April 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2022
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AMERICAS

Colombia

Expected Council Action

In April, the Security 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 and the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the mission, which was issued on 28 March. Colombian president Iván Duque is expected to represent Colombia at the meeting.

The verification mission’s mandate expires on 31 October.

Key Recent Developments

On 13 March, Colombia held legislative elections for both houses of Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) for 2022–2026. These were the second national elections in the country since the signing of the 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). For the first time, voters in conflict-affected areas elected representatives for the 16 “special transitional electoral districts for peace”, which were stipulated in the 2016 agreement with the aim of promoting the participation of historically excluded populations, including members of indigenous communities and representatives of victims’ and women’s organisations. Sixteen additional seats in Colombia’s House of Representatives have been designated solely for members of these groups for the 2022–2026 and 2026–2030 congressional periods.

Also on 13 March, Colombians voted in the presidential primary elections. Gustavo Petro, Federico Gutiérrez and Sergio Fajardo were elected to represent the three main political coalitions: the left-wing “Pacto Histórico”, the right-wing “Equipo por Colombia” and the centrist “Centro Esperanza”, respectively. These candidates, along with several other opponents running independently, will participate in the presidential elections on 29 May. If no candidate wins over 50 percent of votes in the first round, a second round will be held in June.

The results of the legislative elections have been contested, as reports emerged of irregularities in the voting and vote count processes, including flaws in the ballots’ design and insufficient training of vote counters. The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE)—a platform of civil society organisations that promotes the exercise of civil and political rights in Colombia—said that it has not found any evidence of election fraud but noted that the National Civil Registry and other election officials made “monumental errors”. The MOE emphasised the need to address such issues ahead of the presidential poll, warning about a possible loss of public trust in the electoral process. At the time of writing, the final results, which will determine the composition of the Congress, have yet to be announced.

Several instances of violence and intimidation against candidates from across the political spectrum were reported. According to the Secretary-General’s report, which covers the period from 28 December 2021 to 25 March, several candidates from the 16 “special transitional electoral districts for peace” withdrew from the race, citing the lack of security guarantees. Additionally, the report notes that voters in several rural areas “faced obstacles while trying to exercise their right to vote” due to the activities of illegal armed actors. Other issues arose in connection with the electoral process, including significant delays in the disbursement of public funds to candidates in the special districts for peace, which hindered their ability to conduct their campaigns in remote areas.

Violence also continued to have deleterious effects on communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders. The verification mission verified the killing of 11 ex-combatants during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, bringing to 315 the number of former FARC-EP members killed since the signing of the 2016 agreement. The report said that civilians were affected by increased levels of violence in several departments, including Arauca, Chocó and Putumayo. It expressed concern about the activities of illegal armed groups in ethnic territories, which endanger indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, while emphasising the severity of the situation in the Pacific Coast. During the reporting period, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received reports of 25 large-scale killings; four of these cases were verified and had 12 victims. Additionally, the OHCHR received information about the killings of 43 human rights defenders and social leaders, including six Afro-Colombian and 13 indigenous leaders among them.

On 28 January, Colombia’s Constitutional Court announced its decision to declare an “unconstitutional state of affairs”, citing the large number of killings of former combatants since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement. The court ordered the government to implement the security guarantees stipulated in the 2016 agreement and decided to establish a special chamber within the court to monitor the government’s compliance with its order. Among other things, the court called on the government to ensure the effective functioning of the National Commission on Security Guarantees, which is charged under the peace agreement with developing a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks.

On 28 February, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the 2016 Peace Agreement, held a hearing on the National Commission on Security Guarantees. It ordered the commission to discuss and approve its internal regulations within 30 days and present an action plan for the public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups within 60 days. The National Commission on Security Guarantees met on 7 March for the first time in close to a year and unanimously adopted its internal regulations.

The Security Council last discussed the situation in Colombia on 20 January, when it was briefed by Ruiz Massieu and Luz Marina Giraldo, a signatory of the 2016 agreement and a leader promoting the rights of family members of former combatants and social leaders who were killed. Giraldo is the first former FARC-EP member to have briefed the Security Council. She called for a robust plan to facilitate the access of widows and orphaned children of ex-combatants to comprehensive social security systems and rights, higher education, healthcare, and the job market. This plan, she noted, is designed to “prevent them from falling into the trap of poverty, so that they will never be objectified or be victims of any stereotype of gender violence or discrimination”. Immediately prior to the meeting, Security Council members participated in an immersive virtual reality experience, via headsets, to learn more about the peace process from actors on the ground in Colombia.

