking forgiveness for kidnappings, he praised the willingness of the victims to embrace forgiveness, underlining the importance of the Peace Agreement’s truth and reconciliation provisions. “Victims must continue to be at the centre of the peace process,” he said. In order to end the dynamic of recurrent violence, comprehensive implementation of the final Peace Agreement is vital. Advancing rural development and political participation is as important as reintegrating former combatants, he continued, reiterating that full implementation of the Peace Agreement can only be achieved if all stakeholders work together.
He declared: “The hopes of Colombians for a peaceful and prosperous future can be realized if all of us — the Government, FARC, Colombian society has a whole and the international community — work together to ensure that the letter and spirit of the Peace Agreement become concrete deeds and actions to improve the lives of those who have most suffered from the conflict.” He also underlined the need for unified support from the Security Council, describing it as instrumental. The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the country team pledge to continue doing their part in that effort, he added.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that, despite the progress achieved in the nearly three years since the Peace Agreement’s adoption, its implementation has not been without challenges, including the decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. However, the vast majority of former combatants remain committed to peace, she noted. She went on to call for adequate resources to bolster rural development, emphasizing also that a greater State presence in areas formerly under the control of armed groups is crucial. Noting that Colombians are set to vote in elections later in October — “a milestone on the road to peace” — she cited worrying reports of threats and intimidation against candidates, urging all parties to adhere to the recently agreed National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) reiterated his delegation’s commitment to supporting the people and Government of Colombia, including their quest to strengthen State authority, put legal and security guarantees in place, reintegrate former combatants and institute crop-replacement programmes. Calling for the linking of productive projects with access to land and reintegration programmes, he said more attention should be paid to the nearly two thirds of former combatants living outside the territorial areas set aside for training, reintegration, as well as women and minority groups. He went on to welcome the adoption of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, while rejecting the “petty decision” by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. They will have to answer to both justice and history, he said. The Colombia peace process must continue to serve as an example for the rest of the world, he said, emphasizing that, in order to do so, it requires the support of the Council and the entire international community.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) welcomed the Government’s territorial focus and called for efforts to institute sustainable land-oriented reintegration projects. Social reintegration is another pillar of the peace process, requiring special attention to the more than 8,000 former combatants living outside the areas for training and reintegration. He went on to join other delegates in condemning the decision to rearm on the part of some former combatants as a flagrant violation of the Peace Agreement. Turning to the elections, he urged additional Government measures to ensure stability and protect candidates, while underlining the importance of engaging women and young people in the peace process.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the Peace Agreement remains an inspiration and pledged continued support for Government efforts and for the United Nations Verification Mission. Hailing President Duque’s efforts to expand the State’s presence over the entire national territory while pursuing the suppression of coca cultivation, he expressed concern, however, about ex‑combatants in areas outside the reach of peace mechanisms and violence against former fighters and civil society leaders. In that context, he applauded the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, urging all parties to honour its principles. A visible path to dignity for all Colombians should be a priority, he stressed. Praising Colombia’s hospitality to Venezuelan refugees, he noted that his country provided more than $200 million to help in that effort and pledged continued partnership with Colombia as the Peace Agreement’s progress continues.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) affirmed his delegation’s support for the United Nations Verification Mission, while emphasizing that Colombia itself bears the main responsibility for the peace process. Noting that the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Verification Mission (document S/2019/780) conveys concern about the implementation of that process, he warned that peace is not irreversible. Citing incidents of electoral violence, he emphasized the urgent need to bolster the presence of State institutions outside Bogota, the capital, to clear mines, finance crop-substitution programmes, and ensure the reintegration of former combatants. He condemned recent attacks and stressed the need to hold talks with those responsible. Comprehensive and full compliance with the Peace Agreement must be the Government’s priority and all disputes must be resolved through existing legal mechanisms, he said, underlining that Colombians themselves must move the peace process forward and continue to own it.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) described the Colombian people’s determination to overcome decades of violence as a source of inspiration for those working to settle conflicts around the world. “This is still a success story, albeit not without setbacks,” he said, strongly condemning the recent decision by FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. Welcoming the immediate rejection of that announcement by the FARC party, as well as President Duque’s continued commitment to reintegrate most former combatants, he called for redoubled efforts to accelerate the peace accord’s implementation. “Colombians can succeed in consolidating the peace they have begun to build, especially if they are able to bridge distrust,” he said. Noting the expiration of the legal status of the territorial areas for training and reintegration, he called for greater focus on the more than 8,000 former combatants residing outside those areas. He also underlined the crucial role being played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and other institutions, calling for their adequate funding and warning against a loss of trust in the consolidation of the peace process. He expressed concern about the high numbers of attacks against social leaders, human rights defenders and others, which might lead to further tensions in the context of upcoming local and regional elections.
