January 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 January 2024
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Expected Council Action

In January 2024, 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 circulated to Council members on 26 December 2023 and covers the period from 27 September to 26 December 2023. A civil society representative may also brief.

Council members are also likely to prepare for a visiting mission to Colombia that is expected to take place in February. During a 21 December 2023 meeting under “any other business”, the UK (the penholder on Colombia) announced its intention to organise a visiting mission to the country.

The verification mission’s mandate expires on 31 October 2024.

Key Recent Developments

The last quarter of 2023 witnessed several important events in Colombia, including the seventh anniversary of 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) and the holding of the second municipal and departmental elections since the agreement’s signing. The administration of Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego also continued to advance its policy of “total peace”, which entails the promotion of dialogue with armed groups operating in the country, as well as the implementation of the 2016 accord.

Throughout the past year, pervasive violence continued to affect communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders. In a 24 November 2023 report, 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—analyses the effects of the “total peace” policy, which resulted in the observance of bilateral ceasefires between government forces and several armed groups: the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the dissident group of the former FARC-EP that identifies itself as the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (EMC FARC-EP), and a short-lived ceasefire with the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC).

The report notes that the policy has had mixed results in the first ten months of 2023. While fighting between government forces and armed groups has diminished, clashes among these groups remained at the same levels as in 2022, and increased in some areas. Although there has been a reduction in numbers of civilians killed or injured, reports of crimes linked to economic dynamics and social and territorial control—such as kidnapping, extortion, forced recruitment, and conflict-related sexual violence—have either remained the same or increased in some areas.

Insecurity facing social leaders and human rights defenders also remained a major concern in 2023. At least 163 such individuals were killed between January and November, according to Colombia’s Ombudsperson. On 12 December 2023, Colombia’s Constitutional Court declared an “unconstitutional state of affairs” after reviewing petitions submitted by several social leaders and human rights defenders. The court issued orders to government entities, calling on them, among other matters, to develop a comprehensive plan to protect these individuals and to ensure sufficient resources for its implementation.

The Secretary-General’s report says that the ongoing violence is hindering the implementation of several aspects of the 2016 accord, including rural reform, reintegration of former combatants, the ethnic chapter, and transitional justice processes. It adds that the government has approved several important security guarantee mechanisms stipulated in the 2016 agreement, such as the public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups and criminal organisations. Progress in the implementation of these mechanisms, argues the report, will be contingent on the allocation of adequate resources and upon interinstitutional coordination, including with newly elected authorities.

The SJP has continued to advance its work during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. In a 19 December 2023 interview, the SJP’s president, Judge Roberto Vidal, said that in the first quarter of 2024, the court expects to hand down the first sentences against defendants appearing before the SJP and the restorative projects that they will implement as part of their sentences.

The government has voiced criticism about the SJP’s work on several occasions in the past year, including in a 19 October 2023 letter sent to the Security Council and in statements by Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán during the quarterly Council meetings on Colombia. At the Council’s 12 July 2023 meeting, the foreign minister said that the SJP should address several matters, including to “remove obstacles” to paramilitaries gaining access to the court, the opening of a macro case on state responsibility in the armed conflict, and “improving the mechanism for selecting new magistrates to avoid the appearance of co-optation”. (In accordance with the 2016 agreement, the SJP does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by paramilitary groups.) In response to the 19 October letter, Vidal called for respect for the court’s independence and autonomy.

In a notable development, on 17 November 2023, the SJP decided to admit under its authority Salvatore Mancuso, a former commander of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), after determining that he was “functionally and materially incorporated into the public force” between 1989 and 2004. In his 19 December 2023 interview, Vidal noted that the SJP has rejected the request of 1,700 people who wanted to be received as paramilitaries in the past five years, adding that the court reviews these requests on a case-by-case basis to examine their connections to public forces during the conflict.

Recent months have witnessed both progress and setbacks in the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country. The process with the ELN faced a crisis in late October 2023 after the group kidnapped Luis Manuel Díaz, the father of professional football player Luis Díaz. The high-profile abduction of Díaz, who was released on 9 November 2023, sparked discussions about whether the ongoing kidnappings carried out by the group constitute a violation of the ceasefire protocols agreed between the sides, which only contain a general call to uphold international humanitarian law. At the fifth round of negotiations between the government and the ELN, held in Mexico between 4 and 17 December 2023, the sides announced several key decisions, including to extend their bilateral ceasefire beyond January 2024 and the establishment of eight crucial locations for humanitarian action. Although it was announced initially that the ELN had also agreed to suspend ransom kidnappings, the group’s commander, Antonio García, later reportedly said that the group will only do so if the government upholds its promise to finance projects that could provide the rebels with alternative sources of income. The next round of talks between the sides is set to take place in Cuba in January 2024.

