What's In Blue

Posted Thu 27 Oct 2022

Colombia: Vote on Verification Mission Mandate Renewal*

This morning (27 October), Security Council members are expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia until 31 October 2023.

The UK and Mexico co-authored the draft text in blue, which renews the mission’s mandate for a period of one year. It does so without making any changes to the core mandate of the mission that was foreseen by the peace agreement of November 2016 (the 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).

The mission’s tasks include verifying aspects of the agreement related to the political, economic and social reincorporation of former FARC-EP combatants and personal and collective security guarantees, including comprehensive security programmes and protection measures for communities and organisations in conflict-affected areas. The Council expanded the verification mission’s mandate through resolution 2574 of 11 May 2021 to include monitoring compliance with the sentences handed down by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the 2016 agreement.

Ahead of this year’s negotiations on the verification mission’s mandate, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán sent a letter to the Council on 17 October, conveying the Colombian government’s support for a one-year extension of the mission’s mandate. In the letter, Leyva Durán requests the Council to expand the mission’s mandate to include monitoring the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement’s chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the agreement’s ethnic chapter. He notes that this is a joint request by the Colombian government and representatives of the former FARC-EP.

The 17 October letter thanks the UN for its support for the implementation of the 2016 agreement and the government’s efforts to achieve “total peace”. Since assuming office in August, President Gustavo Petro Urrego has advanced his vision of “total peace”, which entails furthering the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement alongside the promotion of dialogue with non-signatory armed groups. In this regard, the government has taken steps to resume peace talks with the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), with formal negotiations expected to begin in early November. Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu was among the international actors who participated in a preliminary meeting between representatives of the Colombian government and the ELN in Cuba in August. (For more information, see our 11 October What’s in Blue story.) Leyva Durán notes in the letter that, as the government takes steps to implement initiatives to advance the “total peace” policy, it may require additional support from the verification mission; in such a case, it will submit further relevant requests to the Security Council.

The draft resolution in blue is a short text, which contains only a few new additions to resolution 2603 of 29 October 2021 that most recently renewed the verification mission’s mandate. A new significant element contained in the draft is a request to the Secretary-General to submit to the Council within 45 days from the resolution’s adoption recommendations on the possible expansion of the mission’s mandate, in response to the request made in Colombia’s 17 October letter. According to the draft in blue, the recommendations should describe how the additional tasks will be carried out and outline any potential implications for the mission’s configuration. The draft text in blue further expresses the Council intention to consider these recommendations swiftly, without specifying a timeline within which the Council will do so.

The negotiations on the draft text in blue apparently went smoothly, reflecting Council members’ unified support for the peace process in Colombia and for the work of the verification mission. Mexico and the UK circulated an initial draft of the resolution on 20 October and convened one round of negotiations on 21 October. The co-penholders then placed an amended draft under silence procedure until Tuesday (25 October), which was broken by France and the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya). A second revised draft addressing these members’ comments was placed under silence on Tuesday afternoon, until yesterday morning (26 October). Russia subsequently broke silence. A third revised draft, aiming to address Russia’s concerns, was put in blue yesterday afternoon.

Members were apparently generally supportive of the Council taking note of the request made by the Colombian government in its 17 October letter. It seems that members also agreed with the co-penholders’ suggestion to request the Secretary-General to submit recommendations in this regard. As such, this issue did not require extensive discussion during the negotiations.

It seems that the A3 members suggested additional language welcoming the engagement of the peacebuilding commission (PBC) on Colombia and encouraging further cooperation, including with relevant UN agencies, to ensure an integrated approach to sustaining peace in Colombia. These members apparently wanted to highlight that more focus should be given to promoting socioeconomic development to address the many issues faced by Colombia, particularly by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, who have been disproportionately affected by conflict. Therefore, the A3 proposed language on UN agencies which can contribute to that end.

The co-penholders apparently preferred a short resolution without many additions and therefore did not include the proposal by the A3 in the first draft that was put under silence. Additionally, some members apparently felt that issues relating to development should not be addressed within the scope of a Security Council resolution on the verification mission’s mandate. However, following the silence break by the A3, the text was revised to reflect their proposed amendment. Russia then broke silence because of the additional language, seeking to revise the reference to the PBC. As a result, the draft text in blue specifies that the PBC’s engagement is with the government of Colombia. Moreover, while the A3 proposal described cooperation among UN agencies to ensure a coherent approach to “sustaining peace”, the draft text in blue instead references a coherent approach to the comprehensive implementation of the 2016 peace agreement.

There was apparently some discussion around language proposed by the co-penholders in the zero draft on Petro Urrego’s “total peace” policy. It seems that the zero draft took note of the president’s plans for the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and his “total peace” policy. A similar formulation was used in Council members’ 14 October press statement on Colombia, which they adopted following their 12 October Colombia meeting. However, this reference was removed at the request of Russia, which apparently felt that it is not appropriate to address this issue in a resolution on the verification mission’s mandate. At the 12 October meeting, Russia emphasised that the achievement of “total peace” is currently beyond the scope of the mission’s mandate.

During last year’s mandate renewal negotiations, there was some sensitivity around whether Mexico should serve as a co-penholder together with the UK. (For background, see our 28 October 2021 What’s in Blue story.) It seems that an objection by the previous Colombian administration to having another Council member share the pen with the UK on the Colombia file may have played a role in this dynamic. However, the new administration appears to be more amenable the idea of the UK sharing the pen on products relating to Colombia. At the 12 October meeting, both Mexico and the UK indicated that Mexico would serve as co-penholder together with the UK.

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*Post-script: On 27 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2655, renewing the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia for another year, until 31 October 2023.

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