Continuing Commitment Critical to Overcoming Challenges in Colombia Peace Process, Head of United Nations Verification Mission Tells Security Council
8368TH MEETING (AM)
Return to Training, Reintegration Zones, Avoid Illegality, Permanent Representative Tells Former Rebel Fighters
Continuing commitment by the new Government of Colombia to the peace process that ended the long civil war there is critical to overcoming the formidable challenges still remaining, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the South American country told the Security Council today.
Jean Arnault, who is also the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, reported that the Government continues to advance political participation by former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) and to put in place provisions of the peace agreement, in cooperation with the Mission. However, the socioeconomic reintegration of former rebel fighters remains a complex challenge and the killing of civic leaders and activists continues.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on Colombia (document S/2018/874), he said it expresses hope that the national authorities will continue to pursue the core of the peace agenda: security, development and the rule of law in areas affected by conflict; an effective system of justice for victims; and the fulfilment of commitments to those who laid down their arms.
Since the report was released, he continued, key mechanisms for the reintegration and security of former FARC-EP members have resumed their work for the first time since the new Government was formed. Among other positive signs, he cited the participation of FARC representatives in Congress and President Iván Duqué’s efforts to build political consensus on policy issues. However, former guerrillas outside areas protected by the Government are vulnerable to violence, he noted, underlining the importance of success for security teams deployed around the country.
He went on to cite other concerns over the future of former FARC-EP combatants, including their economic integration and the legal uncertainty arising from controversies over the peace accord and the administration of transitional justice. He called for domestic and international support for mechanisms intended to help overcome both challenges.
Regarding the threats that still face civic leaders, he pointed to the tragic killing of the coordinator of a coca crop-substitution committee over the weekend, emphasizing that he fully shares the urgent need expressed by national leaders to stop such killings, and is awaiting implementation of an action plan to end such violence.
Following the briefing, Council members welcomed the progress he described, with many reiterating their hope that Colombia’s emergence from conflict will provide a model for effective Security Council support. Many speakers also praised the cooperation between the new Administration and the Verification Mission, encouraging the Government to continue implementing all provisions of the peace agreement, and the international community to continue providing support.
Council members cited priority challenges, including action on security, development, the rule of law and justice, and reparations for victims, while most also called for effective action to end the killing of civic leaders. Several speakers also prioritized eradicating illegal crops through law enforcement and crop substitution.
Members also voiced concern over the departure of several former FARC members from training and reintegration zones, emphasizing the urgent need to ensure the resumption of economic activities in affected areas on a larger scale and to strengthen security for former combatants. The need to step up efforts for the inclusion of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in the peace process.
Also taking the floor, Colombia’s Foreign Minister thanked the Council for providing support recently by extending the mandate of the Verification Force. He described the end of the conflict as an opportunity to pursue peace and development for all Colombians, and assured the Council that the Government is doing its utmost to overcome challenges in implementing the peace process. Expressing concern that ex-FARC cadres have left the peace process, he called on them to avoid a return to violence and illegality, while underlining the importance of close coordination by all stakeholders in the reintegration effort. He added that the Government is determined to combat illegal crops through security and development programmes.
Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Kingdom, Peru, France, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Poland, United States, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Russian Federation and Bolivia.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m.
JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, introduced the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2018/874), saying that since it was issued, the key mechanisms for implementation of the Peace Agreement on the reintegration and security of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) have resumed their work for the first time since the new Government took office. Noting that the Mission participates in several of those mechanisms, he welcomed the spirit of cooperation prevailing within them, saying he trusts that cooperation will continue since reintegration is a complex task.
Presenting a positive view of the current situation with regard to political participation by the FARC-EP, he said that 8 out of 10 of the group’s representatives afforded seats in Congress have assumed their responsibilities in a collegial spirt despite sharp political differences. Reporting that financial difficulties undermining FARC’s participation have been largely overcome, he welcomed the efforts of President Iván Duque Márquez to build political consensus on policy issues. On security, however, he presented a stark contrast between the situation of former guerrillas under State-provided security measures and those outside the scope of those measures. Noting that the goal of recruiting 1,200 close-protection personnel is nearing completion, he said a significant number of them are women. Furthermore, given that 74 FARC members have been killed outside the Government security areas since the signing of the peace, protection training and special teams have been brought into 18 departments in which reintegrated combatants are present, he said, emphasizing that it is imperative that such measures make a difference soon.
