Visiting Mission to Colombia
Expected Council Action
Council members will undertake a visiting mission to Colombia at the beginning of May. The mission is intended to demonstrate the Council’s commitment to the peace process in Colombia and to commend the parties on bringing an end to the conflict. According to the mission’s terms of reference, Council members will prioritise getting a better understanding of the aspirations and concerns of the parties and other actors, and encouraging the parties to maintain their positive cooperation and momentum in implementing the agreement.
The UK and Uruguay are co-leading the mission.
Background and Mission
Since the January 2016 request of the government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), the Council has been united in its support for the final stages of the peace process in Colombia and the implementation of key measures provided for by the peace agreement, namely the monitoring of the ceasefire and the laying down of weapons. The ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities, for which the UN Mission in Colombia constitutes the international component of the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM), continue to hold.
The visiting mission will be an opportunity to assess progress as the 180-day deadline established in the agreement for the laying down of weapons approaches (1 June). This process has faced several delays, particularly related to the transfer of FARC-EP combatants to the 26 Transitional Local Zones and Points for Normalisation. Even though the laying down of weapons has started in temporary camps, the government has committed to finalising the infrastructure of the remaining zones and points by the end of April. Briefing the Council on 5 April, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, stated that the mission has nearly completed identifying, marking and registering the weapons that FARC-EP combatants brought to the camps. The mission was expected to receive and store imminently about 1,000 weapons belonging to members of the FARC-EP who will participate in tasks related to the implementation of the peace agreement, such as participation in the MVM, training for security functions, crop substitution, humanitarian demining and peace education. The Mission has also conducted planning for the collection of weapons and the destruction of unstable armaments in a considerable number of caches spread throughout vast, difficult-to-access areas. A high-level meeting of the parties on 25-26 March in Cartagena resulted in the recommitment of the FARC-EP to move forward with the laying down of weapons in parallel with progress in improving the living conditions in the camps, and in implementing specific commitments of the government, including legal and security guarantees for FARC-EP members and plans for their socio-economic reintegration.
The human rights situation in Colombia is expected to be addressed during the visit. The UN and NGOs have condemned the recent trend of deadly attacks against community leaders and human rights defenders in rural areas. Of particular interest to Council members will be the implications of the presence of non-state armed groups (including FARC-EP dissidents, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional guerrilla, successors of former paramilitary groups, and other groups linked to organised crime) in the areas vacated by the FARC-EP.
Given the recent adoption by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict of its conclusions on Colombia, issues related to child protection are expected to be raised during the visit. As of April, 60 children arriving with the FARC-EP to the zones and points were demobilised and transported by the International Committee of the Red Cross to transitional accommodation.
During the visiting mission, Council members might be interested in other measures taken to implement the agreement that, although not the responsibility of the UN mission, frame the environment in which it operates. These include the implementation of the amnesty law, the work of the special peace jurisdiction in adjudicating crimes committed during the conflict, the operationalisation of the Truth Commission, the transformation of the FARC-EP into a political party, and assurances that the civilian population in remote areas benefits from the dividends of peace. Council members are expected to reiterate that, despite the upcoming legislative elections in May 2018, progress in the implementation of the agreement must continue.
While in Colombia, Council members are likely to be interested in discussing the sequencing for a second UN mission. In the agreement, the parties decided to ask the UN, through the General Assembly, to deploy a second political mission with a mandate to verify the reintegration of ex-combatants and their protection, including from paramilitary groups. According to the agreement, this mission, which would be deployed after the current mandate ends, would have a three-year duration.
Human Rights-Related Developments
At its 34th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia (A/HRC/34/3/Add.3). The report—which was the first by Office of the High Commissioner since the peace agreement requested it to report on the implementation of the agreement’s extensive human rights aspects—welcomed the signing of the agreement, noting that it “generally complies with the international human rights obligations of Colombia” and, if “implemented diligently,” has the potential to help the country overcome “structural human rights challenges.” In her statement introducing the report to the HRC, the Deputy High Commissioner said it was essential to ensure respect for victims’ rights, including through reparations and accountability for past human rights violations, while also highlighting concerns regarding the increase in violence in rural areas, killings of human rights defenders (with 60 killed in 2016 and a further 10 dead in 2017), as well as ongoing corruption and unequal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 September 2016 S/RES/2307||This was a resolution approving the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the size, operational aspects and mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia.|
|25 January 2016 S/RES/2261||This was a resolution establishing a political mission to monitor and verify the laying down of arms and the bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP.|
|24 March 2017 S/2017/252||This was on Colombia.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|5 April 2017 S/PV.7916||The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, briefed the Council.|