April 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 March 2018
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AMERICAS

Colombia

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council will receive a briefing from Special Representative Jean Arnault on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. Consultations will follow the briefing.

The mandate of the verification mission expires on 26 September 2018.

Key Recent Developments

The UN Verification Mission has continued to implement its mandate to verify the political, economic and social reintegration of the members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), as well as security guarantees. This process has been marked by the beginning of the electoral cycle, which includes holding legislative and presidential elections this year and which has affected the implementation of the peace-related legislative agenda.

Legislative elections were held on 11 March. Although no party won a majority of votes, the three most successful parties have each declared their scepticism regarding the 2016 agreement between the Government and FARC-EP. The first round of the presidential elections is expected to be held in May. However, a law endorsed by the Constitutional Court established the peace agreement as a frame of reference for the formulation of public policies and provided the obligation for civil servants to comply with the agreement for the next 12 years, irrespective of the outcome of elections.

The political party Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC), which was founded after the end of the laying-down of weapons, received only 0.22 percent of the votes for the House of Representatives and 0.34 for the Senate but was allocated five seats in each of the chambers as per the agreement. On 9 February, the FARC suspended the electoral campaign as a result of threats and attacks against its candidates and supporters. Two former FARC-EP members were killed when they were carrying out campaign activities on 16 January in Antioquia.

Fragile security conditions for former FARC-EP members outside some of the 26 territorial areas for training and reintegration continue to pose a challenge to their reincorporation into civilian life. Attacks against former members and their family members have persisted. Despite the detention of some of their senior commanders, FARC-EP dissident groups have continued attacks, including trans-border operations into Ecuador. Other armed groups that are filling the vacuum left in the large areas formerly under the influence of FARC-EP continue to be a threat to communities. On 18 February, the Colombia Offices of the High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees issued a statement expressing concerns at human rights violations, including killings and forced displacements in rural communities in Bajo Cauca (Antioquia region). Human rights defenders have been continuously targeted, and 121 of them were killed in 2017.

The socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former combatants through the establishment of productive projects and other forms of income generation continues to be a challenge. Briefing the Council on 10 January, Arnault warned of the accumulated frustration among former combatants with their reintegration process; he called for diligence in support of their reintegration and the development of communities in which they are placed.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), which is tasked with adjudicating crimes committed during the conflict, started its work on 15 March. The Constitutional Court is still reviewing an amendment to the statutory law regarding the eligibility requirements for magistrates of the SJP.

On 5 October 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2381, expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission to include participation in the monitoring and verification of a bilateral and temporary ceasefire between the government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) armed group, at the request of the parties. This mechanism was composed of representatives of the Colombian military, the ELN and the Catholic Church.

The failure of the parties to extend the ceasefire in early January led to increased attacks by the ELN, which included the killing of seven policemen on 28 January and several attacks against critical infrastructure. ELN attacks continued in February and March, although the ELN announced a unilateral ceasefire from 9 to 13 March during the holding of legislative elections. On 12 March, President Juan Manuel Santos announced the resumption of talks with the ELN in Quito, Ecuador. If the parties are able to agree to a new bilateral ceasefire, it is likely that verification tasks will fall again to the Catholic Church and the UN Verification Mission. This would most likely require additional capacities for the mission, since the 70 observers deployed with the UN mission to verify the ELN ceasefire until January have already been repatriated.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 March, the Human Rights Council considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Colombia (A/HRC/37/3/Add.3). The report, covering 1 January to 31 December 2017, presents OHCHR’s assessment of the first year of implementation of the human rights aspects of the peace agreement. It also documents increased killings of human rights defenders, including social and community leaders. Fatalities included 84 human rights defenders with leadership roles, 23 members of social and political movements, and 14 people killed during social protests in 2017. 

Key Issues and Options

An important issue is ensuring that the peace agreement is implemented in its entirety, despite the outcome of legislative and presidential elections. When Council members visited Colombia in May 2017, they met with representatives of the main political parties and expressed unanimous support for the agreement and stressed the need to ensure its irreversibility, irrespective of changes in administrations.

The government’s ability to develop a well-resourced strategy for reintegrating FARC-EP members into society, and to provide safety and security in areas formally occupied by the FARC-EP, will be critical issues in ensuring successful implementation. Once the electoral cycle is over, Council members could consider holding an Arria-formula meeting with government representatives and former FARC-EP members, who could brief by VTC on their assessment of how the commitments made in the agreement are being carried out.

Given the role that the UN Verification Mission may again be asked to play, Council members are expected to continue following the negotiations in Quito between the government and the ELN. Council members could issue a statement encouraging progress and reiterating their readiness to deploy additional observers should the parties agree to a new ceasefire.  

Council Dynamics

Members are unified in their support of the peace process in Colombia. Several members have viewed engagement in Colombia as a rare bright spot for the Council, while it struggles to play an effective role on several other agenda items. However, there are concerns about the scepticism expressed about the agreement by some political parties, and Council members recognise the need for them to stay engaged in supporting the process. The roles of the Council in sustaining key provisions of the agreement with an imminent change in government and in verifying a potential future ceasefire by the ELN constitute an opportunity for the Council to have an important impact in preserving a peace process to which it only contributed marginally in its final stage.

The UK is the penholder on Colombia.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Security Council Resolutions
5 October 2017 S/RES/2381 This was a resolution expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
10 July 2017 S/RES/2366 This was the resolution establishing the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, a successor mission to the UN Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Record
10 January 2018 S/PV.8154 This was a briefing on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia from Special Representative Jean Arnault focusing on the Secretary-General’s recent report on Colombia.
Security Council Press Statement
10 January 2018 SC/13160 This was a press statement in which the Council urged “continued momentum towards full implementation of the peace agreement” with the FARC-EP and hoped that the Colombian government and the ELN would “resume work to agree to a renewal and strengthening of the ceasefire”.