Security Council: Colombia – Colombia – ReliefWeb

Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council meeting on Colombia will be available on Thursday, 13 October.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, presented the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/715) covering the period from 28 June 2022 to 26 September 2022, saying that Colombia is experiencing a period of new expectations due to the Total Peace policy of President Gustavo Petro, which is anchored in the comprehensive implementation of the Final Agreement with the former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC‑EP). He welcomed steps taken by the Government to deepen peace through the resumption of dialogues with the National Liberation Army (ELN), and rapprochements with other armed actors, to end the multiple outbreaks of violence that continue to hit communities in various regions of the country.
It is encouraging that the new Government’s approach entails dialogue and fostering the active participation of women, in line with Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, he continued. “From Chocó to Catatumbo, from Putumayo to southern Bolivar, it is these women and their communities who confront and resist violence by armed actors fighting for territorial control,” he said. He echoed the Secretary-General’s call to such actors to respond positively to the President’s call for a ceasefire.
Turning to commitments towards peacebuilding emanating from the Final Agreement, he welcomed steps such as a bill to form an agrarian tribunal, progress on the adoption by Congress of a legal framework for the Total Peace policy, which is a fundamental step towards the protection of environmental defenders, and the granting of more resources in the 2023 budget for the implementation of the Agreement, including to undertake vital rural reforms. He went on to welcome the recent first meeting, chaired by President Petro, of the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement and the National Commission on Security Guarantees, expressing the hope that such mechanisms will help resolve the many urgent challenges facing peace implementation. He underscored the importance of appointing a new director of the Reintegration Agency, which supports more than 13,000 former combatants, and its representatives to the National Reintegration Council, so that this important forum can fully resume its work on matters ranging from gender and ethnic affairs to land and housing.
Turning to the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, he welcomed the Government’s commitment to implementing its recommendations. He also took note of the response of the Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed as Missing to calls made by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. However, he noted that during his recent visit to various regions of Colombia, representatives of those communities expressed concern about the ongoing threat posed by illegal armed actors and their frustration at unmet expectations of State services and opportunities. He welcomed the Government’s willingness to adopt a new human security approach to the deployment of State services, which will help extinguish the sparks of violence. In this regard, he welcomed the Government’s emergency plan to protect social leaders, human rights defenders and ex-combatants, as well as its decision last week to resume peace talks, which will make it possible to end a conflict that has lasted for decades.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, commended President Gustavo Petro and his Government for their commitment to the full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement and its four elements of comprehensive rural reform; political participation; solution to the illicit drugs problem; comprehensive system of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition; and mechanisms for dialogue on implementation. He also welcomed the Government’s commitment to, among other things, reducing inequality and governing with and for women. Other critical steps towards building lasting peace in Colombia included its appointing a gender parity cabinet and the creation of the Ministry of Equality to address issues related to gender, ethnic communities, youth and children. Commending the establishment of the National Youth Council in July, he encouraged further dialogue with youth in all aspects of peacebuilding.
Turning to the Verification Mission and the United Nations country team’s support to peacebuilding in Colombia, as well as the Peacebuilding Fund through the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Sustaining Peace, he stressed the need for complementarity of different strands of technical assistance and funding. Those included domestic resources, innovative financing, local-level entrepreneurship, private sector investments, and public-private sector partnerships. He also welcomed the decision by the Government and ELN to resume peace dialogues, and urged the United Nations, international and regional partners to support the process and the implementation of agreements to ensure a sustained path towards peacebuilding in Colombia.
ELIZABETH MORENO, Legal Representative of the General Community Council of San Juan, said she represents 72 communities, with around 4500 families in a territory covering over 600,000 hectares. She highlighted the physical and cultural extinction those communities faced, along with the Black, indigenous and peasant communities of the whole Pacific. A main cause of the ethnocide they face has been the systematic violation of economic cultural, social and environmental rights. The abandonment by the State has led to the destruction of one of the most biodiverse places in the world through legal and illegal extraction activities, she pointed out.
Turning to the other cause of ethnocide, she said: “The armed conflict brought war to us, to our territories. We have been massacred, displaced, confined, threatened and murdered, all to make us leave our land so that it could be occupied and exploited for specific economic interests outside our will.” The General Community Council and the indigenous communities in San Juan have been dispossessed of more than 30,000 hectares by extraction activities and foreign megaprojects. Only through total peace and all-encompassing State presence can their rights and permanent presence on the territory be guaranteed in accordance with what is autonomously established in their ethnic development plans, she stressed.
