Expected Council Action
In January 2019, the Council will receive a briefing 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 25 September 2019.
Key Recent Developments
In the last few months, the implementation of the November 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace in Colombia has been marked by a period of transition to the new administration of President Iván Duque, who took office in August 2018. Although it has largely maintained the governmental positions on issues that the mission is mandated to verify, several factors continue to have a negative impact on the implementation of the agreement.
The limited access to economic opportunities for former combatants continues to hamper the reintegration process. In a 28 September 2018 report, the Secretary-General reiterated the lessons learned until now about this process, emphasising particularly the need to connect reintegration more directly to local development, to empower local authorities, and to link up more systematically with the private sector, universities and other actors willing and able to assist with long-term reintegration.
A politically divisive issue continues to be the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the justice component of the transitional justice system. Briefing the Council on 10 October 2018, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, highlighted the sense of legal uncertainty that remains pervasive among former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), owing to the controversy surrounding the protracted political, legal and constitutional debates over the establishment of the SJP. Although an August 2018 ruling of the Constitutional Court upheld the powers of the SJP, some sectors continue to question its role. Several former FARC-EP leaders have refused to appear in front of the SJP and are currently at large. Separately, the ICC prosecutor’s 2018 report on preliminary examination activities took note of the creation of a special and differentiated procedure for state agents, which has been challenged before the Constitutional Court and which could “call into question the genuineness of the proceedings… [and] may impact on the admissibility [by the ICC] of potential cases pertaining to state agents”. The situation in Colombia has been under preliminary examination by the ICC since June 2004, focusing on alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Over the last two years, some former members of the FARC-EP, frustrated with the peace process, have decided to take up arms again. FARC-EP dissidence and other armed groups pose a growing security challenge and have a destabilising impact on rural communities. Human rights defenders and social leaders are increasingly targeted even as overall homicide rates have decreased by 40 percent in Colombia, as reported on 3 December 2018 by Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Although not incident-free, the security situation of former FARC-EP members in the territories with state-provided security measures is significantly better than that of members in other locations.
The Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) has continued targeting civilians, clashing with security forces, and carrying out attacks against infrastructure in Colombia as well as in Venezuela. Talks held with the administration of then-President Juan Manuel Santos were suspended in August, and the new administration announced that they would not be resumed until the ELN releases kidnap victims and unilaterally ceases to commit verifiable criminal acts.
On 10 December 2018, the Secretary-General appointed Carlos Ruiz Massieu as his Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. He will succeed Arnault, who had worked on the file since 2015, first as delegate of the Secretary-General to the peace talks in Havana and subsequently as head of the UN Mission in Colombia and its successor, the Verification Mission.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, visited the country from 20 November to 3 December 2018 and met with more than 200 human rights defenders, most of them women, from various regions. “Since the adoption of a peace agreement in Colombia two years ago, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of killings, threats and intimidation of human rights defenders in the country”, he said in a statement on 3 December, which presented a series of recommendations to the Colombian authorities and other actors to improve the protection of human rights defenders, including to improve their public image and to prioritise the fight against corruption and organised crime, particularly in locations governed, in practice, by armed groups.
Key Issues and Options
An important issue is ensuring that the peace agreement is implemented in its entirety under the new administration, which has already announced changes regarding agrarian reform, transitional justice mechanisms, and the cultivation of coca. Council members could follow up on the invitation conveyed by Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo in September 2018 and organise a visiting mission to Colombia to convey the Council’s unanimous support for the agreement and reassure Colombians about the irreversibility of the process.
The government’s ability to develop and finance a strategy for reintegrating former FARC-EP members into society and to provide safety and security in areas previously occupied by the FARC-EP remain critical issues in the successful implementation of the agreement. Council members could encourage dialogue between representatives of the government and former FARC-EP to overcome the trust deficit and discuss how outstanding issues can be addressed.
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. In 2019, the Dominican Republic will succeed Bolivia in the Council as one of two Council members from Latin America and the Caribbean and will be serving along with Peru.
The UK is the penholder on Colombia.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 September 2018 S/RES/2435||This renewed the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|28 September 2018 S/2018/874||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|10 October 2018 S/PV.8368||The Council was briefed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 October 2018 SC/13538||Council members reaffirmed their commitment to working with Colombia, under the new administration, to renew momentum behind implementation of the peace agreement.|