Economic reintegration also remained a serious concern, he said, noting that the majority of those in the reintegration process still have no clear economic prospect beyond a monthly stipend set to end by August 2019. Lessons learned in the past year include the need to connect reintegration much more directly to local development, to empower local authorities, and to link up more systematically with the private sector, universities and other actors. Since resources are critical, it is to be hoped that Congress will maintain public spending on reintegration, he said, adding that the Mission will do its utmost to support effective integration.
Legal uncertainty also remains a concern among former FARC-EP members due to the controversy surrounding the peace agreement and the debates over the creation of a special peace jurisdiction for transitional justice, he continued. Calling for strong support from State institutions and the international community for the magistrates who bear the heavy responsibility of providing truth and reparations to victims, he welcomed the recent allocation of funds to the system of court lawyers in that context, and called upon Congress to endorse the proposal to increase the budget for entities involved in transitional justice. Unfortunately, the killing of social leaders continues, he noted, recalling the murder over the weekend of the coordinator of a coca-substitution committee engaged in promoting a Government-sponsored programme engaged in the peace agreement. He stressed that he joins national leaders in expressing the urgent need to stop such killings.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) welcomed Colombia’s clear commitment to implementing the peace agreement as “an example for the rest of the world”, emphasizing the particular importance of efforts to push ahead with the successful reintegration of former FARC members. Security, development and the rule of law, as well as justice and reparations for victims, will also be crucial going forward. Expressing concern over the departure of several former FARC members from training and reintegration zones, he stressed the need to resume economic activities on a larger scale and to ensure the security of former combatants. The United Kingdom is also concerned about the expansion of illegal economic activities and attacks on former combatants and human rights defenders, he said. The Verification Mission should continue to play a critical role in building confidence between the parties and helping them to implement the peace agreement, he said, pledging his country’s support.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) hailed efforts to implement Colombia’s peace agreement on the basis of national consensus and the work of the Verification Mission, while highlighting the new Administration’s initiative to establish a pact against corruption. “We are facing a complex process,” he said, noting the many outstanding security issues, challenges in reintegrating former combatants and obstacles to the rule of law. Expressing support for the deployment of protection mechanisms to counter the presence of criminal groups in rural areas, he called for special efforts to protect women, children and other vulnerable groups. More economic resources should be devoted to reintegration, he said, calling also for enhanced efforts to create employment opportunities and pursue the strategy of crop substitution. On the rule of law, he underlined the need to ensure access to justice and reconciliation for all Colombians.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the new Colombian authorities have the obligation to continue to implement the peace agreement, including elements monitored by the Verification Mission. Underlining the importance of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace — a “pioneering measure” — and its responsibility to provide justice, verification, reparation and non-repetition, she said the instrument’s jurisdiction must be maintained and protected. Expressing concern over deteriorating security in former combat zones as well as its impact on efforts to control the coca crop, she said public services should be expanded in those areas. Meanwhile, successful implementation of the peace agreement will hinge on generating employment opportunities, which will allow former combatants to contribute to Colombia’s economic life, she added, stressing the critical importance of access to land in that regard.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) welcomed the progress made in Colombia, saying the country provides an example for the world and is a clear attestation to how a united Security Council can contribute to peace. Commending the leadership of President Duque and the FARC, he said continued engagement by all parties is now crucial, particularly in addressing the underlying causes that fuelled conflict for so long. Given the critical importance of transitional justice, the independence of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace must be respected, he said, also emphasizing the need for political reintegration to proceed. Expressing concern over the killing of human rights defenders, FARC members and others, he underscored the need to strengthen the rule of law, and urged support for Colombia’s efforts to strengthen security in conflict-affected areas. Sweden welcomes continued direct contacts among all parties and the Government, as well as initiatives to include women’s groups in the peace process, he said, affirming the importance of implementing the peace accord’s gender provisions.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) commended the Mission’s continuing hard work in helping to consolidate peace in Colombia as well as the Government’s steps taken for that purpose. All stakeholders must uphold their commitments in order for the continued success of the process, he added. Expressing concern over attempts by armed groups to take control of former FARC areas, as well as violence against social leaders and human rights defenders and the prospects for the socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC combatants, he nevertheless expressed hope that the new Administration’s efforts to fight corruption and guarantee full reintegration of the former rebels will see results. Support for the rule of law, crop substitution and rural reform, as well as security guarantees for vulnerable groups, can also secure the gains achieved thus far, he said, calling upon all parties to comply with their obligations and work for security and stability.