July 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2022
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AMERICAS

Colombia

Expected Council Action

In July, 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, dated 27 June. Francisco de Roux, the head of Colombia’s Truth Commission, and a civil society representative are also expected to brief at the meeting, which will have a transitional justice-related focus.

The verification mission’s mandate expires on 31 October.

Key Recent Developments

Several major developments have occurred in recent months in Colombia, including a significant shift in the political landscape and crucial progress on transitional justice processes. On 19 June, Gustavo Petro of the left-wing “Pacto Histórico” coalition was elected president with over 50.4 per cent of the vote, marking the first time that the country has elected a leftist president. Petro served as Bogotá’s mayor from 2014 to 2015 and was formerly a member of the guerrilla organisation “19th of April Movement” (M-19), which demobilised and became a political party in the late 1980s. Environmental activist Francia Márquez was his running mate. She will become the first Afro-Colombian woman to serve as Vice President in Colombian history. Petro and Márquez will assume office on 7 August.

The Secretary-General noted in his latest report on Colombia that the elections were held in a generally peaceful manner. He also welcomed commitments expressed by the President-elect to further the implementation 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).

Petro and Márquez’s campaign platform addressed several matters relating to the implementation of the peace agreement—which they pledged to “make…come true in its entirety”, with the help of Colombian society and the international community. The overall focus of their campaign was on socioeconomic issues such as the eradication of poverty and food insecurity, and their platform indicates a certain focus on the implementation of provisions of the agreement that can contribute to these goals, including the comprehensive rural reform and the National Crop Substitution Plan. With regard to transitional justice and security, Petro and Márquez have pledged to support the components of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-Repetition—comprised of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the Truth Commission, and the Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing—and reactivate the work 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.

During the campaign period, some civil society actors called on the candidates to include in their political agenda the holding of peace talks with the armed group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). Petro has expressed a willingness to negotiate with the ELN, with the aim of reaching a peace agreement that will draw lessons from the 2016 peace agreement with the former FARC-EP. In a 20 June statement, the ELN noted that while it “maintains its system of political and military struggle and resistance”, the group is also willing to engage with the incoming administration in peace negotiations, continuing the peace process that began with former President Juan Manuel Santos in Quito, Ecuador, in 2017. The process concluded without agreement in August 2018, when President Iván Duque assumed office. Throughout his term, Duque refused to conduct dialogue with the ELN, setting as preconditions for engagement with the group the release of all hostages and the end of ELN kidnappings and attacks.

A milestone in the peace process was reached on 28 June, when the Truth Commission issued its final report, which aims to set out the truth about the armed conflict in Colombia between 1958 and 2016. The report identifies human rights violations committed by both parties during the conflict, provides a narrative of the conflict’s lasting effects on various groups in society—including ethnic groups, children, women, and LGBTI persons—and outlines recommendations on next steps relating to national reconciliation. The commission will work on familiarising the public with the report until its mandate expires on 27 August. Following the end of the Truth Commission’s mandate, a committee is set to be established to follow up on the report’s recommendations.

In another crucial development during the reporting period, the SJP for the first time held public hearings on acknowledgement of truth and responsibility within Case 01 (on crimes committed by the FARC-EP such as hostage-taking and other serious deprivations of liberty) and Case 03 (on killings and forced disappearances presented by state agents as combat casualties, also known as “false positives”). During the hearing on Case 03, which took place in April, ten former members of the military—who had already recognised their responsibility in writing last year—listened to the accounts of 35 victims. While recognising the contribution of the indicted former members of the security forces to the truth, the victims asked for further information on the responsibility of higher-ranking officials. Over the course of three days (31 May, 2 June and 6 June), former top FARC-EP commanders listened to the accounts of 29 victims and their families, acknowledged their responsibility and asked for forgiveness. Following these hearings, the SJP is expected to determine whether the acknowledgement of responsibility and contributions to the truth by the indicted make them eligible for restorative sentences. (In accordance with the 2016 peace agreement, those who are not eligible will be subject to the Colombian penal code and may face imprisonment of up to 20 years.)

Key Issues and Options

Colombia stands at an inflection point where the shift in government and the progress on transitional justice can create both opportunities and challenges to the implementation of the 2016 agreement. An issue for the Council is to determine how it can play a constructive role in helping Colombians overcome such challenges and promoting the comprehensive implementation of the agreement.

Members can consider issuing a press statement encouraging the incoming administration to fulfil its stated commitments regarding the implementation of the peace agreement and referencing specific steps that the incoming administration could take during and after the transition period. One such recommendation—put forward by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which tracks progress in the implementation of the 2016 peace accord—is for the incoming government to create a task force to establish dialogue with the Truth Commission and jointly outline an action plan for the report’s socialisation period (that is, until 27 August) and for the committee that will follow up on the report’s recommendations. This task force could include representatives from the education, cultural and human rights sectors.

Another option for the Council is to consider a visiting mission to Colombia, where it can interact with local actors, including civil society, to hear their views about ways to overcome potential challenges to the peace agreement. Previous Council visiting missions to Colombia, which took place in May 2017 and July 2019, signalled the Council’s political support for the implementation of the agreement.

Concurrent with recent developments on transitional justice processes in the country, Council members have explored opportunities to interact informally with actors on the ground. On 27 April, Ireland, Norway and the UK organised a virtual meeting between Council experts in New York and representatives of the Truth Commission. It seems that the discussion explored ways for the Truth Commission to present its findings to the Council, among other things. Following next month’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, Ireland will convene an Arria-formula meeting on transitional justice in Colombia; this can also allow interaction between Council members, victims and civil society organisations. Members may use this opportunity to derive good practices from the case of Colombia and identify their relevance to other situations on the Council’s agenda which are undergoing transitional justice processes.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support of the peace process in Colombia. However, members’ attitudes towards the governing administration in the country have at times affected Council dynamics on the file. Russia, for example, has often rebuked the Duque government for insufficient implementation of the peace agreement and its refusal to conduct dialogue with the ELN. More recently, Duque’s public condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to Russia adopting a particularly critical tone at the Council’s 12 April meeting on Colombia, in which Duque represented his country. Following the meeting, members were not able to agree on a press statement, apparently due to objections raised by Russia. (The issuance of a press statement following the Council’s quarterly Colombia meetings has become standard practice for Council members.) It remains to be seen how the inauguration of a new administration in Colombia may influence this dynamic.

To date, Russia has been the most vocal in calling on the government to conduct dialogue with the ELN, while other Council members have rarely raised the issue in the open chamber. In light of the incoming administration’s expressed willingness to engage with the group, other members may consider referencing the issue in their public statements.

Unusually, the 12 April Council meeting did not include a civil society briefer, a choice by the UK (penholder on Colombia and the Council president in April) criticised by many Colombian actors, including civil society and members of the Comunes party (which is comprised of former FARC-EP members). At the meeting, Russia lamented the fact that civil society was not able to present its views on the implementation of the peace agreement. Mexico noted that civil society briefers had given important perspectives on the situation in Colombia at previous Council meetings. It added that “[t]he participation of civil society in all UN platforms, including the Security Council, establishes a favourable balance that cannot and should not be ignored.”

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Secretary-General’s Reports
27 June 2022S/2022/513 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 April 2022S/PV.9015 This was the Security Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, which was held on 12 April 2022.

 

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