Exchange of Letters Regarding the Mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia
The UK, as penholder on Colombia, has put under silence until 3pm today a response letter taking note of a letter from the Secretary-General which calls for minor adjustments to the mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia responding to the new situation on the ground. The letter of the Secretary-General (S/2016/902), which was circulated on 26 October, lays out his recommendations following the 2 October plebiscite that rejected the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Long Lasting Peace reached between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on 24 August.
Meeting in consultations on 18 October with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, Council members were in agreement that the UN mission must play a key role in addressing the current impasse, focused on the verification of the ceasefire. In press elements released after the meeting, Council members welcomed the parties’ continuing commitment to uphold the ceasefire, and encouraged them and all political actors to maintain momentum in the peace process following the outcome of the plebiscite.
Within the framework of resolutions 2261 and 2307, the exchange of letters addresses the request by the parties through a 7 October Joint Communiqué for the UN Mission in Colombia to verify the ceasefire in the terms specified by a Joint Protocol agreed on 13 October. This protocol provides for a separation of forces, with the FARC-EP relocating to 50-60 temporary pre-grouping points (with logistical support and protection provided by the government), and a tripartite monitoring mechanism similar to the one established in resolution 2261. However, unlike the originally devised Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM), these pre-grouping points will not be adjacent to MVM local headquarters and the verification will be undertaken through periodic visits to the points.
The verification of the laying down of arms by the FARC-EP has been postponed by the parties until the successful conclusion of the political dialogue and the adoption of a new Final Agreement. The Secretary-General’s letter reduces the number of observers needed from 450 to 400, given the postponement of this key task. Since they will be covering a larger number of sites, the 400 observers will require increased logistical support. Thus, the resources needed to implement the mission’s mandate are not expected to change from what was originally anticipated and the Secretary-General maintains his cost-sharing recommendation, endorsed in resolution 2307, for the UN to share equally with the government of Colombia the costs associated with the activation and operation of the MVM.
In his letter, the Secretary-General highlights as a positive sign the ability of the parties to agree on a separation of forces agreement in spite of the plebiscite’s results. He asks the Council to grant its authorisation as soon as possible so the verification work can start in early November and the mission can obtain the resources needed from the General Assembly to implement its mandate.