January 2023 Monthly Forecast

AMERICAS

Colombia

Expected Council Action

In January 2023, the Security Council will hold its quarterly meeting on Colombia. The Council is also likely to vote on a draft resolution expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to verify the implementation of the chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter 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).

The verification mission’s mandate expires on 31 October 2023.

Key Recent Developments

In the last quarter of 2022, the administration of Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego continued to advance its policy of “total peace”, which entails furthering the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement alongside the promotion of dialogue with non-signatory armed groups. As part of efforts to tackle the violence in conflict-affected regions, the Colombian government has been establishing “unified command posts for life”—inter-institutional mechanisms to coordinate preventive responses that involve state entities, local authorities, and civil society. A 25 November 2022 statement by Colombia’s Ministry of Interior noted that 197 such command posts had been installed across the country. The statement also announced the establishment of the first “Unified Command Post for the Life of Women”, which is dedicated to the prevention of violence against women, in the city of Quibdó in the Chocó department, which has long experienced high levels of violence.

On 13 December 2022, Petro convened a meeting of the National Commission on Security Guarantees, which is charged under the 2016 peace agreement with developing a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks. This was the second meeting of the commission since the president assumed office in August 2022, the first having taken place on 2 October 2022. On the same day in October, Petro presided over a meeting of 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 on the implementation of the peace agreement. Since then, the CSIVI has been convoked at least four times, with the latest meeting taking place on 22 December 2022. These two mechanisms, which play an important role in advancing various aspects of the 2016 agreement, were convened infrequently during the administration of former president Iván Duque.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP)—the judicial component of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition established by the 2016 agreement—has made important progress in the last quarter of 2022. It issued its first “concluding resolutions”, which determine whether individuals implicated in crimes committed during the conflict have acknowledged their responsibility and provided the complete truth about their role. Pursuant to the 2016 agreement, those who acknowledged their crimes will carry out sentences that will be imposed by the SJP, which can include up to eight years of confinement to one municipality to carry out work that counts as reparations for victims. Those who refuse to acknowledge their responsibility are subject to the Colombian penal code and could face up to 20 years of imprisonment.

The SJP issued two separate sets of concluding resolutions in case 03 (on murders and forced disappearances misrepresented as combat casualties by state agents), regarding 11 implicated individuals and 12 other defendants, on 21 October 2022 and on 9 December 2022, respectively. On 24 November 2022, the SJP issued its first concluding resolutions in case 01 (on hostage-taking and other concurrent crimes committed by the former FARC-EP), regarding seven former members of the former FARC-EP secretariat. All the above-mentioned individuals were deemed eligible to carry out the sentences to be imposed by the SJP. The SJP has six months after the issuance of each set of concluding resolutions to issue corresponding sentences, which the accused can then appeal.

The Petro administration has also advanced negotiations with the armed group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) as part of its “total peace” policy. Between 22 November and 12 December 2022, representatives of the government and the ELN held their first round of peace talks in Caracas, Venezuela. Although this round did not yield a ceasefire agreement, the sides pledged in a communiqué issued on the last day to implement a “partial agreement for emergency care”, which will begin in January 2023 in certain areas of the western Valle del Cauca and Chocó departments. Mexico, which agreed to serve as a guarantor country, will host the next round of talks, scheduled to take place in January 2023.

The government has also contacted armed groups that, unlike the ELN, do not have a political agenda, in order to discuss possible agreements through which these illegal actors cease violence in exchange for legal benefits. In October 2022, the Colombian Catholic church brokered a truce between the Shotas and the Espartanos—two rival gangs in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura in the Valle del Cauca department—after both gangs indicated their desire to take part in the “total peace” policy. As at 7 December 2022, the city had reported more than 90 days without violent incidents. Before the truce, fighting between the two gangs reportedly led to the deaths of at least 250 people in Buenaventura in the past year and a half alone.

On 19 December 2022, the ELN announced that it will observe a unilateral ceasefire from 24 December 2022 to 2 January 2023. In a 24 December 2022 tweet, Petro said that other groups—including dissident groups of the FARC-EP and armed groups in Buenaventura—have also initiated a unilateral ceasefire until 2 January 2023. In another tweet on the same day, the president said: “[t]he armed organizations that have effectively demonstrated their willingness to de-escalate violent acts should go on to select their spokespersons for the start of peace negotiations”.

