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, which covers the period from 27 June to 26 September. The chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Ambassador Ivan Šimonović (Croatia), and a civil society representative may also brief the Council.
The Council is expected to renew the verification mission’s mandate ahead of its 31 October expiry.
Key Recent Developments
Over one year has passed since President Gustavo Petro Urrego assumed office on 7 August 2022. During that period, his administration’s pursuit of “total peace”—which entails promotion of dialogue with armed groups operating in the country, as well as the implementation of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace signed in 2016 between the government of Colombia and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP)—has produced mixed results. Progress has been made in dialogue efforts with armed groups, particularly with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), and in advancing certain aspects of the 2016 peace agreement, including rural reform and transitional justice. However, some Colombian actors have continued calling on the government to further prioritise implementation of the 2016 agreement, including provisions on security guarantees for former combatants as well as its gender and ethnic chapters.
During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, pervasive violence continued to affect communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders. The verification mission verified the killing of 15 ex-combatants, compared to 12 killed during the previous reporting period. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the Special Investigation Unit of the Office of the Attorney-General reported three new convictions in cases related to attacks against former combatants, for a total of 70 convictions—less than 15 percent—in the 475 such cases that are under the office’s investigation. On two occasions during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, ex-combatants and members of the Comunes party, which is comprised of former members of the FARC-EP, demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Interior and the Office of the Attorney-General, calling on the government to provide security guarantees and accountability for attacks against signatories of the 2016 accord.
In a notable development, on 7 September, the National Commission on Security Guarantees (NCSG), a body established by the 2016 agreement, presented a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks and an action plan for its implementation. In the past several years, many national and international interlocutors—including Security Council members in their press statements on Colombia—have called on the NCSG to present this policy, which is a key component of the 2016 agreement’s chapter on security guarantees. According to the action plan, the government will seek to promote comprehensive actions that address the multiple causes—including socioeconomic, political, ideological, and cultural—that contribute to the creation and persistence of criminal structures. The plan stipulates, among other things, the strengthening of the state’s presence in areas where institutional weakness has allowed such structures to take root.
The Secretary-General’s report emphasises that the creation of an office within the presidency dedicated to advancing implementation of the 2016 peace agreement is essential to coordinating entities and policies related to the accord’s security guarantees. More than six months since Petro announced in March his intention to establish such an office and to appoint a high-level official to oversee the implementation of the peace process with the former FARC-EP, this official has yet to be named.
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 continued to advance its work. In a notable development on Case 03 (on killings and forced disappearances presented as casualties in combat by state agents, also known as “false positives”), on 30 August, the SJP indicted one general and eight soldiers for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Antioquia department during 2002 and 2003, resulting in 130 victims of extrajudicial killings. Regarding Case 01 (on crimes committed by the FARC-EP such as hostage-taking and other serious deprivations of liberty), the SJP in July indicted ten former members of the FARC-EP central command who operated in the Tolima, Quindío, and Huila departments, charging them with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture and sexual violence. On 27 September, the SJP opened a new macro-case, Case 11, on gender-based violence.
Recent months have also witnessed progress in the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country. On 3 August, a bilateral six-month ceasefire agreed between the Colombian government and the ELN came into force. On the same day, the sides established a “National Participation Committee”, which is tasked with designing a methodology for the participation of civil society in the process.
The Security Council expanded the verification mission’s mandate to monitor and verify the implementation of the ceasefire between the government and the ELN in resolution 2694 of 2 August. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 2 August.) The Secretary-General’s report describes the mission’s new work as part of the ceasefire’s Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, noting that the parties “have successfully avoided any significant confrontation” during the reporting period.
In resolution 2694, the Council indicated its willingness to consider mandating the verification mission to monitor and verify a ceasefire with the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (EMC FARC-EP), when the Secretary-General “confirms a ceasefire including appropriate verification protocols has been reached” with the armed group. (The EMC FARC-EP mainly consists of former FARC-EP dissidents who did not sign the 2016 accord.) On 19 September, the government and the EMC FARC-EP announced their decision to install a “peace dialogue” table on 8 October. The parties also pledged to begin implementing, on that day, a ten-month bilateral, national ceasefire, committing to uphold respect for the civilian population.
