posted on Thu 29 Jun 2017 5:57 PM
Colombia Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (30 June), the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia, followed by consultations.

Arnault is expected to brief Council members on the final stages of the implementation of the mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia, which ends on 26 September. The 180-day deadline established by the agreement for the laying down of weapons was briefly extended by the parties through a 29 May joint communiqué. A ceremony marking the completion of the laying down of individual weapons took place on 27 June. Most of the weapons and unstable explosive material stored in 949 caches throughout the country will be extracted and destroyed by 1 September. The joint communiqué also established that the mission will extract the containers with weapons from the temporary camps by 1 August, when these camps will become “territorial spaces for training and reintegration”. Since November 2016, the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism responsible for overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities has registered only nine serious violations of the ceasefire.

Council members are expected to ask Arnault about the challenges to the implementation of the agreement that they witnessed during the 3-5 May visiting mission to Colombia. These include political polarisation with regards to the agreement, and the threat posed by non-state armed groups taking control of some areas vacated by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). Also, Council members may be interested in learning more about the security environment in Colombia following recent incidents such as the kidnapping of a UN official on 3 May in Guaviaré by a group of FARC-EP dissidents and the 17 June terrorist attack that killed three people in Bogota.

A particular focus of the Council discussion is expected to be the preparations for the deployment of a second special political mission in Colombia. In the agreement, and at the request of the FARC-EP, the parties asked the UN to deploy a second, follow-on political mission with a mandate to verify the political and socioeconomic reintegration of ex-combatants and their protection, including from paramilitary groups. According to the agreement, this mission, which would be deployed after the current mandate ends, would have a duration of three years.

Even though the agreement specifies (point 6.3.3.) that the mission is to be authorised by the UN General Assembly, the parties decided to make their request to the UN Security Council, as they did with the first mission. A 5 June letter from Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos to the Council conveyed the request of the parties to establish the verification mission, with a regional and local presence, by 10 July. A 23 June report of the Secretary-General stated that the current mission is in a position, if so authorised by the Council, “to initiate some tasks of the second mandate on a provisional basis, in order to satisfy the request of the parties to move forward the verification tasks to coincide with the start of the reintegration process” (S/2017/539). Council members might be interested in getting some details on the kind of tasks that the current mission can already undertake within its current configuration and capacity.

Consistent with the recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations regarding two-stage mandating , resolution 2261 of 25 January 2016 established the UN Mission in Colombia but requested the Secretary-General to present detailed recommendations regarding the size, operational aspects and mandate of the mission. The UK has just circulated a draft that establishes the follow-on verification mission and requests the Secretary-General to initiate preparations for the mission, including on the ground, and to present detailed recommendations for the Council’s consideration on its size, operational aspects and mandate. Council members might be interested in discussing with Arnault the lessons learned from the integrated planning process and the work of the current mission that can be taken into account in the preparations for the follow-on mission.

The sequencing and mandating for a second UN mission in Colombia was raised during the May visiting mission to Colombia. Several Colombian congresspersons raised with Council members the importance of starting the planning now for the second mission in order to avoid any gaps in between the two mandates. The sense of urgency was also echoed by the representatives of the FARC-EP. Civil society members suggested that the successor mission should deploy a strong field presence throughout Colombia and be given a mandate to monitor the implementation of the commitments in the agreement regarding human rights and women’s participation.