What's In Blue

Posted Tue 10 Jan 2017

Briefing and Consultations on the UN Mission in Colombia

Tomorrow afternoon (11 January), the Security Council will be briefed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia Jean Arnault on the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2016/1095), followed by consultations. Arnault is expected to update Council members on the implementation of the mission’s mandate following the ratification on 30 November by the Colombian Congress of the new Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).

Following the results of the 2 October 2016 referendum in which a narrow majority of 50.2 per cent of voters rejected the 24 August peace agreement, the mission put on hold the implementation of tasks related to the verification of the laydown of weapons and focused on the verification of the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, which the parties committed to maintain in a 7 October joint communiqué and a 13 October protocol. After the ratification and entry into force of the new agreement, as described in an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council in December 2016, the mission resumed all of its tasks as mandated by resolutions 2261 and 2307 (S/2016/1063 and S/2016/1070).

Regarding the verification of the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities, Arnault is expected to brief Council members on the efforts to operationalise the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) and the difficulties the mission has encountered in implementing this part of its mandate. According to the report of the Secretary-General, challenges include, among others, the lack of clarity in the number of temporary pre-grouping points for FARC-EP forces and, until early December, an inadequate flow of information from the parties to the MVM as well as between themselves. Arnault is likely to provide information about the 27 requests for investigation of incidents received by the MVM. These include serious incidents such as the deaths of two people in the Nariño region, for which the FARC-EP took full responsibility, and the deaths of two FARC-EP members on 13 November 2016 in the Bolivar region. The report of the Secretary-General also raises concerns regarding a series of homicides in November and December last year targeting community leaders in rural areas affected by the conflict. Council members might be interested in hearing whether these are isolated incidents or represent deeper divisions within the two parties. Along these lines, members might inquire about the efforts to ensure that these incidents do not jeopardise the implementation of the agreement, as well as about the command and control structures within the parties, particularly the FARC-EP, which has acknowledged that some of its field commanders refuse to embrace the peace process.

After the ratification of the agreement, the laydown of weapons was expected to start on “D-day”, which was agreed by the parties to be 1 December. This implies the transfer of FARC-EP combatants to 26 Transitional Local Zones and Points for Normalisation (one down from previously planned 27) where the laydown of weapons is to take place. However, according to a communiqué issued by the MVM on D+5 (6 December), this transfer could not be completed since not all the zones and points had been set up. It also said that certain FARC-EP logistical needs in pre-grouping points remained unmet and the MVM had not been able to deploy in all local sites and regional offices. The process, which was supposed to be completed by D+30, has been delayed, and Council members may be looking for an update on efforts to complete it and asking whether the deadlines established by the new agreement might need to be revisited.

Following the controversy sparked by images of international observers dancing with FARC-EP combatants during New Year’s Eve celebrations in a village in the La Guajira region, the mission issued a statement on 5 January stating that three observers and their direct supervisor had been suspended from service. The FARC-EP reacted to this decision by temporarily withdrawing from the MVM in that particular location. Council members might ask about the impact of this incident on the perception of the mission’s impartiality and measures taken to address it.

Despite the fact that the core mandate of the mission is not a source of tension or criticism by the “no” campaign supporters, Council members might ask Arnault for an assessment of the political issues that remain outstanding even after the ratification of the new agreement, the prospects for agreement and convergence on those issues, and the impact that continuing political tensions in Colombia might have on the mission’s work.

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