Colombia: Briefing and Consultations ahead of the Change of Government
Tomorrow (26 July), the Security Council will receive a briefing from Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. The Vice President of Colombia, Óscar Naranjo, is also expected to speak. A press statement may be negotiated following the meeting.
The briefing comes in the final weeks of the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos. Council members are likely to praise the leadership of the Santos administration and reiterate the Council’s full and unanimous support for the peace process in Colombia. They recognise that his administration and the leadership of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) spent considerable political capital in reaching and implementing the November 2016 Peace Agreement.
The recent presidential elections (first round on 27 May and run-off on 17 June) and the March legislative elections were the most peaceful and inclusive in Colombia in decades. President-elect Iván Duque, who will be sworn in on 7 August, has expressed his commitment not to terminate the peace agreement but to propose certain “corrections”. Council members may be interested in discussing with Arnault in consultations his assessment of what this new period may mean for the implementation of the agreement. The new administration may aim to modify provisions related to the reach of transitional justice, land reform and how to deal with the cultivation of coca.
The 20 July report of the Secretary-General takes stock of what has been achieved so far, but also points out some of the main challenges for the future (S/2018/723). The security situation in Colombia is likely to feature prominently in the discussion. Community leaders and human rights defenders continued to be killed in recent months, especially in the aftermath of the presidential elections. In his report, the Secretary-General recognises the efforts made by state institutions and political parties in signing a “Pact of repudiation of violence against social leaders” and calls for the commitment of Colombians to address this pressing issue. Council members are likely to condemn the spike of violence and ask Arnault what else can be done by the mission to verify and promote security guarantees.
Council members may also inquire about the viability and sustainability of productive activities undertaken by former FARC-EP members. While the report recognises some progress in creating income-generating opportunities, much remains to be done to provide sufficient opportunities for economic reintegration. Council members may be interested in asking Arnault about the prospects of implementing the eight-year strategy for long-term reintegration, which was agreed between the government and the FARC in early July.
Regarding legal guarantees, the report notes that former FARC-EP members face legal uncertainties as a result of controversies over the transitional justice system. Council members may want to discuss with Arnault the impact of the ongoing proceedings against FARC leader Seuxis Hernández (aka Jesús Santrich). In June, the US requested that Hernández, who was supposed to be sworn in as a congressman last week, be extradited on drug-trafficking charges. FARC members question the allegations against Hernández. Furthermore, Arnault is likely to share with the Council the recent developments regarding the justice component of the transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, whose rules of procedure were adopted on 28 June.
Council members may be interested in asking Arnault about the peace talks between the government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in Cuba. The UN Verification Mission (and the Catholic Church) monitored and verified an earlier bilateral ceasefire between the government and the ELN. Council members are expected to continue to follow these talks closely.
FARC members continue to harbour misgivings about whether they will be reintegrated into society in keeping with the promise of the peace agreement. In his report, the Secretary-General states that “the country’s new authorities have the critical responsibility to restore a sense of confidence about the future among the rank and file, the mid-level commanders and the leadership of the former guerrilla group”. Council members are expected to address this concern in a press statement, as they also did on 19 April (SC/13310), by reiterating their commitment to stand with Colombia in its efforts to implement the peace agreement in the years ahead.