July 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2024
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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 in Colombia and the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the mission, which was circulated to Council members on 26 June.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego is expected to represent his country at the meeting for the first time since taking office in August 2022. An ex-combatant from the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) is expected to participate in person at the meeting, also for the first time. This is in line with a request made by Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Gilberto Murillo Urrutia at the Council’s previous quarterly meeting on Colombia, held on 9 April, that peace signatories be invited to “participate periodically” in Council meetings.

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

Key Recent Developments

The past quarter witnessed increased rhetoric from Colombian officials about challenges in implementing 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 FARC-EP. In a 14 May speech, Petro announced that he would go to the UN to warn that “the State of Colombia does not want to comply with the peace agreement it signed”. In a subsequent post on X (formerly Twitter), Petro argued that there are three “axes” to the peace agreement that, if left unfulfilled, would spell the state’s failure in complying with the peace agreement: agrarian reform, the “transformation of the territories”, and promoting “judicial truth”. On the last point, the president has accused the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP)—the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the 2016 agreement—of “fragmenting the truth” by not allowing paramilitaries to appear before the court. (In accordance with the 2016 agreement, the SJP does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by paramilitary groups.)

The Colombian president has previously highlighted these issues, including during Council members’ 7-11 February visiting mission to Colombia, while lamenting lack of cooperation from certain state ministries and failure by previous administrations to implement the agreement. Petro and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán have criticised the SJP on several occasions, including in quarterly Council meetings and in a 19 October 2023 letter sent to the Council. Signatories to the agreement have also raised concerns about the SJP’s work, including the issues of pending amnesties for former combatants and the court’s decision to prosecute middle-ranking former guerrillas.

Rhetoric on the implementation of the 2016 agreement has overlapped with discussions of the president’s initiative, announced in mid-March, to convene a constituent assembly in Colombia, which has been politically contentious. In a 25 May interview, Leyva argued that the 2016 agreement contains provisions allowing the convening of a constituent assembly without requiring Congressional approval and appeared to suggest that denouncing the state’s non-compliance with the agreement before the Security Council could set this process in motion. Several Colombian actors, including members of the Comunes party—which is comprised of former FARC-EP members—and constitutional experts have rejected these claims, and some have urged a focus on concrete implementation actions rather than on rhetoric.

On 6 June, Murillo met informally with Security Council members in New York, and reportedly assured them that his government will not request the Council to endorse a constituent assembly in Colombia. The foreign minister also announced that in the upcoming Council session Petro will present a strategic report on the implementation of the peace agreement during the period 2016-2024. It was confirmed on 20 June that the government will present the report jointly with members of the Comunes party.

Recent months have witnessed both progress and setbacks in the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country, carried out as part of Petro’s “total peace” policy. On 5 February, the government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) announced the extension of their bilateral ceasefire for another six months, until 3 August, and the guerrilla group committed to cease kidnapping for ransom. Shortly thereafter, however, the government’s decision to hold a regional dialogue with one of the ELN’s regional fronts led the group’s central command to suspend the dialogue with the government and, on 6 May, to announce that it had lifted its suspension of ransom kidnappings. This move has been condemned by many, including in a statement by the countries accompanying the negotiations (Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). The Secretary-General’s report says that despite these challenges, the parties “have broadly respected the terms of the ceasefire”.

Regarding the government’s dialogue with the dissident group of the former FARC-EP that identifies itself as the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (EMC FARC-EP), Petro suspended the ceasefire with the group from 20 March in the departments of Cauca, Nariño, and Valle del Cauca after the EMC had carried out attacks against indigenous communities in Cauca. Subsequently, several EMC factions announced that they would no longer participate in the dialogue process and have since carried out attacks in Cauca targeting police and military forces, which have also harmed civilians, in an apparent attempt to pressure the government to resume the suspended ceasefires. (The factions that chose to remain in the dialogue process reportedly represent around 40 percent of the dissident group.) A 17 June statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern about the heightened levels of violence, as well as reports of child recruitment in several departments.

Between 24 and 28 June, the government held in Caracas, Venezuela, its first round of dialogue with the armed group Segunda Marquetalia, which consists of former FARC-EP dissidents who signed the 2016 agreement but took up arms again. The government reportedly hopes to sign and implement a peace deal with the group within two years, before Petro’s term in office ends.

On 26 June, it was reported that ex-combatants from the former territorial area for training and reintegration (TATR) of Miravalle in the Caquetá department are being displaced due to security threats by an EMC FARC-EP faction that is still participating in the peace process with the government, against the backdrop of the faction’s dispute with the Segunda Marquetalia. This development was criticised by many national and international interlocutors, including Ruiz Massieu.

