Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu on recent developments in Colombia and the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the mission.
The mandate of the Verification Mission expires on 25 September 2021.
Key Recent Developments
The final quarter of 2020 witnessed increased public discourse around the implementation of the November 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the government of Colombia and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). The persistent violence against communities, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and the killing of former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders and social leaders continues to complicate the implementation of the 2016 agreement and was highlighted on several occasions in recent months.
In late October 2020, hundreds of former FARC-EP members embarked on a march to the capital Bogotá to protest the continued violence against former combatants who have laid down their arms as part of the peace agreement. Participants in the peaceful protest, called the “pilgrimage for life and peace”, started marching from various regions in Colombia and arrived in Bogotá on 1 November. The protest was sparked by the 16 October killing, in the southern town of Mesetas in the department of Meta, of demobilised combatant Juan de Jesús Monroy, who led reintegration activities for former combatants in his region. Protesters demanded a meeting with President Iván Duque and called on the government to protect former combatants.
By 15 December 2020, the Verification Mission had documented the killing of 244 former FARC combatants since the peace agreement was signed. In his 25 September report on Colombia, the Secretary-General said that “the unrelenting violence against former combatants continues to take a toll on the reintegration process and the consolidation of peace more broadly”.
Following the protests, Duque and Emilio Archila, the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilisation and Consolidation, met with representatives from the FARC party on 6 November 2020. This marked the second time Duque met with former FARC members during his presidency, and the first such meeting held in the presidential palace. After the meeting, Archila announced that the sides had agreed to study additional measures to protect former combatants and that the government intended to deploy officials to territories where ex-combatants live to tailor better regional security arrangements. He also said that the government will speed up efforts to buy land in former territorial areas for training and reintegration (TATRs) to be allocated to former combatants, as well as build or improve housing in those areas. The Secretary-General has often emphasised that the issue of land allocation for former combatants is one of the most pressing matters for the reintegration process. In his 25 September report, he expressed hope that the government will fulfil its objective of purchasing plots of land for nine former TATRs by the end of 2020.
Duque tweeted that at the 6 November 2020 meeting, the government reiterated its will to build “peace with legality”—a term his government uses to describe its strategy with regard to the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. FARC members have continuously criticised this strategy as a narrow interpretation of the peace agreement. During the meeting, Duque also committed to personally visiting, during his term, all 20 former TATRs that he had not yet visited. On 17 December 2020, Duque visited a TATR in the municipality of Dabeiba, department of Antioquia. While there, he announced the purchase of 17 hectares of land for housing plans and productive projects to benefit former combatants and their families.
On 25 November 2020, Archila and several other government officials testified in a public hearing held by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the 2016 Peace Agreement. The SJP summoned the officials to update the court about the government’s compliance with its 30 July 2020 order calling on government officials to increase implementation of the peace agreement’s mechanisms for the protection of ex-combatants. Among other things, the SJP called for the National Commission on Security Guarantees, the body charged under the peace agreement with developing a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks, to increase the frequency of its meetings and to present guidelines and an action plan for the policy within 60 days (that is, by 30 September). Duque convened the Commission on 12 August after a long hiatus, last having done so on 9 January. At the time of writing, the National Commission had yet to present guidelines and an action plan for the policy.
At the public hearing, Archila expressed the government’s commitment to the security of former FARC members while asserting that those perpetrating most of the attacks against former combatants are members of armed criminal organisations, FARC dissidents and groups such as the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). He also detailed protection measures carried out by the government, including the deployment of members of the public security forces in and around former TATRs.
The Security Council last discussed Colombia on 14 October 2020 when it received a briefing from Ruiz Massieu. Ruiz Massieu called on actors in Colombia to use the tools contained in the 2016 agreement to address the challenges associated with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that peacebuilding and pandemic recovery efforts should be complementary and focus on increasing state presence in rural areas. Several Council members expressed support for the components of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Non-Repetition: the SJP, the Truth Commission, and the Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing. They welcomed recent high-level confessions by former FARC members regarding past crimes as a sign of progress towards achieving justice and reconciliation. In its statement, Russia requested more information from the Verification Mission on similar confessions by state participants in the conflict.