Human Rights-Related Developments  

On 8 March, during its 49th session, the Human Rights Council received a presentation on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia (A/HRC/49/19). The report, covering 1 January to 31 December 2021, focuses on the implementation of the human rights-related aspects of the 2016 peace agreement. It also includes a list of recommendations.

Women, Peace and Security

On 20 January, the permanent representatives to the UN of Albania, Norway and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—which in December 2021 pledged to make women, peace and security (WPS) a priority of their respective presidencies—held a WPS-focused press stakeout ahead of the Council’s open briefing on Colombia. Ambassador Mona Juul (Norway) said that Norway, the UAE and Albania urge the full, equal and meaningful participation of women leaders in the implementation of the Colombian peace accord. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) said that the implementation of the agreement’s gender provisions and its ethnic chapter are essential conditions for lasting peace. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh (UAE) stressed that women former combatants’ meaningful participation in economic reintegration still faces challenges and called for further progress. Albania, Norway and the UAE were joined by Ambassador Guillermo Fernández de Soto (Colombia), who reported on the implementation of the gender aspects of the peace agreement, as well as other relevant policies and programmes.

Key Issues and Options

The comprehensive implementation of the 2016 peace agreement remains a key issue for the Council. As next month’s meeting will take place in the middle of the electoral cycle, Council members may wish to emphasise in a press statement the importance of implementing the agreement in its entirety, rather than selected aspects, regardless of the outcome of the legislative and presidential elections. This message was conveyed by several members during the 20 January Council meeting and in the 27 January press statement Council members issued following the meeting. Members may recall that in 2017, Colombia’s Constitutional Court endorsed a law which established the peace agreement as a frame of reference for the formulation of public policies and obliged civil servants to comply with the agreement for the following 12 years, irrespective of the outcome of elections.

An important related issue for the Council is how to increase the pace of the implementation of the gender-related provisions of the peace agreement and enhance women’s participation in political processes. The Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security will hold a meeting focused on Colombia ahead of the Council’s quarterly briefing. During the IEG meeting, members could develop a concrete set of recommendations on promoting such matters, including through the verification mission’s work.

Progress in transitional justice processes is another likely focus for the Council, as the Truth Commission is set to issue its final report in June, and the SJP is expected to begin handing down sentences later in 2022. Council members may wish to interact with representatives of the SJP, the Truth Commission and victims’ organisations to hear their views on ways in which the Council could further support transitional justice processes in the country. Members could either invite these representatives to brief during the Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia or hold such a discussion in an informal interactive dialogue, a closed meeting format that could allow for a frank exchange of ideas.

In recent months, several Council members initiated opportunities for diplomats, both in New York and in Bogotá, to interact informally with former FARC-EP members and Colombian civil society representatives. Council members may wish to continue holding such informal meetings to hear a broad array of voices address various aspects of the implementation of the agreement.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the peace process in Colombia. Some differences in tone exist, however, between members who are more deferential towards the government and those who emphasise the shortcomings of its approach. Russia, for example, has criticised the government for insufficient implementation of the peace agreement and its refusal to conduct dialogue with the armed group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). On the other hand, Brazil has apparently sought to highlight more positive aspects of the government’s efforts, including during the negotiations on the 27 January press statement. During the January Council meeting, Brazil emphasised the “socio-economic, geographic and logistical problems the Colombian Government faces in order to reach the totality of its territory”, while noting that it too has faced similar challenges.

The US decided to revoke its designation of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) as a terrorist organisation in November 2021. This move may affect its engagement on the Colombia file; prior to the revocation, US diplomats were apparently unable to participate in formal or informal meetings between Council members and former FARC members.

The UK is the penholder on Colombia.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Secretary-General’s Reports
28 March 2022S/2022/267 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Records
20 January 2022S/PV.8951 This was the Security Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, which was held on 20 January 2022.
Security Council Press Statements
27 January 2022SC/14781 This press statement reiterated Council members’ support for the implementation of the peace agreement.

 

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