Shortly after the announcement, the EMC FARC-EP carried out two separate car bomb attacks targeting police stations in the Valle del Cauca department on 20 and 22 September, which killed two civilians and injured ten people, respectively. Government officials condemned these attacks but did not indicate a change in the planned entry into force of the ceasefire on 8 October. After the 22 September attack, the EMC FARC-EP announced that it has unilaterally decided to cease its offensive actions from September 22 to 8 October.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 8 September, the international human rights expert Antonia Urrejola concluded her first visit to Colombia since her appointment on 26 July by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk. Urrejola’s mandate includes identifying and verifying the “obstacles to the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement”. At the conclusion of her visit, the expert issued a statement, referencing the exchanges she has had with senior representatives of the government, human rights defenders, members of civil society, and various UN representatives in Colombia. Urrejola said that the contents of the meetings will be the basis of her report to the Human Rights Council at its 55th session and noted her forthcoming visit to Colombia in November to continue gathering information in line with her mandate.
On 14 September, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabián Salvioli, issued a statement announcing that he would conduct an official visit to Colombia from 19 to 29 September. During his visit, Savioli inspected approaches towards “addressing the legacy of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” committed during the 50-year armed conflict and considered the measures undertaken by Colombian authorities to promote truth, justice, and reparations, among other matters.
Women, Peace and Security
On 21 August, the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) held a meeting on Colombia, at which Ruiz Massieu briefed. Among other issues, participants discussed the development of Colombia’s first National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325, women’s participation in the talks with the ELN and other armed groups, the implementation of the gender provisions of the 2016 peace agreement, and measures to address violence against women human rights defenders, social leaders, former combatants, and in public life and politics.
UN Women, as the IEG Secretariat, recommended that in the upcoming negotiations on the verification mission’s mandate renewal, the Council consider demanding the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in the implementation of the 2016 accord and in the negotiations with other armed actors in Colombia. UN Women also recommended requesting the mission to continue integrating gender as a cross-cutting issue in its planning, verification and reporting, as well as recognising the importance of ensuring adequate expertise to perform the functions added to the mandate. UN Women further recommended urging the adequate implementation of the Comprehensive Programme of Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders and integrating a gender perspective in the work of Colombia’s National Protection Unit.
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. Council members may also consider if recent developments require any alteration to the mission’s mandate, including in respect of the expected ceasefire between the government and the EMC FARC-EP. Members may also consider incorporating the recommendations presented by UN Women during the 21 August meeting of the IEG on WPS.
Another important issue for Council members is the local elections in Colombia planned for late October. Council members are likely to be watching closely preparations for these elections, set to take place on 29 October, as electoral campaign periods in Colombia have historically been characterised by heightened violence. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the verification mission received reports of several killings of members of political parties from across the spectrum, including of a woman candidate and an indigenous candidate. In the press statement that members routinely issue following their quarterly meeting on Colombia, they may wish to call for greater institutional efforts to guarantee fair and secure participation in the electoral process, particularly of women former combatants.
Council members are united in their support for the peace process in Colombia and for the verification mission’s work. Members are generally attentive to requests from the Colombian government, as reflected in the recent unanimous adoption of resolution 2694, which responded to the government’s 14 February request to the Council regarding the expansion of the verification mission’s mandate.
Although the Secretary-General in a 13 June letter presented two options for the mission’s mandate expansion—namely, a limited expansion focused only on the ELN and the EMC FARC-EP or a broader expansion incorporating all armed groups that are engaging in dialogue—the Council opted to approve only a role in verifying the ceasefire with the ELN. Some members, such as the US, apparently feel that a cautious approach is needed regarding groups characterised as criminal and advocate a case-by-case analysis of a possible UN role in such dialogue efforts. It also seems that many members felt during the negotiations that the process with the EMC FARC-EP was not yet sufficiently advanced and therefore did not want to include this aspect in the mandate expansion. Some other members, however, apparently held the view that approving a role for the mission in the dialogue efforts with the EMC FARC-EP could have been beneficial since this group often competes for the same territories as the ELN.
Additionally, China apparently raised concerns about the possible budgetary implications of increasing the mission’s observer ceiling to perform the new additional monitoring tasks. As a result, the number of approved additional observers was reduced from 70 to 68 in the course of negotiations.
The UK is the penholder on Colombia.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 August 2023S/RES/2694||This resolution expanded the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to monitor and verify the implementation of a bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) that began on 3 August 2023.|
|26 September 2023S/2023/701||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 July 2023S/PV.9374||This was the Security Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, which was held on 12 July 2023.|