Addressing all armed actors, legal and illegal, she said: “Don’t involve us in your conflict. Please respect our decision to be neutral.” Urging an end to the violence in their lands, she drew attention to Valeria Murillo, a 10-year-old girl who was killed in January during the incursion of an illegal armed group onto the territory where she lived, and Yuver Moreno, a 12-year-old boy recruited by another armed group and who later died in a bombing by the armed forces in September 2021. Spotlighting the suffering of women, she said: “We suffer the war in our own bodies, due to sexual violence, among other forms of violence, but also because we are the mothers of the victims and the perpetrators.” Their ancestral viewpoint and the wisdom of their ethnic peoples must be included in the humanitarian dialogues for peace and environmental conservation of their territories, she said.
She called for a strengthened presence of United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations in the territories most affected by war and violence, noting that more frequent humanitarian missions will help protect the lives of the community inhabitants. She also called for a multilateral ceasefire, particularly among illegal armed actors in ethnic territories. Also needed are more resources earmarked to strengthen social organizations and human rights defenders, and support initiatives that would help support economic autonomy and combat climate change.
MICHAEL MOUSSA ADAMO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity and also for Kenya and Ghana, said the election of President Petro and Vice President Marquez testifies to Colombians’ desire for fundamental change, particularly with respect to the inclusion of those left behind. Applauding the Government’s appointment of Afro-Colombian and indigenous professionals to key public positions, he underscored the importance of addressing their needs. “All people of African descent the world over whose ancestors left our shore in duress or in search of opportunity are our kin. We care for the fates they have met, and we will do the utmost to encourage all states and institutions to treat them with dignity and fairness,” he said.
He went on to stress the need to implement the Ethnic Chapter of the Final Peace Agreement, noting that a lack of progress in this regard, and in the economic and political empowerment of those most vulnerable, was an early warning sign of future conflicts. He also expressed regret that the level of compliance with the Ethnic Chapter has been low, and condemned any attacks directed at Government security forces. He went on to express concern with the recent attack in Huila department in which seven police officers were killed.
ANNIKEN HUITFELDT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, commended the Government of Colombia for moving quickly to re-engage with ELN. “Total peace” is a tall order, she noted, adding that it will be complicated and it will take time. Further, she stressed, land reform and access to land were key to a peaceful and prosperous Colombia. While the Government is working hard to find just and sustainable solutions to the root causes of the conflict, international support has proven to be essential for the implementation of the agreement. In this context, she highlighted the special role of the United States in the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the accord. She also commended the Government for convening the National Commission for Security Guarantees which had the potential to address the root causes of violence. This would in turn improve security conditions for human rights defenders and former combatants. “This is vital, given the dire security situation of these groups. More than 340 former FARC-EP soldiers to the Peace Agreement have lost their lives since 2016. This cannot continue,” she stressed. A specific focus on the challenges faced by women human rights defenders is also needed, she underscored.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) described the resumption of the dialogue between the Government of Colombia and ELN as a fundamental step forward towards lasting peace. Welcoming the total peace initiative — founded on the pillars of truth, justice, and reparations — he cited the comprehensive implementation of the final agreement as an opportunity to address historic inequalities and structural factors that explain the persistence of violence in Colombia. The reactivation of the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement represents a concrete step on the path towards lasting peace. On enhancing peacebuilding, he pointed to efforts made by local authorities, representatives of civil society, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. He also recognized commitments made by the new Colombian Government to push forward progress on the final agreement and strengthen development programmes, in particular the determination to involve communities as primary stakeholders in implementing the programme to substitute crops used for illegal purposes.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), welcoming the renewed momentum for peace in Colombia, commended the Government’s focus on vital rural reforms including the intention to accelerate the titling and purchase of land. He urged the Government to keep the emphasis on the comprehensive implementation of the agreement, despite the challenges. Voicing concern about the ongoing threats and violence faced by former combatants and human rights defenders, he welcomed the swift action taken by the Government to set up 14 command posts as recommended by the Emergency Protection Plan. However, there may be the need for further security initiatives. He encouraged further progress on implementing the gender and ethnic provisions of the agreement including on land ownership. Noting the complexity of the country’s instability, he also welcomed the progress made towards reinitiating talks with ELN. He also spotlighted Colombia’s commitment to reinforce international cooperation to tackle narco-trafficking and bring to justice those that profit from the drugs trade.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland) said the peace process in Colombia continued to provide a shining example of inclusive peace building and a comprehensive peace accord. Welcoming the new Government’s commitment to intensify implementation of the agreement, he said the true potential of the accord can only be fully realized by complete implementation, which will require greater prioritization, particularly of the rural reform and ethnic chapters. The re-establishment of peace talks between the Government and ELN, and ongoing efforts for a ceasefire with other armed groups, was potentially another transformational moment on Colombia’s path to lasting peace. Voicing support to the Colombian transitional justice system, he said the opening of three new cases at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, among other processes, individually and collectively, will have a transformative impact on the lives of victims and survivors and for true reconciliation for all Colombians. Voicing concern about the continuing levels of violence, he stressed that the protection of all who work for peace was a critical requirement for a peaceful, stable and equal future.