posted on Sun 12 Jan 2020 9:16 AM
Colombia: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (13 January) the Security Council will receive a briefing on Colombia from Special Representative of the Secretary-General Carlos Ruiz Massieu on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the most recent developments.

The Council renewed the mandate of the mission until 25 September 2020 with the unanimous adoption of resolution 2487 on 12 September 2019. The verification mission was established in accordance with the 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the government of Colombia and the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), in which the parties, in recognition of the importance of having an international component to the verification process, decided to ask the UN to set up a political mission. The agreement stipulated an initial three-year duration for the mission, “renewable if necessary”. The mission’s mandate consists of the verification of aspects of the peace agreement related to the political, economic and social reincorporation of the FARC-EP into civilian life; personal and collective security guarantees; and comprehensive programmes of security and protection measures for communities and organisations in conflict-affected areas.

The report, covering the period from 27 September through 26 December 2019, provides an overall picture of the complex situation in Colombia and addresses in considerable detail issues specifically related to the mission’s mandate (S/2019/988).

Members may be interested in the recent local and departmental elections on 27 October, the first since the signing of the peace agreement. The Secretary-General’s report highlights the comparatively high voter turnout and lower electoral violence as well as the increased number of polling stations, including in places where voting had not been conducted previously due to conflict-related security problems. The report also notes a recent wave of popular manifestations across the country in which, among other demands, Colombians called for full implementation of the peace agreement. The Secretary-General describes this as a sign of “a widening consensus that the positive advances brought as a result of the agreement must be preserved and that its implementation will continue to improve the country’s prospects for peace and prosperity”.

Ruiz Massieu is expected to cover the reintegration process of the former FARC-EP combatants. The report acknowledges continuing progress but also notes the uneven implementation of various reintegration-related aspects of the peace accord. In this context, the report welcomes progress made by the government and Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC)–the political party founded by the FARC-EP after the laying-down of weapons­–in elaborating jointly a “reintegration roadmap”. The adoption of this roadmap “will help to provide more clarity on matters, including education, health, the sustainability of economic reintegration, housing, community-based reintegration and psychosocial assistance”. The “reintegration roadmap” was agreed on by the government and FARC and published by the government on 27 December, one day after the cut-off point of the activities covered in the Secretary-General’s report.

The security situation is also likely to be discussed. The report raises serious concerns regarding security guarantees for former FARC-EP members as well as for communities, human rights defenders and social leaders.  The year 2019 saw the highest number of killings of former combatants since the signing of the peace agreement: 77 by the cut-off date for the report, compared with 65 in 2018 and 31 in 2017.  According to the report, “human rights defenders, social leaders and persons involved in the implementation of the peace agreement, especially in rural areas, continue to be targets of violence and intimidation by illegal armed groups, criminal organizations, drug cartels and other actors”. In addition to the former combatants, 86 social leaders and human rights defenders (12 of them women) were killed in Colombia in 2019.

The Secretary-General highlights as particularly worrying the security situation in the departments of Cauca and Chocó in the west of the country, where the presence of illegal armed groups has had “devastating consequences” for rural communities inhabited largely by indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations. Ruiz Massieu may provide more information on a concerted attack where three hundred well-armed individuals took over several Afro-Colombian communities. This took place on 31 December, after the report was published.

Members may be particularly interested in the recent violence in the Cauca department, which members of the Council visited during its July 2019 mission to Colombia. The report cites two massacres within a 36-hour period in October which claimed the lives of several members of the Nasa indigenous group, including that of indigenous leader Cristina Bautista. The report also signals as an area of serious concern Chocó, one of the poorest departments in Colombia and a strategic corridor for illicit economies and trafficking, with the isolated Afro-Colombian rural communities being especially vulnerable to attacks. In the report, the Secretary-General urges President Duque to reconvene the National Commission on Security Guarantees, the body charged under the peace agreement with the development of a public policy on the dismantling of criminal organisations and their support networks. The commission, chaired by then-President Juan Santos Calderón, met regularly in the period following the signing of the accord, but its meetings became infrequent since President Duque took office in August 2018.  After a long hiatus, it held its third meeting under Duque on 8 January.

In his conclusions, the Secretary-General underscores the interconnected nature of the provisions of the peace agreement and the importance of achieving simultaneous progress in areas such as the rural reforms, including crop substitution efforts to counter illegal economies and combat poverty and underdevelopment in the countryside, as well as political reforms aimed at more inclusive and participatory politics.

On 8 January, President Duque and Special Representative Ruiz Massieu made a joint appearance before the press at the presidential palace in Bogotá. Ruiz Massieu, while praising recent positive developments, also flagged several of the challenges highlighted in the report. Duque, among other things, stressed his appreciation for the UN Mission and in a tweet later that day announced his wish for the mission to continue throughout his term in office (which runs until 2022). Council members may be interested in some initial thoughts regarding the mission’s possible future beyond the expiry of its current mandate in September.