WU HAITAO (China) said the peace process is crucial to ensuring security and development across the wider region. Commending the progress made to date, he noted, however, that the security situation nevertheless remains fragile. Implementation of the Peace Agreement is a long-term, multidimensional process facing many challenges, he emphasized, urging the parties to “stay the course”, conduct an inclusive political dialogue, speed up social reconstruction and promote peace through development. Meanwhile, the Verification Mission should work to enhance synergies and push for more results, while fully respecting Colombia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) strongly rejected the decision by a small number of former FARC-EP members to rearm, emphasizing: “History will show how misguided this decision is.” He went on to call for the extension of State authority into conflict-affected areas, the enhancement of access to public services and the implementation of rural land reforms. He underlined the importance of ensuring the independence of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, saying all institutions tasked with implementing the Peace Agreement must receive adequate funding. He expressed concern about a recent uptick in the recruitment of children, and called for special protections for human rights defenders, former FARC-EP members, political candidates and other vulnerable groups in light of the upcoming elections.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, saying it demonstrates Colombia’s commitment to eschewing violence and ensuring peace and stability during the upcoming elections. Noting the progress achieved by various State institutions tasked with implementing the Peace Agreement, he noted that major challenges persist in that regard, leading to a climate of insecurity. He expressed particular concern about insufficient funding and scant social measures to ensure the reintegration of former combatants, while calling for the dismantling of criminal networks and thorough investigation of assassinations. He also voiced regret over the decision of some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, characterizing the move as “an unfortunate message” just weeks ahead of elections. He called upon them to recommit themselves to the Peace Agreement and urged all parties to “give peace a chance”.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) said the implementation of Colombia’s complex and multifaceted Peace Agreement is a demanding task that may sometimes generate disaffection and mistrust. The recent decision by some former FARC-EP combatants to take up arms again and fight outside the provisions of the law is nevertheless unacceptable, he emphasized, praising other former guerrilla fighters who still overwhelmingly support the peace process. Much has been done to protect human rights defenders and social leaders across the country, but a significant gap remains in that regard, he said, adding that comprehensive security measures are needed without delay in areas historically affected by conflict. The full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC-EP members is crucial to establishing trust and confidence in the peace process, he said, stressing that, whereas urban reintegration is steadily gaining relevance, it remains critical to ensure that former combatants have access to housing, health care and education. Expectations are high for the elections, scheduled for 27 October, and security protections should be stepped up, he said.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) called for follow-through on commitments to rural areas and former combatants. Expressing concern over rearming by some former FARC-EP members, he said optimism has been maintained due to the evident commitment of most former combatants to the peace process. All stakeholders must continue to support Colombia’s further progress towards full implementation of the Peace Agreement, he emphasized, pledging that Indonesia stands ready to help, including by sharing best reintegration practices. “Let Colombia continue to be a success story for the Council,” he urged.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÉRE (France) affirmed the importance of the Council’s firm support for Colombia’s efforts to implement the Peace Agreement in full. The response to the announcement of a faction’s intention to rearm demonstrates the resilience of the peace process, as does the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence. Condemning recent violence, he called for full implementation of the Peace Agreement in order to build stability over the long term, emphasizing the importance of tapping into follow-up mechanisms, and of making justice mechanisms fully operational. Praising Colombia’s embrace of Venezuelan migrants, he said France will continue to provide support.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) hailed Colombia as an example of what a determined people can do to overcome violence and help the Council carry out its mandate. He encouraged all stakeholders to work together in pursuit of an inclusive consensus on moving forward. Condemning any attempts to reverse gains, he urged the international community to continue to exert pressure on those who decided to take up arms again. Expressing concern over attacks on political leaders, he urged all stakeholders to work together to prevent further violence, and to support the Government’s laudable efforts in pursuit of peace with legality.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) called upon all stakeholders in Colombia to safeguard their successes and make further headway. There is need to accelerate the reintegration process by providing full funding for projects involving ex‑combatants and further efforts by all parties to ensure peaceful and credible local elections, he said. Expressing concern over the murders of former fighters and community leaders, as well as the announcement of a faction’s intention to rearm, he called upon all stakeholders to do their part in continuing to shore up the peace process in a cooperative manner, with the welcome support of the Verification Mission and other international partners. He hailed the Mission’s projects to encourage participation by young people, as well as dialogue within communities.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the Government of Colombia’s continued efforts to reintegrate former combatants and the implementation of a “Peace and Legality” strategy for that purpose. Efforts to address the political, social and economic concerns of former FARC members are important and relate directly to rural reforms, the development of territories, transitional justice and victims’ rights. Welcoming the work of the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, he said South Africa’s own experience with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission was crucial for achieving national unity. Echoing expressions of concern about the recent decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, he called on all political parties to fully respect and remain committed to the peace accord and to continue to refrain from any actions that could undermine its implementation. He went on to voice concern about the security of all stakeholders — especially social leaders, human rights defenders, former FARC combatants and others — and underlined the need to remain cognizant of the specific threats facing female candidates in this month’s elections.
CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, welcomed the Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2487 (2019) by which it renewed the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission for another year. Noting that the Secretary-General’s report presents a balanced vision of Colombia’s progress, strong commitment to the peace process, as well as the challenges it faces, he outlined the “positive evolution” that has occurred since the election of President Duque. Describing the implementation of transformative land and territorial reforms as ambitious, he noted that many of the Government projects currently under way actually exceed the scope of the Peace Agreement. He went on to cite the expanded number of reintegration programme beneficiaries and the recent extension of monthly subsidies to former combatants, as long as they continue to adhere to the Peace Agreement. Meanwhile, the Government has identified several options for the expansion of land access reforms, he said.
The report spotlights the need for greater access to health-care services for ex-combatants, he continued, saying the issue “requires more nuance”. Indeed, many former fighters are already registered in the national health system, and many are covered by health services at the local level. The Peace Agreement cannot be fully implemented overnight, he cautioned, saying it will instead require at least 15 years. Turning to the issue of security measures for former combatants, he said protecting them is a major challenge. The Government is working to reduce threats and crimes, including homicide, and is advancing related investigations through its Special Prosecutor’s Office, he reported.
Rejecting all attacks and killings — including the murder of former combatants — he noted that intensified competition for control over illicit activities like drug trafficking and illegal mining are major drivers of such violence. The Government is working to address such matters, he said. Spotlighting the Government’s rapid condemnation of the decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, he pointed out that it was echoed by the FARC party. The move was a flagrant violation of the peace accord, he said, adding that it also revealed strong support for the Peace Agreement from more than 90 per cent of former combatants. They stand committed to reintegration and reconciliation with the Colombian people, he said, vowing to “bring down the full weight of the law” on spoilers. “Colombia will not flag in its determination to build peace.”