Expected Council Action
In September, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which expires on 25 September.
Key Recent Developments
Council members carried out a visiting mission to Colombia on 11 to 14 July to demonstrate the Council’s support for the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and the government, as well as to gain a better grasp of the complexities in the agreement’s implementation. In Bogotá, Council members met with top government officials, the leadership of the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC) political party, parliamentarians, the UN country team, civil society and key entities involved in the implementation of the agreement.
While they were there, President Iván Duque formally requested the extension of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate for another year. Council members also went to Cauca, Colombia’s department with the highest number of killings of former combatants and social leaders, where they visited a Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration (TATR). Among the issues discussed was the need to expand a comprehensive and effective state presence, including civilian and security institutions, that can contribute to addressing the current security vacuum. The co-leads of the visit, Ambassadors Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) and Jonathan Allen (UK), briefed the Council on 19 July.
Also on 19 July, the Council received a briefing from Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, on its work. At the meeting, which was chaired by Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio, Ruiz Massieu echoed the Secretary-General’s assessment of the peace process as “mixed” and identified outstanding challenges. He emphasised both the need to increase the number of productive projects for former combatants to promote reintegration and the importance of paying attention to the specific needs of the approximately 8,000 former combatants living outside the TATRs.
Ruiz Massieu highlighted the gravity of the security situation in former conflict areas, such as Cauca, particularly for human rights defenders and social leaders, as well as former combatants. Addressing the Council, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo discussed the measures taken to prevent killings, which have decreased recently, although he acknowledged that the results are far from satisfactory. Ensuring the security of former combatants who are dispersed throughout the national territory outside the TATRs is another significant challenge, he said.
Transitional justice continues to be a polarising element of the agreement even after President Duque signed the statutory law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) on 6 June. During their visit, Council members heard concerns from the heads of the three components of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition (the SJP, the Truth Commission, and the Search Unit for Missing Persons) about a proposed 30 percent cut in their budgets as part of the government’s cost-saving measures. In a press statement adopted on 23 July, Council members stressed that the transitional justice system should be able to work “independently and autonomously, with the necessary political and financial support”.
A related issue is the case of one of the former leaders of the FARC-EP, Seuxis Pausías Hernández (aka Jesús Santrich). He was detained in 2018 on drug-trafficking charges following a federal indictment in the US, and his case was taken up by the SJP and Colombia’s Supreme Court. He was eventually released and took his seat in the House of Representatives on 11 June. While scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court as part of a preliminary investigation into his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, he decided to abandon his protection detail in late June and remains at large. In a video released on 29 August, Santrich and Iván Márquez, another former FARC-EP leader, announced a “new phase of armed struggle” in Colombia. Although several former FARC-EP leaders have decided not to honour their commitments under the agreement, during his briefing Ruiz Massieu highlighted that the great majority of former FARC-EP members, as well as the leadership of the FARC political party, remain strongly committed to the peace process.
At the meeting, Council members encouraged progress in other areas that remain critical to the implementation of the agreement, including access to land, agrarian reform and illegal crop substitution. Echoing the words of the Secretary-General, the 23 July press statement emphasised the Council’s understanding of the agreement as “an interlocking set of commitments”.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is addressing the mistrust among political actors in Colombia and ensuring that the peace agreement is fully implemented. Reducing political polarisation and insecurity is particularly important as Colombia prepares to hold local and departmental elections in October. Addressing the destabilising role of armed groups, including former FARC-EP members that have taken up arms again, is a related issue.
As Council members negotiate the renewal of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, they could start considering the prospects for sustaining the engagement of the Council beyond next year. According to the November 2016 peace agreement, the mission, which started operating in September 2017, was originally to have a duration of three years but could be extended if necessary.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are unified in their support for the peace process in Colombia, and they continue to showcase engagement in Colombia as a rare bright spot among several other conflict situations where it struggles to play an effective role.
The unity of the Council’s position on Colombia stands in sharp contrast to its divisions on Venezuela. At the 19 July meeting, the US representative highlighted Colombia’s leadership role by “recognising interim President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and by supporting more than 1.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the manmade crisis in Venezuela”. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) countered that “the resolution to Colombia’s domestic issues depends not on the situation in Venezuela, but first and foremost on Colombians themselves”.
The UK is the penholder on Colombia.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 September 2018S/RES/2435||This renewed the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|26 June 2019S/2019/530||This was the report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 July 2019S/PV.8581||The Council was briefed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu.|
|19 July 2019S/PV.8580||The co-leads of the 11-14 July visiting mission to Colombia, Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) and Jonathan Allen (UK), briefed the Council on the visit on 19 July.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|23 July 2019SC/13896||Council members adopted a press statement stressing the importance of implementing the peace agreement as an interlocking set of commitments.|