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) commended the newly elected Government’s approach, which he said contrasted with that of the previous Government, which seemed to “boil down the peace process to an acquisition rather than a merger”, which harked back to the root causes of the conflict. Further, there were other issues, including a vacuum of power in some areas and a lack of agrarian reform and crop replacement. Moreover, the last four leaders worsened the security situation, such that it resembled the one that prevailed before the Peace Agreement, he said. Going forward, the current President must overcome accumulated challenges, he said, adding that the decision to prioritize the resumption of talks with ELN is heartening, as are meetings held with Cuba and Venezuela, with a view to fully ending armed hostilities and bringing about national reconciliation. On the upcoming renewal of the extension of the Verification Mission’s mandate, he said that he would be ready to support it after examining the text in detail.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France), welcoming the President of Colombia’s commitment to implement the peace agreement, said that reducing inequalities, agrarian reform, and protecting the environment, among others, are all key topics for its full implementation. Resuming negotiations with ELN is encouraging, as well as the fact that other armed groups seem to be ready to call for dialogue. Voicing concern about the level of violence in many parts of Colombia, she said that the security guarantees for human rights defenders and social leaders, as well as for former combatants, must be strengthened. The method proposed by the Colombian authorities, based on local-level dialogue, is promising, but to be effective, it must be accompanied by stronger State presence in areas historically overlooked by the agreement. To build peace, it is necessary to offer socioeconomic opportunities to those who have suffered from the conflict, she emphasized. She commended the Government’s commitment to do more in the area of land access and rural reform and welcomed the authorities’ new approach to crop substitution. The truth commission’s report marks a key step towards reconciliation, she stressed, calling on all parties to commit themselves to truth and justice efforts.
ARIAN SPASSE (Albania), expressing support for President Petro, called the peace in Colombia the result of hard work, courage and vision. To deepen the accomplishment of the peace agreement, dialogue and reconciliation with all political forces needed to be reinforced, including with marginalized ethnic groups and the civil society. The peaceful electoral process was a clear demonstration that Colombian people have made the choice of implementing the agreement and consolidating their democracy, he asserted. Achieving total peace and consolidating democracy in a country that has been ravaged by civil war for decades is not an easy task, he said, recognizing the determination shown by the Colombian leaders to move forward. Yet, challenges remain, he acknowledged, stressing the importance of improving security in conflict-affected areas. Vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians must see the benefits of the Final Peace Agreement, he noted.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said that the greater gender inclusivity as well as indigenous representation of the new Government and Parliament were a welcome development. The comprehensive implementation of the agreement’s interrelated elements represented an opportunity for the new Government to address inequalities and the underlying factors behind the persistent violence in Colombia. As the objectives of the peace agreement are ambitious, their realization will require time, he said, noting that impediments to the agreement’s implementation remained. The solution to issues such as security, rural reform, crop substitution and rehabilitation of ex-combatants, were intrinsically linked to political reforms, decentralization, extension of State authority and reconciliation. Moreover, prioritization of rural reforms, aimed at increasing employment and livelihood opportunities were fundamental to sustain peace. As well, a revised approach was needed regarding the issue of illicit drugs, both within Colombia and internationally. Noting his country’s bilateral ties with Colombia spanned more than six decades, he said those relations have deepened and diversified in areas such as space, health, science and technology and biotechnology.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said that total peace will only be possible when the presence of the Colombian State effectively reaches all corners of its territory. The persistent violence in several regions of the country required the comprehensive deployment of State capabilities and tackling of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations. Improving social policies in historically neglected areas that were affected by decades of conflict will require time and incremental work, he said, noting that his Government is willing to support initiatives aimed at promoting the economic and social development of those communities. Acknowledging the upcoming negotiation for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission, he emphasized that Colombia is on the Council’s agenda on its own initiative, having invited the 15-nation organ to play a role in the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement. Council members should not lose sight of their subsidiary role in this process, he said, stressing that broader development and security strategies are unique prerogatives for the Colombian State.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said that last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Bogotá and, at a signing ceremony, was the first international accompanier to the Ethnic Chapter of the peace accord, which recognizes that there can be no lasting peace without justice and equality. The new Congress has 16 representatives from conflict-affected areas, elected from special transitional electoral districts created the peace accord, he also noted. Further, President Petro’s full commitment to implementing the peace accord was borne out by a variety of bills introduced to advance these efforts. However, it was important that Colombia avoid backsliding on security, he said, expressing concern about several civilian massacres and police ambushes that took place since the Council’s last meeting on Colombia. Those included the killing of several members of the Awa indigenous communities in Narino and Putamayo departments, the targeting of police by drug cartels, and the killing of former combatants, which numbered 11 in July alone. Human rights defenders also continue to be targeted, with 45 homicides — including seven women — reported during the last reporting cycle between July and September.
