October 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 October 2022
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AMERICAS

Colombia

Expected Council Action

In October, 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 September.

The Council is also expected to renew the verification mission’s mandate ahead of its 31 October expiry.

Key Recent Developments

Since assuming office on 7 August, the administration of Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president, has been taking steps to advance its new approach to various issues, including the pursuit of peace in the country. Petro has promoted his vision of a “total peace”, vowing 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), while seeking to expand dialogue with armed groups that still operate in the country.

The new administration has begun implementing new policies regarding aspects of the 2016 peace agreement, including those relating to security guarantees. Petro has promised to tackle the persistent violence in conflict-affected regions in the country, including by increasing state presence in these locations. To that end, the government took steps to promote an emergency protection plan for human rights defenders and former combatants, which was presented to Petro by civil society organisations and members of Colombia’s congress in August. The plan, developed with support from the UN, proposes the establishment of “command posts”—inter-institutional mechanisms to coordinate preventive responses with the participation of state entities, local authorities and civil society, and accompanied by international actors—prioritising 65 municipalities in 14 conflict-affected departments. To date, the government has installed 14 “command posts” in ten departments, including the Chocó and Nariño departments, which have long experienced heightened levels of violence.

The Secretary-General’s report, which covers the period 28 June to 26 September, describes developments during the last month of the Iván Duque administration and the first two months of the Petro administration. As such, it is still too early to determine the effects of the new security policies. During this period, 15 former FARC-EP combatants were killed, bringing to 342 the number of ex-combatants killed since the signing of the peace agreement. Eleven former combatants were killed in July alone, making it the deadliest month for ex-combatants since 2019. In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented 39 large-scale killings (12 verified, 26 under verification and one inconclusive). OHCHR received allegations of 45 homicides against human rights defenders, of which eight are verified, 27 are under verification and ten are inconclusive.

The new administration has also pledged progress on the gender and ethnic chapters of the 2016 agreement, which has been slow. Among other things, Petro announced the creation of a Ministry of Equality, under the leadership of Vice President Francia Márquez, to address issues related to gender, ethnic communities, youth, and children. He also appointed Clemencia Carabalí—a defender of women’s, ethnic and territorial rights who briefed the Security Council on 14 July 2020 as a civil society representative—as Presidential Counsellor for Women’s Equality. The president has also appointed several Afro-Colombian and indigenous men and women to key positions, including Colombia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Leonor Zalabata.

The Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition—which is comprised of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the Truth Commission and the Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing—continued to advance its work in the past several months. In an important development, the SJP opened three new cases in response to victims’ requests: one on war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the former FARC-EP; another on war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the public security forces and other state agents in association with paramilitary groups; and a third on crimes against ethnic communities and their territories allegedly perpetrated by former FARC-EP members, public security forces, state agents and third parties. The SJP announced that it will open another case addressing crimes related to gender-based and sexual violence—a move long advocated by victims’ and women’s organisations.

National and international interlocutors have welcomed the early steps taken by the government, while emphasising the importance of maintaining the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement at the forefront of its pursuit of peace. In a 14 September tweet, Rodrigo Londoño, president of the “Comunes” party, which is comprised of former members of the FARC-EP, welcomed some of the steps taken by Petro, while urging the government to take further measures to invigorate the implementation of the agreement, including by convening the National Commission on Security Guarantees and the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI).

As part of the promotion of the “total peace” policy, the government has taken steps to advance negotiations with the armed group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). The group has expressed its willingness to engage in this regard, 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 former President Duque assumed office. In August, representatives of the Petro administration held a preliminary meeting in Cuba with ELN representatives, which was also attended by Ruiz Massieu, representatives of Colombia’s Catholic church and Norway. Following the meeting, the government undertook several legal and political steps necessary for the resumption of talks, including suspending arrest warrants and extradition orders against members of the ELN delegation. At the time of writing, it was unclear when the formal negotiations with the ELN would commence.

The Petro administration has also contacted other armed groups operating in the country to discuss the possibility of reaching justice agreements through which illegal actors cease violence in exchange for legal benefits. On 28 September, the Petro administration announced that at least ten armed groups—including the Clan del Golfo (also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia) and some dissident groups of the former FARC-EP—have agreed to participate in unilateral ceasefires. The government has called on these armed groups to demonstrate their will for peace through concrete actions and noted that ceasefires will create an environment conducive to dialogue.

In another notable development, Colombia and Venezuela in August re-established diplomatic relations, which were severed in 2019. On 28 September, the two countries re-opened their shared border, marking the end of a seven-year border closure to cars and freight, and resumed air travel between Colombia and Venezuela. Petro views cooperation with Venezuela as a key aspect in the promotion of dialogue with the ELN, which finances its activities through drug trafficking, extortion and human smuggling in the border area between Colombia and Venezuela. Analysts estimate that the growing cooperation between the two countries might prompt Venezuela to curtail the ELN’s activities, pressuring the group to cooperate in the negotiations. Venezuela has accepted Colombia’s request to participate as a guarantor country in the negotiations with the ELN.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 4 August, a group of UN human rights experts released a joint statement highlighting the extreme risks faced by human rights defenders, including death threats, who challenge corporate activity. On 31 August, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances welcomed the 30 August declaration by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “recognising the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to examine individual complaints and interstate communications”. The declaration will allow the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals or state parties in relation to violations of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Key Issues and Options

A key priority for the Council in October is to renew the verification mission’s mandate. The Council could choose to adopt a straightforward renewal of the mandate, without altering its tasks. Members may also consider if recent developments require any alteration to the mission’s mandate, including with regard to the dialogue with the ELN. As a result of the Quito process, the Colombian government and the ELN observed a bilateral ceasefire from 1 October 2017 to 9 January 2018. The Security Council temporarily expanded the verification mission’s mandate to monitor compliance with the ceasefire through resolution 2381 of 6 October 2017. The Council may consider a similar expansion should future negotiations with the ELN produce an agreement on a ceasefire.

Colombia stands at an inflection point where the shift in government could 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 challenges and to promote the comprehensive implementation of the agreement.

Members are apparently encouraged by the new government’s expression of political will to pursue peace. They could consider issuing a press statement encouraging the incoming administration to fulfil its stated commitments regarding the implementation of the peace agreement.

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.

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. It is still early to determine how the new administration in Colombia may influence this dynamic.

Russia, which criticised the Duque administration for its unwillingness to conduct dialogue with the ELN and renew ties with Venezuela, might demonstrate a more favourable approach to the Petro administration, which has taken crucial steps on both issues.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Secretary-General’s Reports
27 September 2022S/2022/715 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Records
29 July 2022S/PV.9094 This was the Security Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, which was held on 14 July 2022.

 

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