Expected Council Action
Following a request by the government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), in July, the Council expects to adopt a resolution establishing a second special political mission that will be deployed in Colombia.
The mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia expires on 26 September.
Key Recent Developments
Since the January 2016 request of the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, the Council has been involved in supporting the final stages of the peace process in Colombia. The UN Mission in Colombia was established through resolution 2261 of 25 January 2016, and resolution 2307 of 13 September 2016 approved the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding the size, operational aspects, and mandate of the mission. The mission is tasked with monitoring and verifying the laying down of arms and, as the international component of the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism along with the parties, monitoring the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. In an 11 May presidential statement, upon its return from its 3-5 May visiting mission to Colombia, the Council reiterated its determination to support Colombia’s implementation of the agreement.
The 180-day deadline established by the agreement for the laying down of weapons was extended by the parties through a 29 May joint communiqué. In a press conference in La Guajira (Colombia) on 20 June, Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia, and Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, announced the beginning of the last stage of the laying down of weapons. A ceremony marking the completion of the laying down of individual weapons took place on 27 June. Most of the weapons and unstable explosive material stored in 949 caches throughout the country will be extracted and destroyed by 1 September. The joint communiqué also established that the mission will extract the containers with weapons from the temporary camps by 1 August, when these camps will become “territorial spaces for training and reintegration”. Arnault is expected to brief the Council on 30 June.
Challenges to the implementation of the agreement continue. Some of the supporters of the “no” vote in the October 2016 plebiscite have continued to criticise the agreement despite the changes made to it after the vote. This is particularly relevant given the upcoming legislative and presidential elections in 2018. Non-state armed actors, including paramilitary groups, have taken control of some of the areas vacated by the FARC-EP. A UN official was kidnapped on 3 May in Guaviare by a group of FARC-EP dissidents and at press time he had not been released. On 17 June, an unclaimed terrorist attack in Bogota killed three people.
Over the last six months, the parties have emphasised their different priorities in implementing the agreement. While FARC-EP representatives urged progress on physical protection for their members as well as guarantees of their socioeconomic and political reintegration, the government emphasised the importance of delivering on the commitment to lay down weapons and abide by the established timelines.
In the agreement, and at the request of the FARC-EP, the parties asked the UN to deploy a second, follow-on political mission with a mandate to verify the political and socioeconomic 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 duration of three years. The sequencing and mandating for a second UN mission in Colombia was raised during the May visiting mission to Colombia. Several Colombian congress people raised with Council members the importance of starting the planning now for the second mission in order to avoid any gaps in between the two mandates. The sense of urgency was also echoed by the representatives of the FARC-EP. Civil society members suggested that the successor mission should deploy a strong field presence throughout Colombia and be given a mandate to monitor the implementation of the commitments in the agreement regarding human rights and women’s participation.
Even though the agreement specifies (point 6.3.3.) that the mission is to be authorised by the UN General Assembly, the parties decided to make their request to the Security Council, as they did with the first mission. A 5 June letter from Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos to the Council conveyed the request of the parties to establish the verification mission, with a regional and local presence, by 10 July. A 23 June report of the Secretary-General stated that the current mission is in a position, if so authorised by the Council, “to initiate some tasks of the second mandate on a provisional basis, in order to satisfy the request of the parties to move forward the verification tasks to coincide with the start of the reintegration process.”
Ensuring that the agreement is implemented in full, particularly in light of the need for congressional approval of peace-related legislation, is a key issue.
Seeking to mitigate the polarised political environment in Colombia is a relevant issue for the Council, whose members have emphasised the importance of securing the gains made as part of the peace process and ensuring their irreversibility.
The volatile security situation in some areas and the high level of impunity for violence against community leaders and human rights defenders in rural areas, often related to the presence of non-state armed groups in the territories vacated by the FARC-EP, is an important issue.
The Council could adopt a resolution:
- establishing a UN verification mission in Colombia and authorising preparations for the mission to be initiated immediately;
- requesting the Secretary-General to provide recommendations regarding the mission’s functions, size, structure and operational aspects; and
- authorising, on a provisional basis, the current UN Mission in Colombia to initiate some tasks of the second mandate regarding the verification of socioeconomic and political reintegration of FARC-EP members and security guarantees for them and the communities most affected by the conflict.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Even though the Council was not involved in the process that led to the November 2016 peace agreement, it has been united in supporting the verification of key measures within the agreement. The level of participation in the 3-5 May visiting mission to Colombia (with 13 permanent representatives participating) shows the degree of support for what Council members consider a “success story”. During the visiting mission, Council members repeatedly emphasised the positive example that the Colombian peace process provides to countries around the world and indicated that the challenges it faces are common to the implementation of any peace agreement.
Following the recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations regarding the sequencing of mandates, resolution 2261 established the UN Mission in Colombia but requested the Secretary-General to present detailed recommendations regarding the size, operational aspects and mandate of the mission, including through preparations on the ground. The 23 June report recommends that the Council follows this example so that the Secretary-General can provide recommendations after an integrated planning process informed by practical experience on the ground is conducted.
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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|11 May 2017 S/PRST/2017/6||This was a presidential statement following the Council’s visiting mission to Colombia.|
|23 June 2017 S/2017/539||This was the last report on Colombia.|
|Security Council Letter|
|7 June 2017 S/2017/481||This attached a letter by President Santos regarding the second special political mission.|