Expected Council Action
In July, 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 are expected to 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 former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), as well as the upholding of security guarantees. The implementation of the peace-related legislative agenda has been slowed down by the holding of legislative elections in March and presidential elections in May and June.
On 17 June, Iván Duque—the candidate of Centro Democrático, which has been critical of the peace agreement—won with 54 percent of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections. The other candidate, Gustavo Petro—a former member of the M-19 guerrilla group, which was demobilised in 1990—received 41.8 percent. During the campaign, Duque said he was committed not to terminate the peace agreement but to propose certain “corrections”. Areas that the new administration, which will take office in August, may aim to modify include provisions related to the reach of transitional justice, land reform and how to deal with the cultivation of coca.
Political divisions have prevented rapid approval by Congress of the procedures of the justice component of the transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP). Another controversial issue has been the April detention of one of the leaders of the FARC-EP, Seuxis Hernández (aka Jesús Santrich), on drug-trafficking charges following an indictment by the US. On 17 May, the SJP requested more information regarding the timing of the alleged crimes, which could be subject to amnesty if they took place before the signing of the agreement in December 2016. The US stated that the crimes were allegedly committed afterwards, and formally requested his extradition on 7 June.
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 the former fighters’ reincorporation into civilian life. Attacks against former members and their family members have persisted. 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. Human rights defenders have been targeted as well, with 121 killed in 2017, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia. Speaking to the Council on 17 April, Vice President Óscar Naranjo highlighted the contradiction that, although the country has achieved the lowest murder rate in 42 years, there has been an increase in the number of rural leaders killed.
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 17 April, Arnault stressed the need to prioritise the reintegration of former combatants before the end of the current government’s mandate to prevent the drift of some ex-combatants into criminal groups. In a press statement adopted later that day, Council members welcomed positive developments and expressed concern about the continued insecurity in some of the conflict-affected areas, in particular the killings of community and social leaders.
Talks between the government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) resumed in Cuba on 10 May after Ecuador refused to continue to host them after actions by another militia resulted in the kidnapping and killing of two Ecuadorian journalists in the Colombia border region. Although the ELN upheld unilateral ceasefires for the legislative and presidential elections, the parties have failed to agree to a new bilateral ceasefire, such as the temporary one from October 2017 to January 2018. During the campaign, Duque expressed the need for preconditions for the government to remain at the negotiating table with the ELN. Given the role that the UN Verification Mission played in the monitoring and verification of an earlier bilateral ceasefire with the ELN, Council members are expected to follow these negotiations closely.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 26 May statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein welcomed the signing by all five Colombian presidential candidates of The Agreement on Human Rights, in which they pledge that “there will be a special emphasis to respect, protect, and guarantee human rights.” “We believe this is the first time ever, anywhere, that every single presidential candidate has signed up to such an unequivocal formal pledge to uphold human rights”, Zeid said. The pledge, facilitated by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia, also notes the need to avoid “the assassination of leaders, rural leaders and human rights defenders”, to lead to “true political, economic and social inclusion in the country”.
Key Issues and Options
An important issue is ensuring that the peace agreement is implemented in its entirety despite the change in government. When Council members visited Colombia in May 2017, they expressed unanimous support for the agreement and during meetings with representatives of the main political parties stressed the need to ensure its irreversibility.
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 formerly occupied by the FARC-EP continue to be critical issues in ensuring successful implementation of the agreement. Once the new administration takes office, Council members could consider holding an Arria-formula meeting with government representatives and former FARC-EP members, who could brief by video teleconference, on their assessment of how the commitments made in the agreement are to be carried out in this new phase.
Council 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 as it struggles to play an effective role in several other conflict situations. However, some members have expressed concerns in private about the future of the agreement following the elections.
The current context represents a significant change in the role that the two successive UN missions have been playing since the government of Colombia requested the Council’s involvement in January 2016. The mission, with the Council’s close attention and support, could be in a position to use its leverage to sustain key provisions of the agreement in a moment of uncertainty in order to reassure Colombians about the irreversibility of the process.
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|
|19 April 2018 S/PV.8238||This was a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Colombia.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|19 April 2018 SC/13310||Council members welcomed positive developments in Colombia and expressed concern about continued insecurity in some of the conflict-affected areas, in particular the killings of community and social leaders.|