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) welcomed the Government’s “promising” steps as embodied in the resumed work of the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Final Agreement and the National Reconciliation Council. However, she expressed concern about the insecurity and violence in some parts of Colombia, including the assassination of social leaders and human rights defenders. Emphasizing the crucial importance of full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC members, she expressed concern about the current pace of that process, especially its economic dimension, and the killings of former FARC members. Political integration remains a major bright spot in the peace agreement’s implementation, with representatives of the FARC political party now playing a vital role in the newly-sworn Congress, but 2 of its 10 seats remain open, and Poland hopes their allocation will be promptly resolved, she said. Calling upon the international community to remain closely engaged in support of implementation of the peace agreement, she said greater efforts are also needed to properly address the issue of coca cultivation, drug trafficking and the widespread insecurity linked to those activities.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said Washington, D.C., fully supports implementation of the peace agreement, noting “this is truly a time of rebirth for Colombia”. President Duque has repeatedly expressed his commitment to uniting the nation, he said, recalling also that the new President spotlighted economic growth and the provision of security and equal justice for all Colombians. Turning to the challenges posed by drug trafficking and addiction, he said Colombia was quick to respond to the calls by President Donald Trump of the United States during the Summit on the World Drug Problem, held on the margins of the recently-concluded General Assembly high-level debate. While the United States is working hard to reduce the demand for illegal drugs, Colombia is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with it to reduce the supply, he said. Calling attention to the challenges posed to Colombia by the massive influx of desperate refugees fleeing neighbouring Venezuela, he said that he agreed with President Duque’s description of that situation as a “crisis of self-determination” for the Venezuelan people. While the United States continues to provide assistance, real relief will not come to Venezuelans until the end of the President Nicolás Maduro’s regime, he emphasized.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), spotlighting the proximity of Aruba and Curaçao, two Dutch islands, to Colombia, said his country supports the latter’s peace process both politically and financially. He went on to state that the joint request by the Government of Colombia and the FARC to extend the Verification Mission’s mandate reaffirms the importance of sustained commitment to the peace agreement, underlining the importance of an inclusive approach to its implementation. The Government must engage with civil society and foster ownership of the peace process, particularly among such marginalized and vulnerable groups as Afro-Colombian communities, youth, women and the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community, he said. Emphasizing that the socioeconomic and legal reintegration of former FARC members must be another priority, he declared: “We cannot risk alienating ex-FARC combatants from the peace process.” He called upon the Government to expedite the design and implementation of a comprehensive reintegration strategy, while also expressing concern over continued high levels of insecurity and violence against former FARC combatants and human rights defenders.
PROTASIO EDU EDJANG NNAGA (Equatorial Guinea) described the progress in Colombia as a representation of the importance of the United Nations and expressed hope that President Duque will continue his efforts to implement the peace agreement, while ensuring the participation and reintegration of ex-combatants. She expressed concern over the killing of social leaders and the departure of some former combatants from the peace process. Affirming that transitional justice must be accomplished rapidly, she welcomed support for compensation to victims and other such measures. She also called for expansion of crop-substitution programmes and the inclusion of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in the peace process.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) expressed concern over gaps in the reintegration of FARC members, while welcoming efforts by the Verification Mission and the Government in that area. Kuwait is also concerned about the killing of civil society leaders and human rights defenders. Affirming that including women and young people is an important component of the peace process, he reiterated his country’s support for the peace process and encouraged the Government and FARC to implement the ceasefire agreement and work together for peace and stability.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) welcomed efforts by President Duque and the Verification Mission to consolidate peace and security in Colombia. Recognizing that integration, development and security remained challenges, China called upon all parties concerned to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation, he said. The process in Colombia is an important example of the Security Council’s work, he affirmed, pledging to work with all other members for the early realization of lasting peace and stability in the country.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) hailed Colombia’s determination to implement the peace agreement, as well as recent progress made in that regard, while also welcoming its close coordination with the Verification Mission and President Duqué’s various new peace initiatives. Calling on all parties to promote human rights and support the system of truth, justice and non-repetition, he expressed concern over persistent reports of violence, and regret that it has forced some former combatants to leave designated reintegration zones. Delays in the economic reintegration of former FARC members, as well as the activities of armed groups, are among the critical challenges requiring the Government’s urgent attention, he emphasized. Underlining the importance of enforcing the State’s presence across the national territory and providing all necessary resources, he said the Council should continue to support peacebuilding efforts in Colombia, and voiced support for the work already done in that area by the Verification Mission and others.
