Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will receive a briefing from Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the mission; consultations are expected to follow the briefing.
The mandate of the verification mission expires on 25 September 2020.
Key Recent Developments
In resolution 2487, adopted unanimously on 12 September, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia for another year. The mission, which started its operations in September 2017, was established in accordance with the 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the government of Colombia and the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), in which the parties, recognising the importance of having an international component to the verification process, decided to request the UN to set up a political mission. The agreement stipulated an initial three-year duration for the mission, “renewable if necessary”. Resolution 2487 expressed the Council’s willingness to work with the government of Colombia to extend the mission beyond 2020, should the parties desire.
The mandate of the mission has remained unchanged since it was first elaborated in a 30 August 2017 report from the Secretary-General. It will continue to be focused on verifying aspects of the agreement related to the political, economic and social reincorporation of the FARC-EP; personal and collective security guarantees; and comprehensive programmes of security and protection measures for communities and organisations in conflict-affected areas.
On 29 August, two former leaders of the FARC-EP, Luciano Marín (known as Iván Márquez, one of the chief negotiators of the agreement) and Seuxis Pausías Hernández (known as Jesús Santrich), released a video in which they announced a “new phase of armed struggle” in Colombia. Both men had been among the ten former FARC-EP leaders who under the agreement were given parliamentary seats representing the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC), the political party founded by the FARC-EP after the laying-down of weapons. Before he could take his seat in Congress in 2018, Santrich was detained and charged with drug trafficking following a federal indictment in the US and an extradition request. After the arrest of Santrich, Márquez left Bogotá, refused to assume his position as senator, and eventually went into hiding.
Having reviewed Santrich’s case, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the agreement, decided not to authorise his extradition and ruled that he be freed, citing insufficient evidence. Santrich was released on 17 May and then re-arrested the same day based on new evidence. Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered his release on 29 May, and on 11 June, Santrich took his congressional seat. The Supreme Court, as part of its own investigation, called him to appear at a hearing on 9 July. After he failed to appear at the hearing, the Supreme Court issued a warrant for his arrest.
The two former FARC-ED leaders’ call to arms on the video caused great concern about the prospects for peace in Colombia. Since then, both the government and FARC have been adamant about their commitment to the peace process.
On 15 August, the legal status of the 24 Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATR), where former FARC-EP members were relocated with their families following the peace accord, expired. On 14 August, the government announced that there would be a two-year transition period for all 24 locations and that the government would continue to provide services such as food, health and collective security arrangements. In a move to show his ongoing support for the continuing reintegration through TATR, President Ivan Duque made a visit to the TATR of Miravalle, his fourth visit to a reintegration area. At press time, the 24 TATRs housed about 3,500 persons, with the majority of former combatants and their families, totalling nearly 9,000 persons, now living in various rural and urban settings.
Colombia is in the midst of campaigns for local elections, to be held on 27 October. Some 3,000 candidates have registered, about 300 of whom are running for FARC. This is the first time that the party’s candidates will compete in an open election. The non-governmental Electoral Observation Mission registered 54 incidents of electoral violence (seven killings, five attacks, two kidnappings and 40 threats) since the registration of candidates closed on 27 July.
Key Issues and Options
The need to implement the peace agreement fully—as opposed to focusing on only select aspects—continues to be a key issue, acknowledged by the Council in its recent statements. During the 11-14 July Council visiting mission, several Colombians stressed their concern about the government’s primary focus being on reintegration through TATR at the expense, they felt, of vigorously implementing other aspects of the agreement. An emerging concern is that the reintegration of former combatants living outside the TATRs, whose numbers are now more than double that of TATR inhabitants, does not receive a comparable level of support and attention.
An ongoing concern for the Council has been the high levels of violence, in particular in areas previously controlled by the FARC-EP where the security vacuum has remained. The local elections planned for 27 October have been an additional factor, with candidates of a range of political parties being targeted in different parts of the country.
Given the important role played by the international element of the verification process provided by the UN, the Council may decide to issue a statement condemning the violence and encouraging full implementation of the agreement, signalling its close and ongoing attention to the process.
Looking ahead, with the Verification Mission now in its third and last year of operations established through the agreement, the Council may start considering options for its engagement with Colombia beyond 2020.
Council members are united in their overall support of the peace process. The Security Council’s annual report to the General Assembly highlighted Colombia as one of the few success stories in 2018 among several highly divisive and unsolved peace and security issues, as did Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) when he introduced the report to the General Assembly on 10 September.
While Council members have generally been deferential towards the government since Colombia was first brought to the Council’s agenda in early 2016, some differences in tone emerged in 2019. Several members have been critical of the government on issues such as the SJP, the continuing security vacuum in areas from which FARC-EP withdrew under the agreement, and an uneven approach to implementing different aspects of the agreement. These differences came up during the negotiations on resolution 2487. While the process was smooth overall, there were differences on whether and how to refer to the outstanding challenges in the agreement’s implementation as well as such issues as human rights violations and high levels of violence in several parts of the country. As a compromise, the initial draft circulated by the penholder referred to concerns, including those brought to the Council’s attention during its July visiting mission. This formulation, however, was seen as too broad and silence was broken. In the final version of the resolution, the Council welcomed the opportunity to conduct its July visit to Colombia to meet with a range of actors and urged the parties to sustain progress made towards peace and to work together to address challenges.
The UK is the penholder on Colombia.
UN Documents on Colombia
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 September 2019S/RES/2487||This resolution renewed the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia until 25 September 2020.|
|26 June 2019S/2019/530||This was the report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|30 August 2017S/2017/745||This was the latest Secretary-General’s report with recommendations regarding the size, operational aspects, and mandate of 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.|