The Security Council most recently renewed the verification mission’s mandate for a period of one year through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2655 on 27 October 2022. Ahead of the mandate renewal negotiations, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán asked the Council in a 17 October 2022 letter to expand the mission’s mandate to include monitoring the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement’s chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the accord’s ethnic chapter. In resolution 2655, the Council requested the Secretary-General to submit within 45 days recommendations on the potential expansion of the mission’s mandate and expressed its intention to consider these recommendations swiftly. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 27 October 2022.)

The Secretary-General submitted his recommendations in a 9 December 2022 letter, in which he recommended that the Council authorise the expansion of the verification mission’s mandate. He emphasised that the 2016 agreement’s comprehensive rural reform and ethnic chapters are “critical to consolidating peace by addressing deep-rooted patterns of inequality and exclusion of rural regions and ethnic peoples”. The letter says that “verification capacities may require modest reinforcement” for the mission to perform the additional tasks, while noting that this would not require any change to the currently authorised strength of unarmed international observers, which totals 120.

Key Issues and Options

A key priority for the Council is to consider the verification mission’s mandate expansion. It may choose to implement the recommendations outlined in the Secretary-General’s 9 December 2022 letter. Council members might wish to interact with local actors, such as representatives of the former FARC-EP, civil society organisations, and the Special High-Level Instance for Ethnic Groups (IEANPE)—which was created by the 2016 agreement to monitor the implementation of provisions related to the ethnic chapter—to hear their views about the possible expansion of the mission’s mandate.

In the past two years, Council members have initiated fresh opportunities for diplomats to interact with former FARC-EP members and Colombian civil society representatives. Former elected members Ireland, Mexico, and Norway, which all ended their Council terms in 2022, have done so by organising virtual informal meetings for Council experts in New York and by facilitating periodic meetings at their embassies in Bogotá to discuss the findings of the Secretary-General’s quarterly Colombia reports. 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.

Several countries—including the UK, the US, and former members Ireland and Mexico—have been joining meetings of the CSIVI in Bogotá as observers. Other Council members, including the five incoming elected members (Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland), that have embassies in Colombia can request to join these meetings as observers, to gain a more in-depth understanding of outstanding issues regarding the accord’s implementation.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, visited Colombia from 5 to 7 December 2022. The Council may consider inviting Gamba to brief on her findings from the visit. This can also serve as a platform for discussion on the opportunities presented by the “total peace” policy for decreasing and preventing violations against children.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the peace process in Colombia and for the verification mission’s work. However, negotiations on resolution 2574 of 11 May 2021, which expanded the verification mission’s mandate to verify compliance with the sentences handed down by the SJP, took longer than initially expected, due to concerns raised by China about possible budgetary implications. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 10 May 2021.) It remains to be seen whether a similar dynamic will affect the upcoming negotiations on the expansion of the mission’s mandate, considering that it may require a “modest reinforcement” to the mission, as the Secretary-General has noted.

Council Members are apparently encouraged by Petro’s expression of political will and by the steps that his government has taken to promote peace. In their messages at Council meetings and in their press statements on Colombia, members may wish to emphasise the continued importance of the comprehensive implementation of the 2016 agreement, as national and international attention is increasingly focused on the new outreach efforts to non-signatory groups.

The advent of the five new elected Council members in 2023 may affect Council dynamics on Colombia. It remains to be seen if Ecuador, Mexico’s successor in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) seat, or Brazil—where a new administration will come to power in January 2023—will play an active role on the file as Mexico did during its term, when it shared the pen on several Council products on Colombia with the UK.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Security Council Resolutions
27 October 2022S/RES/2655 This resolution renewed the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia for another year, until 31 October 2023.
Secretary-General’s Reports
27 December 2022S/2022/1004 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Letters
9 December 2022S/2022/940 This letter transmitted the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding a possible expansion of the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia..
Security Council Meeting Records
12 October 2022S/PV.9151 This was a Council meeting on Colombia, which was held on 12 October 2022. It featured briefings by Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu; Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith (Bangladesh) as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission; and Elizabeth Moreno Barco, Legal Representative of the Community General Council of San Juan.