United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/988)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2435 (2018), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, and Council resolution 2366 (2017), in which it requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the mandate of the Mission every 90 days. The report covers the period from 27 September to 26 December 2019.

II. Major developments

2. On 24 November, Colombians commemorated the third anniversary of the signing of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace. In a statement on 29 November, the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization and Consolidation, Emilio Archila, recounted the progress made in the Government’s “Peace with legality” strategy and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the comprehensive implementation of the peace agreement. On the occasion of the anniversary, an act of reconciliation was carried out at the former territorial area for training and reintegration in Agua Bonita (Caquetá Department) between former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) in the process of reintegration and victims of the conflict. In a statement commemorating the anniversary, the Mission called upon Colombians to persevere in all efforts necessary to consolidate a sustainable peace and acknowledged the commitment to peace of both signatory parties to the agreement.

3. The anniversary occurred in the middle of widespread social mobilizations that began on 21 November with a national strike backed by various sectors, including student movements, unions and indigenous and Afro-descendant organizations, making a broad array of demands, including the withdrawal of proposed tax reforms, opposition to possible modifications to the pension system, the implementation of previous agreements with student groups, the protection of social leaders and former FARC-EP combatants and the comprehensive implementation of the peace agreement. The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, although there have been some incidents of vandalism, violence and confrontation between protestors and public security forces. One death was reported in Bogotá and two in Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca Department). In a statement through my spokesperson on 23 November, I acknowledged the largely peaceful spirit that had characterized the marches, welcomed the stated willingness of the Government to engage in dialogue and called upon all actors to refrain from violence, exercise maximum restraint and engage peacefully.

4. In response to these mobilizations, which have continued in various parts of the country, on 26 November, the President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, launched a national conversation with different sectors around six themes: inclusive growth, transparency and the efforts to combat corruption, education, “peace with legality”, the environment, and institutional strengthening, which was later changed to youth. The Government has stated that these conversations will continue until 15 March 2020. On 29 November, my Special Representative for Colombia and Head of Mission participated in the first meeting held within the framework of the national conversation on “peace with legality”, chaired by President Duque. He noted that the comprehensive implementation of the peace agreement was one of the demands of the mobilization and acknowledged the Government’s efforts in that regard, and noted the significant challenges that still remained in the consolidation of peace in Colombia.

5. On 28 November, the national committee established as part of the strike, members of Congress from various political parties, and civil society platforms promoting the peace process jointly issued a letter requesting the Government to create a round-table national dialogue separate from the national conversation, which would involve direct dialogue with each sector to address its specific concerns. It was proposed in the letter that the second item of the agenda for the round table be the comprehensive implementation of the peace agreement and the possibility of restarting dialogue with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

6. The elections on 27 October were the first local and departmental elections since the signing of the peace agreement and the first in which the political party Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC) and former FARC-EP members participated. There were incidents of violence and stigmatization during the campaign; however, less incidents were recorded on election day compared with previous elections (5 homicides were reported on the election day in comparison with 28 in the 2015 local elections). Voter turnout exceeded 61 per cent, as 13.1 per cent more polling stations were installed than in 2015, including in places where it was previously difficult owing to security problems associated with the conflict. These developments were widely praised as a testament to the positive effects of the peace process for democracy in Colombia.

7. On 16 October, Congress approved the general national budget for 2020. The bill presented by the Government included an annex on peace-related investments. In December, Congress approved a constitutional reform authorizing the use of resources from future royalties from hydrocarbon exploitation for investments in conflict-affected municipalities. However, opposition parties and civil society actors continue to consider that financing for the implementation of the peace agreement is still inadequate.

8. Members of Congress continued to play an important role in monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement. Members of the peace commissions of both chambers have visited communities affected by violence and former territorial areas for training and reintegration. Congress has also held hearings on the implementation of specific parts of the agreement.

9. During the reporting period, two proposed reforms related to the transitional justice aspects of the peace agreement were not approved by Congress, amid concerns by lawmakers from different parties that the reforms could have an impact on the legal security of persons covered by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. President Duque has stated that any reforms proposed by his Government will not have retroactive effect.

10. Congress has made progress in discussing a bill to extend for 10 additional years the Victims and Land Restitution Act (Act No. 1448 of 2011), due to expire in 2021. Victims’ organizations asked for this extension so that victims’ rights, including comprehensive reparations, could continue to be fulfilled. The Constitutional Court has ruled that, if no measures are taken to extend the law, it will be automatically extended until 2030. President Duque has stated that his Government supports extending the law.

11. During the reporting period, the National Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Coexistence, established under section 2 of the peace agreement, submitted to the Government its input on the development of a national public policy on peace, reconciliation, coexistence and non-stigmatization, which was prepared through a nationwide participatory process with the territorial councils for peace, reconciliation and coexistence.

12. On 6 November, the Minister of Defence, Guillermo Botero, resigned following the presentation of a motion of no-confidence in Congress and controversy over an air strike in late August against the camp of a FARC-EP dissident group in Caquetá Department that claimed the lives of several recruited children. President Duque named the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, as the new Minister of Defence, and Claudia Blum de Barberi as Minister for Foreign Affairs.