Human Rights-Related Developments  

Following a ten-day visit to Colombia, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent issued a statement on 24 May, urging the Colombian government to address through structural reforms the “systemic and institutional racism people of African descent have endured for centuries”. The experts noted that, despite having adopted legal provisions to protect human rights and address violations, the Colombian government still lacks effective action to transform the daily lives of people of African descent by alleviating poverty and ensuring their rights to security, education, housing, employment, and participation in political affairs. Testimony from people of African descent, including women, youth, human rights defenders, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons, revealed violence such as kidnappings, brutal killings by armed groups, forced recruitment of children into armed groups, forced displacement, and sexual violence, among others. The working group urged Colombia to ensure meaningful participation of people of African descent in all relevant processes, including the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. It will also present a report on its visit to the Human Rights Council at its 57th session in September 2025.

In a report published on 20 May, Siobhán Mullally, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, addressed various forms of trafficking in persons in Colombia based on her 22-31 May 2023 visit to the country. Mullally highlighted the potential connections and overlapping activities between criminal organisations engaged in trafficking in persons and non-state armed groups involved in related activities, including potentially illegal mining and deforestation, coca production, sale and supply, sexual exploitation of women and girls, and the recruitment and use of children. In this regard, she called for progress in implementing the public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups and criminal organisations. Among other recommendations, the Special Rapporteur urged the Colombian government to strengthen measures to implement the ethnic chapter of the 2016 peace agreement and to prevent conflict-related trafficking, in particular among Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities; strengthen the civilian authorities in border zones to prevent trafficking in migrants and refugees; strengthen the Colombian Family Welfare Institute to ensure the best interests of all children without discrimination; and take adequate measures to prevent trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, including in the tourism industry.

Women, Peace and Security

Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, Executive Director of Colombia Diversa, briefed the Security Council during the 9 April meeting on Colombia. This was the first time that a civil society representative provided a briefing on LGBTQ-related issues in a formal country-specific Council meeting. Focusing on the impact of the conflict on LGBTQ persons in Colombia, Sánchez Buitrago said that armed actors “actively targeted, disappeared or killed” LGBTQ persons, particularly Afro-Colombians and adolescents. She noted that, as at March, 6,000 crimes had been recorded against LGBTQ persons during the conflict. The violence has included forced displacement, exile, sexual violence and killings, according to estimates by Colombia’s Truth Commission. She added that the full extent of the violations may never be known due to social stigma, lack of documentation, and fear of reprisals.

Sánchez Buitrago said that Colombia is “one of the deadliest countries in the world for human rights defenders” and referenced the killings of eight LGBTQ human rights defenders in 2023, noting that in about half such killings, “evidence suggests that those defenders were attacked for their sexual orientation or gender identity”. Sánchez Buitrago urged the Council to demand the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and LGBTQ persons in the implementation of the 2016 agreement, and in negotiations with other actors in Colombia. Among other recommendations, she urged the Council to call for an end to attacks against LGBTQ persons and defenders, to call for all perpetrators to be held accountable, and to request the verification mission to regularly report to the Council about the situation of human rights defenders, including LGBTQ activists.

Key Issues and Options

The overarching priority for the Council is supporting the full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. Although Council members welcome the government’s expression of political will to do so, they have increasingly emphasised, as some members noted at the latest quarterly meeting, that 2024 should be “the year of implementation”. The president’s participation in the upcoming quarterly session, which comes as Petro reaches the half-way mark of his term, and the expected report on the implementation of the agreement during 2016-2024 provide opportunities to discuss ways to overcome challenges to implementation. Council members apparently expect to interact informally with Murillo a day before the quarterly meeting; this could help clear up confusion about recent rhetoric on failure by “the state” to implement the peace accord and apprehension about attempts to have the Security Council take sides in politically contentious domestic processes such as a constituent assembly.

Supporting transitional justice efforts in the country is a longstanding priority for the Council. Members have regularly emphasised the importance of upholding the SJP’s autonomy. They apparently also wish to see addressed concerns by signatories to the peace agreement. Members could reiterate these messages in their statements.

The situation of children in Colombia is another matter of concern. According to the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, dated 3 June, 262 children were recruited and used in 2023, nearly double the number in 2022, including by former FARC-EP dissident groups (186) and the ELN (41). Council members could emphasise that measures relating to the protection of children can serve as an early confidence-building measure in peace negotiations and call on parties to include such considerations in their dialogues.

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 in discussing a possible UN role in such dialogue efforts. Many members have often expressed concern about violence perpetrated by these armed groups, calling on them to cease such acts to demonstrate good faith in the negotiations. 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.

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Secretary-General’s Reports
26 June 2024S/2024/509 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.

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