On 16 October 2023, the government and the EMC FARC-EP began implementing a bilateral ceasefire that is in effect until 15 January 2024. The process has encountered several obstacles, including violence between the sides and the suspension by the EMC FARC-EP of the dialogue process in November 2023. Despite this, in December, the parties convened for a second round of talks and installed a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire’s implementation. During the month, the sides reached agreements on several issues—including protocols covering the ceasefire’s rules, the work of the monitoring mechanism, and the role of the international community in the negotiations—and the EMC FARC-EP announced that it would suspend ransom kidnappings. The next round of talks between the sides is set to take in January 2024.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 28 November 2023, Antonia Urrejola, the international human rights expert appointed to identify and verify obstacles to the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, concluded an eight-day visit to Colombia. During the trip, Urrejola met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Constitutional Court, and civil society, as well as former combatants in the process of reintegration, among others. Urrejola will present her report on Colombia to the Human Rights Council during its 55th session in March 2024.

Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)-Related Developments

The chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Deputy Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UN, Hrvoje Ćurić Hrvatinić, briefed the Council at its 11 October meeting on Colombia. In his address, Hrvatinić presented the PBC’s advice for the Council’s consideration. He encouraged the Security Council to support the government in ensuring that peace dividends reach all Colombians, including through the comprehensive rural reform, which he said is key to reinforcing state presence and providing development opportunities and public service in conflict-affected areas and historically marginalised regions.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Elizabeth Spehar visited Colombia between 28 November and 1 December 2023. During the visit, Spehar discussed advances and challenges in the implementation of the 2016 agreement with representatives of the government, civil society, the verification mission, and the UN country team. She also had the opportunity to discuss and witness projects in Colombia that are supported by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which has been investing in Colombia since January 2014.

Key Issues and Options

The overarching priority for the Council is to continue supporting the full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. During the Council’s upcoming visiting mission to Colombia, members will be able to engage directly with Colombian actors and hear their views on how the international community can best support their peace consolidation efforts. The visit will come at a crucial moment, as the accord’s recent anniversary marked the halfway point in the 15-year timetable envisioned for its implementation. It will also serve as an opportunity for the Council’s five incoming members—Algeria, Guyana, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Sierra Leone, and Slovenia—to gain a close understanding of the file as they begin their two-year terms.

Supporting the work of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition is a longstanding priority for the Council. Members have emphasised the importance of upholding the SJP’s autonomy on numerous occasions, including through their press statements adopted following the quarterly Colombia meetings. The Council expressed strong support for the court when it came under attack during the administration of former president Iván Duque, including by meeting with the heads of the three bodies comprising the comprehensive system during their July 2019 visiting mission to Colombia. (For background, see our November 2022 research report titled “Transitional Justice: What Role for the UN Security Council?” and 13 July 2019 What’s in Blue story.) Members may choose to meet with the head of the SJP during their upcoming visit. This will also allow them to gain a better understanding of the court’s preparations for the handing down of sentences in 2024, a crucial—and potentially polarising—stage in the transitional justice process.

Council members may also soon discuss whether to expand the verification mission’s mandate to monitor the ceasefire between the government and the EMC FARC-EP. Resolution 2694 of 2 August 2023, which expanded the mission’s mandate to monitor the ceasefire between the government and the ELN, indicated the Council’s willingness to consider doing so when the Secretary-General “confirms a ceasefire including appropriate verification protocols has been reached” with the armed group. It appears that Council members will wait to hear this confirmation before taking action on the matter.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the peace process in Colombia and for the verification mission’s work.

Council members have different views, however, about the appropriate level of Council support for the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country. Some members, such as the US, apparently feel that a cautious approach is needed and advocate a case-by-case analysis of a possible UN role in such dialogue efforts. During the Council’s October Colombia meeting, the US noted that the ELN, the EMC FARC-EP, and the armed group Segunda Marquetalia are foreign terrorist organisations under US law. It also argued that there should be more progress in the dialogue process with the EMC FARC-EP before the Council can consider another expansion of the mission’s mandate. Other members would apparently like to see a more proactive approach from the Council in support of the dialogue processes. Council member Switzerland is an accompanying country in the dialogue process with the ELN and a guarantor country in the process with the EMC FARC-EP.

The advent of the five new elected Council members in 2024 may affect Council dynamics on Colombia. Guyana, which replaced Brazil in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) seat, apparently intends to position itself as the “plus one” member of the “A3 plus one” grouping. The Council’s African members (the A3) have often sought to highlight issues relating to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

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Secretary-General’s Reports
26 December 2023S/2023/1033 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Records
11 October 2023S/PV.9434 This was the Security Council’s quarterly meeting on Colombia, which was held on 11 October 2023.

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