On 28 and 29 October 2020, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed conducted a virtual visit to Colombia, along with Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo. The aim of the visit was to highlight the importance of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The delegation met virtually with Duque, women human rights defenders and women leaders to discuss advances and challenges in implementing the 2016 Agreement.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 15 December 2020 statement, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned violence carried out by non-state armed groups, various criminal groups and other armed elements in Colombia targeting peasants and indigenous and Afro-Colombian people. According to the statement, up to that point in 2020, the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia had documented 66 massacres in which a total of 255 people were killed across 18 departments and had received information about the killing of 120 human rights defenders. Bachelet noted that violence has been normalised in Colombia after decades of armed conflict and called on the Colombian authorities “to take stronger and much more effective action to protect the population from this appalling and pervasive violence”.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council remains to support the implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia. The need to implement the agreement fully—as opposed to focusing only on selected aspects—continues to be a key factor for Council members.
The persistent violence in the country is a long-standing concern for the Council. This issue was addressed in numerous Council press statements calling for the National Commission on Security Guarantees to make progress in devising a plan to dismantle criminal organisations in the country. Some Council members may therefore wish to inquire about advances in this regard.
A future issue for the Council will be the possible expansion of the mandate of the Verification Mission to include monitoring compliance with the sentences handed down by the SJP. In resolution 2545, which most recently renewed the mandate of the Verification Mission, the Council expressed its readiness to consider adding this task to the mandate of the Verification Mission, based on the conclusion of an inter-institutional consultation process coordinated by the Colombian government. The resolution referenced the need to consider the issue in “a timely manner”, to reflect the view of Council members that the consultations led by the Colombian authorities should conclude within a certain timeframe to allow the mission sufficient time to prepare for undertaking a new role before the SJP begins handing down sentences. The SJP is expected to begin handing down sentences in the latter part of 2021.
On 29 November 2020, Duque announced that he had instructed Archila, Minister of Justice and Law Wilson Ruiz and the Colombian Foreign Ministry to make an official request for the expansion of the Verification Mission’s mandate to include monitoring of the SJP’s sentences. After receiving the official request from the Colombian government, the Council will need to adopt a resolution authorising the expanded mandate. Ahead of that decision, Council members may request information from the Secretariat on relevant operational issues, such as which sentences will be verified or whether the mission will require specific expertise. Members can request such information in the form of a Secretary-General’s letter, or they could convene a meeting to receive a briefing from a Secretariat official. Some Council members may suggest that the modalities of the Verification Mission’s role in monitoring compliance with SJP sentences should be articulated by taking into consideration the views of all relevant stakeholders, including the FARC party.
Council members are united in their support for the peace process in Colombia. While they have generally been deferential towards the government, some differences in tone have emerged since 2019. Some Council members have been more critical of such issues as the continued insecurity in rural areas and the government’s uneven approach to implementing various aspects of the agreement. Russia’s statement during the 14 October 2020 meeting criticised the government’s response to protests that took place in September following the death of a citizen in police custody, while alleging a “noticeable build-up of a repressive component in the actions of the authorities”.
Incoming Council member Norway has historically played a role in the peace process in Colombia, as it was invited by the FARC and the Colombian government to serve as a guarantor of the 2016 peace agreement along with Cuba. Norway and Cuba, together with the Colombian government and the FARC, participate in the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI)—the main forum for dialogue between the parties regarding the implementation of the peace agreement.
The UK is the penholder on Colombia.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 September 2020S/RES/2545||This resolution renewed the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia until 25 September 2021.|
|25 September 2020S/2020/943||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|Security Council Letters|
|16 October 2020S/2020/1023||This letter contained a record of the Council meeting on the situation in Colombia that took place on 14 October 2020.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|19 October 2020SC/14332||This was a press statement adopted by Council members in which they reiterated their unanimous support for the peace process in Colombia and reiterated the importance of the full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement.|