Letter dated 8 December 2017 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council with respect to the monitoring and verification of the temporary bilateral national ceasefire (S/2017/1037)

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As requested by the Security Council in its resolution 2381 (2017), I hereby provide the Council with an update on the implementation of the tasks entrusted therein to the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia with respect to the monitoring and verification of the temporary bilateral national ceasefire, in effect since 1 October 2017, between the Government of Colombia and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army).

The Mission appointed a leadership team headed by General José Mauricio Villacorta Rivas (El Salvador) to provide the international coordination of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, which includes representatives of the Government, the National Liberation Army and the Catholic Church. The national board of the Mechanism, located at the Mission’s headquarters in Bogotá, has been meeting without interruption since early October 2017 and has presented two monthly reports on its activities to the plenipotentiary negotiation teams in Quito.

The Mission, drawing on an additional 70 international observers and, where possible, available civilian staff, has deployed teams in 30 of the 33 locations deemed by the parties to be of special emphasis for the temporary ceasefire. The remaining three locations are attended to from the closest towns. It should be noted that several of the areas where the teams are deployed are exceptionally challenging, on account of both the terrain and the security situation. The latter factor is particularly relevant in areas that are disputed by several armed groups, as in the Department of Chocó.

The teams are composed mostly of one civilian and two unarmed international observers (military or police). The working conditions are generally precarious. Teams operate from hotels and have limited logistical capability. At all locations, a very good level of cooperation has been established with diocesan teams designated by the Catholic Church to assist in the work of the Mission. The teams have carried out 27 verification actions to date, and in many places their presence has had a reassuring impact on communities.

What follows is a balance of the temporary ceasefire process and the work of the Mechanism as the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army enter the third month of their temporary ceasefire, which currently runs until 9 January 2018. The results so far are positive in several respects:

(a) There have been no offensive armed clashes between the Colombian armed forces and the National Liberation Army units, or attacks perpetrated by the latter against infrastructure, in stark contrast to the situation before the ceasefire came into effect;

(b) While there have been a number of confirmed incidents involving the civilian population, communities in the areas affected by the conflict have reported a reduction in violence and an improvement in the humanitarian situation. The President of the Bishops’ Conference has confirmed in a letter addressed to the parties that the impact of the humanitarian relief expected by communities has been felt, and that the Bishops’ Conference was strongly supportive of the extension of the temporary ceasefire;

(c) The implementation of the first item on the substantive negotiating agenda, which the temporary ceasefire was meant to facilitate, has been moving forward. Public hearings aimed at defining the most appropriate methodology for a future nationwide dialogue were carried out with the participation of a broad range of social organizations. From 31 October to 16 November 2017, 192 representatives from 181 organizations participated in those hearings. The report of the hearings, prepared with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme, was delivered on 1 December 2017 to the parties, who are to decide on the modalities for the participation of citizens in the peace process. The next negotiating session is scheduled to start on 9 January 2018.