TAYE ATSKE SELASSIE (Ethiopia) hailed the adoption of the broad-based, seven-point “Pact for Life and for the Protection of Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders” as a milestone in addressing the main challenges hindering implementation of the peace agreement. The new Government’s commitment to bringing development, security and the rule of law to conflict-affected communities in a more coordinated and focused way is the most important decision taken to date in the task of consolidating the gains already made, he said, emphasizing that with Colombia still facing many challenges, the Council should continue to provide all needed support. Echoing concern over the recent exit of several former FARC commanders from training and reintegration zones, he stressed the need to address the factors underlying their departure as quickly as possible.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the Secretary-General’s latest report reveals “significant changes for the better” over the year since the launch of the Verification Mission. However, certain concerning trends have emerged over the last three months, he added, noting that work is still needed to create the conditions for Colombians to enjoy a stable and legal income. Urgent action is also needed to end murders and attacks on former combatants and others. Warning that some ex-FARC members – including high-ranking officials - have decided to take up arms again, he said that could jeopardize implementation of the peace agreement. Welcoming President Duqué’s commitment to the agreement’s full implementation, he emphasized that the Council invested its own authority in restoring peace in Colombia, and for that reason, the agreement is the only way forward, and all parties must recommit themselves to its implementation. The Russian Federation supports the Colombian case as a good example of cooperation between the Council and a country hosting one of its mandated peace operations, he said.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, noting that Colombia’s peace process has now entered a new phase. In the last two years, he recalled, the parties agreed to a peace accord, and thousands of former combatants laid down their arms. Today, despite several remaining challenges, the situation remains hopeful. Welcoming the appointment of Government officials charged with following up on various elements of the peace agreement’s implementation, he said the Foreign Minister’s presence in the Council today demonstrates the Government’s firm commitment in that regard. Bolivia calls upon the parties to continue to build trust, reduce fear and work together to end the activities of illegal criminal groups, he said, going on to condemn the killing of social leaders, human rights defenders and former FARC combatants. Noting that the current economic reintegration figures remain discouraging, he urged the Government to facilitate access to land ownership and other critical reform measures.
CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, thanked the Security Council for supporting his country by extending the mandate of the Verification Force. The extension lent significant support to President Duqué’s priority efforts: consolidating peace, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, and expanding social progress. Describing the end of the conflict as an opportunity to pursue peace and development for all Colombia, he said it is unfortunate that challenges facing the new Government call for adjustments and corrections on the path towards stabilization and consolidation. Measures on security are critical in that context, he said, emphasizing the Government’s great concern that certain FARC components have left the process. He called for them to return and avoid a return to violence and illegality.
Given that the reintegration process is a priority of the Government and will allow former combatants to become full, productive members of society, he said, it is crucial for all actors in that effort to be closely coordinated. There is also an urgent need to combat illegal crops, and the Government is determined to pursue it. Similarly, Colombia hopes that implementation of the National Pact on crimes committed against societal leaders will prevent the recurrence of killings such as those that occurred last weekend. He assured the Council that, in all such areas, the Government is aware of gaps in implementation of the peace agreement and is doing its utmost to overcome them. The continued support of the international community will be essential in helping to create a more just, secure, equitable and enterprising Colombia, he said.
- The 8367th Meeting was closed.
For information media. Not an official record.