What's In Blue

Briefing and Consultations on the UN Mission in Colombia

Tomorrow (5 April), the Security Council will be briefed by Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Colombia Jean Arnault on the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2017/252) on the implementation of the mission’s mandate, followed by consultations.

The meeting is expected to focus on the mission’s efforts to ensure timely delivery of its mandate, despite delays in the construction of the Transitional Local Zones and Points for Normalisation and the provision of basic services in these areas. The Secretary-General in his report underlines how the parties have nevertheless reiterated their determination to complete the laying down of arms process by the end of the 180-day timeline established in the peace agreement (which falls on 1 June).

Regarding the verification of the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities, Arnault is expected to brief Council members on the work of the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM). The bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) continues to hold, but Arnault may elaborate on the few instances of compliance failures and violations of the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities protocols verified by the MVM.

Of particular interest to Council members will be the implications of the presence of non-state armed groups (including the guerrilla Ejército de Liberación Nacional, successors of former paramilitary groups, and other groups linked to organised crime) in the areas vacated by the FARC-EP. Council members might be interested in asking Arnault about cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia regarding the trend of deadly attacks against community leaders and human rights defenders in some of these areas.

Since the report raises concerns about the reported desertion of two to five per cent of FARC-EP members, Arnault may explain the motivations behind this phenomenon. Members may be interested in learning about the measures taken to address the needs of combatants so they are less inclined to desert.

The laying down of weapons has faced several delays particularly related to the transfer of FARC-EP combatants to the 26 Transitional Local Zones and Points for Normalisation where the laydown of weapons was expected to take place. The process, however, has started in temporary camps.

The Mission has just concluded the registration of weapons. The timeline set out in the agreement specified that by 1 March the FARC-EP was to have delivered 30 per cent of its arms to the mission, followed by the storing of the remaining arms in two subsequent phases, but the delivery of arms to the mission is behind schedule. According to the report of the Secretary-General, the FARC-EP has stressed its readiness to move forward with the laying down of weapons in parallel with progress in improving the living conditions in the sites, and in implementing specific commitments of the Government, including legal and security guarantees for FARC-EP members and plans for their socio-economic reintegration. Some of these issues were discussed at a high-level meeting of the parties on 25-26 March. Council members may inquire about the efforts to ensure progress on this track, and whether Arnault expects the final deadline established by the agreement for the final laydown of weapons (1 June) to be met.

Council members might be interested in other measures taken to implement the agreement that, although not the responsibility of the mission, frame the environment in which it operates. This includes the implementation of the amnesty law and the work of the special peace jurisdiction in adjudicating crimes committed during the conflict, the transformation of the FARC-EP into a political party, and assurances that the civilian population in remote areas benefits from the dividends of peace. In this context, Arnault may address the issues that continue to be of concern to those who supported the “no” vote in the October 2016 plebiscite on the agreement and continue to be critical of the peace process, as well as whether the progress made is irreversible, particularly given that general elections are due to be held in May 2018 and could bring into power politicians critical of the agreement.

In the agreement, the parties agreed to ask the UN, through the General Assembly, to deploy a second political mission with a mandate to verify the reintegration of ex-combatants and their protection, including from paramilitary groups. According to the agreement, this mission, which would be deployed after the current mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia ends in September, would have a three-year duration. The parties reiterated their commitment to request this mission in a 23 March communiqué and Council members might want to hear Arnault’s assessment of its sequencing.

On 9 March, in a meeting held under “any other business” at the initiative of Uruguay, Council members agreed to visit Colombia in May. Members have just agreed to the visit’s terms of reference, and might be interested in discussing with Arnault how the visiting mission can be most effective in support of the implementation of the mandate of the UN Mission in Colombia.

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