What's In Blue

Posted Wed 13 Oct 2021

Colombia: Quarterly Meeting

Tomorrow (14 October), the Security Council will hold an open briefing on Colombia. Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu will brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the mission, which covers the period from 26 June to 24 September. Two civil society representatives, an indigenous youth leader and an Afro-Colombian activist, will also brief the Council. Colombia will be represented by its Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marta Lucía Ramírez. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

Tomorrow’s meeting takes place ahead of several milestones, including the fifth anniversary of the November 2016 Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the government of Colombia and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). Therefore, in addition to discussing developments during the reporting period of the Secretary-General’s report, the briefers and Council members are expected to take stock of the implementation of the peace agreement in the past five years. They may note that important progress has been made—including on transitional justice processes stipulated in the agreement—and reflect on the crucial value of the peace agreement for Colombian society. However, they are likely to underscore that challenges continue to complicate the implementation of the 2016 agreement. These include persistent violence against communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders.

Speakers at tomorrow’s meeting may highlight that this is a crucial period for Colombia, as the country prepares for congressional and presidential elections that are set to take place in March and May 2022, respectively. (These will be the second elections since the signing of the peace agreement, with the previous elections taking place in 2018.) In this regard, Ruiz Massieu and Council members may welcome the government’s enactment of a law in August creating 16 “special transitional electoral districts for peace”. The establishment of these electoral districts was stipulated in the 2016 agreement, with the aim of promoting the participation of historically excluded populations in conflict-affected areas, including members of indigenous communities and representatives of victims’ and women’s organisations. In line with the new law, 16 additional seats in Colombia’s House of Representatives will be open for the 2022–2026 and 2026–2030 congressional periods solely for members of these groups: representatives of the main political parties are not allowed to run for these seats.

The need for the authorities to facilitate the holding of inclusive and safe elections is likely to be emphasised at tomorrow’s meeting. Some speakers may express concern about the heightened potential for threats and attacks against candidates and political activists during the electoral process. They might note that the areas where the special transitional electoral districts for peace have been established experience persistent violence, including high rates of killings of social and political leaders. As such, speakers may emphasise that there is great urgency to implement the security guarantees stipulated in the 2016 agreement and to consolidate state presence in conflict-affected areas.

Council members are likely to be interested in hearing insights from the civil society representatives about the difficulties faced by their communities. The Secretary-General’s report highlights that indigenous and Afro-Colombian territories characterised by poverty and limited state presence are disproportionately affected by violence. It further notes that “implementation of the comprehensive rural reform and actions to strengthen the integrated presence of state institutions would make the biggest difference in disrupting the violence” in these areas.

As has been the case in previous meetings on Colombia, many Council members are expected to express support for the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition—which is comprised of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the Truth Commission, and the Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing— and emphasise the importance of protecting individuals who contribute to its work, including those providing testimonies. Members may reference the progress in the SJP’s work, including its presentation in August of a strategy to investigate the forced recruitment and use of children during the period from 1996 to 2016.

Several members are likely to welcome the Colombian constitutional court’s decision to extend the mandate of the Truth Commission, which was set to expire on 28 November in accordance with the terms of the 2016 peace agreement. Following a petition submitted in July by victims’ organisations, which maintained that the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered the commission’s ability to meet with conflict-affected communities, the constitutional court decided on 1 October to extend the Truth Commission’s mandate for an additional nine months, until 27 August 2022. Within that period, the commission is set to release its final report in seven months, by 27 June 2022—which will be after the 2022 congressional and presidential elections— and will work in the following two months on familiarising the public with the report. At tomorrow’s meeting, some members may call for maintaining a victim-centred approach and avoiding politicisation of the commission’s report.

Council members may underscore the importance of dialogue between the parties to address both the short-term and long-term challenges to the implementation of the peace agreement. In this regard, they may encourage the sides to utilise mechanisms established by the 2016 agreement, such as the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI). Council member Norway— which serves as a guarantor of the 2016 peace agreement, along with Cuba— participates in CSIVI meetings. Some members, most notably Russia, have been calling on the government to engage in dialogue with armed groups which are not signatory to the peace agreement, such as the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

The importance of the continued support of the international community, and particularly the Security Council, for the peace process in Colombia, is likely to be highlighted at tomorrow’s meeting. Some members may note the need for the Council to hear the views of both signatories to the 2016 peace agreement on the various aspects of its implementation.

In preparation for tomorrow’s meeting, Council members engaged with representatives of both the government and the Comunes party (which is comprised of former FARC-EP members) to discuss their views on the Secretary-General’s latest report. On 4 October, the Norwegian embassy in Bogotá convened an in-person meeting between representatives of the Comunes party and several in-country ambassadors of non-permanent members of the Council. On 11 October, Council experts participated in a virtual meeting with Presidential Counsellor for Stabilisation and Consolidation Emilio Archila, which was organised by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the UN. Similar meetings also took place ahead of the Council’s July quarterly Colombia meeting.

Looking ahead, the Council will need to renew the mandate of the verification mission ahead of its 31 October expiry. In resolution 2574 of 11 May, the Council expanded the verification mission’s mandate to include monitoring compliance with the sentences handed down by the SJP. (The SJP is expected to begin handing down its sentences by early 2022.) Council members may use the closed consultations to ask Ruiz Massieu about progress in the preparatory work conducted by the verification mission ahead of undertaking this new task.