From Words to Action: The experience of UN Special Political Missions in Colombia on Women, Peace and Security (Executive Summary)

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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The Colombian peace process and its 2016 Final Peace Agreement are widely held to be an international model for gender-sensitivity and the inclusion of women’s rights. The United Nations (UN) played an active role, along with others in the international community, first in encouraging and advising key actors to advance the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda during the peace negotiations (2012 – 2016) and then through the establishment of two consecutive special political missions (SPMs) in Colombia to verify specific provisions of the Agreement. In its efforts to implement the WPS agenda in Colombia, the UN worked in close cooperation with the authorities and former guerillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), as well as with civil society and international stakeholders.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 establishing the WPS agenda. Accordingly, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) commissioned this study to reflect on the principal ways in which, after shared efforts to support women’s participation in the peace process, its Missions have since 2016 conducted gender-sensitive monitoring and verification of the Agreement and supported implementation of the broader WPS agenda. The study identifies emerging lessons from this experience to strengthen support to women in peace processes and peace agreement implementation in Colombia and beyond.

Advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Colombia’s peace process


Peace negotiations began in Havana with almost no direct participation of women in the negotiating teams. By their conclusion, women had taken on much greater protagonism, reinforced by strong advocacy by Colombian women organizations and the support of the UN and international stakeholders. Two years into the talks, the parties agreed to include at least two women in their tenperson negotiating teams and to create a Gender Sub-Commission (GSC) which integrated language across the five substantive chapters of the Final Peace Agreement committing the parties to specific affirmative actions as well as to strong gender mainstreaming. This resulted in a peace agreement with over 130 gender and women’s rights provisions. For example, the GSC ensured that acts of genderbased violence were included in the list of actions that, if committed by either of the parties, would constitute a ceasefire violation.

The Agreement -- which includes wide-ranging provisions intended to definitively end more than five decades of armed conflict between the Colombian State and FARC-EP -- created a complex set of mechanisms to monitor and follow-up on implementation. The umbrella structure was the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Final Peace Agreement (CSIVI), with participation of the Government and FARC. Other entities, involving Colombian women’s representatives, the Government, and several international actors, were created to monitor the specific provisions on gender.

With respect to the UN verification activities that are the focus of this study, the Agreement envisioned two successive Special Political Missions: initially, for monitoring of the ceasefire and laying down of arms of the FARC-EP; and secondly, to monitor implementation of provisions on the reintegration of former combatants as well as their security and that of conflict-affected communities.