Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, SRSG and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Security Council Meeting
20 January 2022
Thank you, Madam President,
Thank you for the opportunity to present the latest report of the Secretary-General on Colombia and to update the Council on recent developments.
I am honoured to be once again in the company of Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization and Consolidation Emilio Archila, whom I thank for his constant support to the work of the United Nations Mission.
I am also pleased to count on the presence of Luz Marina Giraldo, an outstanding leader in the reintegration process, who unfortunately lost her husband --also a former combatant-- to violence in 2019. She is an example of economic, social and political reincorporation, and her presence in the Council today is important.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
As highlighted in the report of the Secretary-General, the fifth anniversary of the Final Peace Agreement provided an opportunity to celebrate its achievements, to acknowledge the persistent challenges and to recommit to its comprehensive implementation. The visit of the Secretary-General reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to the success of the peace process, for which the support of this Council has been, clearly, instrumental.
It is important to carry this momentum forward into a key year that holds new opportunities to consolidate peace. In March, Colombians will cast their votes for a Congress that will be for the first time including representatives from the 16 special transitional electoral districts for peace. More than 400 candidates are running to make the voices of regions historically affected by poverty and conflict heard. All of them are recognized as victims of the conflict, half of them are women, and many of them are indigenous and Afro-Colombians. This is an historic opportunity, envisioned in the Agreement, that must be protected in order to widen Colombia's democracy.
While political parties and organizations move forward with their campaigns, authorities are taking steps to ensure peaceful and participatory elections. In late December, the Government informed of its strategies to ensure the security of the more than 2,800 candidates running overall in these elections, as well as the general conditions for Colombians to take part in the election. An enhanced implementation of the security guarantees provisions of the Agreement is critical for these elections, especially in regions prioritized for implementation which, regrettably, continue to be hit by violence. For example, the Comprehensive Security System for the Exercise of Politics should be put into action in order to protect parties and movements across the spectrum. Ensuring security and protection for all candidates is essential, in particular for those running for the special electoral districts that I mentioned.
We trust that all political actors will conduct their campaigns in an environment of respect. I take this opportunity to invite them, once more, to engage in initiatives promoting non-violence and non-stigmatization in the electoral process.
I am glad to report that the National Council for Peace, comprised of Government and State institutions, as well as civil society representatives, has recently launched the much-needed policy on reconciliation, coexistence and non-stigmatization provided for in the Agreement. I trust that this policy, which can contribute to non-repetition and the reconstruction of social fabric, will be adopted and implemented swiftly.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
Political reintegration is at the core of the peace process. As voters, party members, local office holders or members of Congress, men and women who have laid down their arms are now active participants of Colombian democracy. The upcoming Congressional elections will be yet another opportunity. I call on the authorities to ensure their political rights and their protection, especially in the light of persisting insecurity and stigmatization.
During the past five years, the socioeconomic reintegration of the more than 13,000 accredited former combatants has also advanced through a myriad of initiatives. With support from the private sector and the international community, Government entities have played a major role through the provision of financial and technical assistance for productive initiatives. For former combatants settled in both the original and the new reintegration areas, access to land and housing needs to be accelerated so that their efforts can prosper, including their joint work with host communities that is so important for long-term reconciliation.
We must remain vigilant and focused on the threats still facing ex combatants. While I acknowledge a reduction in the number of killings compared to the previous year, every single death is a blow to peace and every effort needs to be taken to protect every one of them. This means enhancing their individual security as well as securing in a broader sense conflict affected areas where illegal armed actors continue to take advantage of the limited presence of the State in parts of the country.
The recent transfer of the former territorial area for training and reintegration of La Macarena as a consequence of the deplorable actions of illegal armed actors, illustrates this point. Initiatives undertaken by former combatants and host communities are being targeted by illegal armed actors who view the Agreement's implementation as a threat to their illicit interests.
The goal must be to prevent the need for anyone to relocate due to violence. Nevertheless, joint efforts of the Government, former combatants, local authorities, State entities and the international community were instrumental to allow former combatants from La Macarena to finally move without more severe consequences. Such efforts will remain indispensable to guarantee that they can continue pursuing their reintegration with dignity in the new area. I trust that such collaboration will also lead to progress in the relocation of other reintegration areas facing similar risks, and that the authorities will guarantee security for the communities that are left behind.
I also call for greater support to the surviving families of the hundreds of former combatants killed. During his visit to Colombia, the Secretary-General expressed his condolences to Luz Marina, who, through her foundation "Sin Olvido", works for the rights of partners, sons and daughters of slain former FARC-EP members during their reintegration process.
Madam President, Members of the Council,
The actions of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations continue to be felt in different regions, especially in those prioritized for the implementation of the Peace Agreement. Recently, the security situation in the department of Arauca worsened significantly as a result of actions by the National Liberation Army and dissident groups of the FARC-EP, affecting local communities and former combatants residing in the area. As the case of La Macarena, this is another example of the urgency of strengthening the comprehensive presence of the State. Similarly, the approval and implementation of the long-awaited policy to dismantle illegal groups is essential.
Between yesterday and today, there were two new violent incidents. A car bomb in Arauca and an attack against a military patrol in Antioquia.
I once again condemn the actions of illegal armed actors against communities, civilian institutions and the security forces, and renew my call for the respect of humanitarian principles. Events such as the recent killing of Breiner Cucuñame, a 14-year-old environmental activist and member of the indigenous guard in Cauca, should call for collective action to stop this senseless violence. This call is particularly relevant in a year in which the country faces the challenge of holding peaceful and participatory elections. It must be stated very clearly: the spirit of the Final Peace Agreement is precisely that there can be no justification for violence in today's Colombia, nor can there be any alternative to dialogue to resolve conflicts.
2022 will also be a critical year for the transitional justice system created by the Peace Agreement. The Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing continues the overwhelming task of finding thousands of persons disappeared during the conflict, thanks mainly to information provided by actors who took part in the conflict. The Truth Commission is preparing to deliver its final report, which Colombian society can use to collectively reflect on its past and spare future generations from violence.
In turn, the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) is advancing, with a view to ensuring that victims' rights are upheld through the contributions of those who took part in the conflict.
The SJP is expected to issue its first sentences later this year. As that moment approaches, the Mission continues to prepare its verification of restorative sentences, in line with the mandate entrusted by the Security Council. I thank the SJP and the Government for their constructive cooperation to prepare for the successful implementation of this key part of the process. The backing of the Security Council for the transitional justice system remains as important as ever.
Madam President, Members of the Council,
As the Secretary-General pointed out during his visit, five years into its implementation the Peace Agreement is setting down ever deeper roots. The period ahead will be crucial for the parties and Colombian society to redouble efforts and continue following this roadmap for healing the wounds of conflict and overcoming its causes.
I thank you, Madam President.