GENG SHUANG (China), spotlighting the announcement by the Government and the National Liberation Movement to restart peace talks, voiced hope that other armed groups will return to track of peaceful dialogue as soon as possible. The peace agreement’s comprehensive implementation was key to eradicating violence and achieving peaceful development. He also underlined the need to, among others, improve security governance capabilities, foster security presence in former conflict areas where the Government lacks effective control, and crack down on violence and organized criminal activity by armed groups. Vulnerable groups, including women, children and Afro-Colombians, must be protected. Turning to the reintegration of former armed personnel, he said they must be provided with employment opportunities and technical support and training. Accelerated reform was also required in various socioeconomic fields to address poverty, social injustice and underdevelopment. Colombia cannot build peace without the support of the international community, he emphasized, expressing hope that regional countries and organizations will make greater contributions to consolidating peace and promoting economic and social development in the country.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed President Petro’s efforts to comprehensively implement the final peace agreement, as well as its commitment to important mechanisms, such as the National Commission on Security Guarantees and the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement. Also welcomed were the efforts towards inclusivity such as gender parity reforms, the new Ministry of Equality and the National Youth Council. Further, she welcomed the ongoing development of reintegration action plans and strategies across municipalities in coordination with local authorities, former combatants and communities. She pointed out that community-based coexistence and reintegration efforts remain a fundamental tool to protect the hard-won progress of former combatants and address the persistent security concerns in Colombia, including violence against community leaders. She went on to reaffirm her country’s commitment to supporting Colombia in its journey towards sustainable peace and stability, as well as its support for the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and its efforts.
ÁLVARO LEYVA DURÁN, Foreign Minister for Colombia, recalling the opening of the peace process in Havana, said: “We had every hope, and we were walking straight towards heaven”. However, as democracy sometimes follows the wrong path, Colombia saw the worst of times and experienced the winter of despair, he noted. When President Gustavo Petro was elected, he reiterated his determination to bring an end to the conflict and to guarantee a lasting peace. The President called for zero tolerance towards corruption, pledged to transition towards clean energy and protecting the Amazon while also promoting a new global approach to illicit drugs. In that regard, in the first chapter of the Havana accords, the new Government defined agrarian reform as one of its key principles. Although it had not overcome all obstacles in its first 65 days, it has stayed committed to that goal.
The Government also put forward a draft reform to achieve gender parity in the Congress and to ensure that political campaigns were funded exclusively with public funds, he continued. It presented a bill to reform the electoral code and worked to establish mechanisms for civic participation as well as safeguards for mobilization and social protests. He further underlined the need to establish a new approach towards illicit drugs, both within Colombia and internationally, adding that Colombians were sick and tired of the violence caused by the drug business. Yet, uncontrolled international demand will not allow for peace, he pointed out. Colombia was one of the most beautiful countries in the world. But because of the drug industry, “the land of yellow butterflies and magic” was intertwined with “the dances of death and horror”.
In this context, he drew attention to a global conference on drug-consuming countries to raise awareness and take effective measures to a problem that continues to destroy innocent lives, including small peasant farmers, Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples, civil society and human rights defenders. He also noted that, on the implementation of the peace agreement, the Government is focusing on educational opportunities, the rights of women, food sovereignty, and the value of justice. It is a mission not limited to resolving problems, he said, underscoring the need to focus on future generations. The Havana agreement specifically addressed the experience of ethnic people who suffered conditions of injustice due to colonialism, slavery and exclusion, as they have been dispossessed of their territory and resources. To this end, he called for full exercise of their collective rights, based on the principle of non-regression and self-determination.
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