What's In Blue

Posted Wed 11 Jan 2023

Colombia: Quarterly Meeting and Vote on Resolution Expanding the Verification Mission’s Mandate*

This afternoon (11 January), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, 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 27 September to 26 December 2022. A civil society representative will also brief. Vice President Francia Márquez of Colombia will represent her country at the meeting.

Prior to the briefing, the Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to monitor the implementation of the chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter of the 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).

Quarterly Meeting

The briefers and Council members are expected to discuss the steps taken by the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego to advance the policy of “total peace”, which entails furthering the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement alongside the promotion of dialogue with non-signatory armed groups. Many Council members are likely to welcome the political will demonstrated by the government’s actions, including the regular convening of mechanisms such as the National Commission on Security Guarantees—which is charged under the 2016 peace agreement with developing a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks—and the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI), the main forum for dialogue between the parties on the implementation of the peace agreement.

They are also expected to reflect on challenges which continue to complicate the agreement’s full realisation, particularly the ongoing violence against communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders. Many of the speakers are likely to focus on the difficulties faced by indigenous and ethnic communities, and opportunities to address such challenges. Márquez, who has taken the lead on furthering the implementation of the ethnic chapter, and the civil society briefer, who is a representative of the Special High-Level Instance for Ethnic Groups (IEANPE), created by the 2016 agreement to monitor the implementation of provisions related to the ethnic chapter, may provide their perspectives on the matter.

During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, 12 former FARC-EP combatants were killed, bringing to 355 the number of ex-combatants killed since the signing of the peace agreement. Fifty former combatants were killed in 2022, a decrease of 7.4 percent compared with 2021. Despite this decrease, threats against ex-combatants remain an acute concern; emergency relocations of former combatants due to threats increased by 65 percent, from 125 in 2021 to 206 in 2022. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received allegations of 244 killings of human rights defenders (101 verified, 25 under verification, and 118 inconclusive) in 2022. According to OHCHR, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, as well as members of local administrative boards, were the most heavily targeted leaders in the past year.

As part of efforts to tackle the violence in conflict-affected regions, the Colombian government has been establishing “unified command posts for life”—inter-institutional mechanisms to coordinate preventive responses that involve state entities, local authorities, and civil society. As at 26 December 2022, 202 such posts had been established in 15 departments and 105 municipalities. The Secretary-General’s report says that although the command posts “provide a space for the State to approach historically neglected communities”, they have shown “mixed results” in reducing violence in ethnic territories. It notes that some of the government’s steps, including its dialogues with non-signatory armed groups, have had positive results, but emphasises that there should be more efforts to reduce violence, including through the swift approval and implementation of the public policy being formulated within the National Commission on Security Guarantees.

In preparation for this month’s quarterly meeting, the UK embassy in Bogotá organised on 7 January a meeting among representatives of the Comunes party (which is comprised of former FARC-EP members), the Colombian government, and in-country ambassadors of several Security Council members to discuss the findings of the Secretary-General’s report. At that meeting, the Comunes representatives apparently stressed the need for more progress on security guarantees for those targeted by attacks as well as sustainable reintegration for former combatants, including through facilitating their access to land and housing. Regarding the latter point, it seems that they also emphasised the need to develop a plan for the reintegration of the 10,566 former combatants who reside outside of former territorial areas for training and reintegration (TATRs). The Secretary-General’s report also describes challenges to the reintegration of indigenous and Afro-Colombian former combatants, noting for example that in the Chocó and Nariño departments, over 45 percent of such former combatants are not involved in productive projects.

Another expected focus of today’s meeting is the government’s efforts to promote dialogue with non-signatory armed groups. Between 22 November and 12 December 2022, the government held its first round of peace talks with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in Caracas, Venezuela. On 31 December 2022, Petro announced that five such groups—including the ELN and dissident groups of the FARC-EP—had agreed to bilateral six-month ceasefires. The government reportedly said that the ceasefires would be monitored by national and international monitors, including the UN and the Colombian Catholic church. In a 3 January statement, however, the ELN said that it had not agreed to a bilateral ceasefire, emphasising that this is a proposal that should be discussed at the negotiating table. A second round of negotiations with the ELN was scheduled to take place in Mexico in late January. At the time of writing, there was some uncertainty regarding the timing and location of the next round of talks.

On 9 January, Council members held a closed informal meeting in New York with Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, who has been leading dialogue efforts with non-signatory groups. At the meeting, Rueda apparently updated members on these efforts, also emphasising the importance of the Council’s continued support for the implementation of the 2016 agreement. It seems that he informed members that the dialogue with the ELN will continue and noted that if a ceasefire were reached with the group, the government might ask the Council to authorise a monitoring role for the verification mission. Council members may use the opportunity of today’s closed consultations for a frank discussion with Ruiz Massieu about this possibility. They may also inquire about the status of the bilateral ceasefires with the other four non-signatory groups that, unlike the ELN, do not have a political agenda.

Today’s meeting will be the first on Colombia for the five new elected members (Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland). Ecuador, which has replaced former member Mexico in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) seat, shares a border with Colombia, as does Council member Brazil; both are likely to bring a regional perspective about the developments in the Colombia file. Malta and Switzerland, which replaced Ireland and Norway on the Council, are likely to bring a focus to issues relating to women, peace, and security and children and armed conflict.

Draft Resolution

The Council began discussing the expansion of the verification mission’s mandate following an official request by Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán contained in a 17 October 2022 letter, which conveyed a shared request by the Colombian government and representatives of the former FARC-EP to expand the mission’s mandate to include monitoring the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement’s chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the accord’s ethnic chapter. The letter was sent ahead of the Council’s negotiations on resolution 2655 of 27 October 2022, which most recently extended the verification mission’s mandate for a period of one year. (For more information, see our 27 October 2022 What’s in Blue story.) Following the Council’s request in resolution 2655, the Secretary-General submitted his recommendations on the matter in a 9 December 2022 letter.

The Secretary-General recommended that the Council authorise the expansion of the verification mission’s mandate, emphasising that the 2016 agreement’s comprehensive rural reform and ethnic chapters are “critical to consolidating peace by addressing deep-rooted patterns of inequality and exclusion of rural regions and ethnic peoples”. He noted that progress on rural reform, in particular, can contribute to extending the state’s presence in conflict-affected areas. As such, because of the interlocking nature of the elements of the 2016 agreement, progress on these chapters can advance other chapters that are covered in the mission’s mandate, namely reintegration and security guarantees for former combatants and conflict-affected communities.

The draft resolution in blue, which was authored by the UK (the penholder on Colombia), is a short one-page text that authorises the expansion of the verification mission’s mandate in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendations. It takes note of Leyva’s 17 October 2022 letter and expresses the Council’s willingness to continue working with the Colombian government on the verification mission’s mandate “on the basis of agreement between the parties”.

The negotiations apparently went smoothly, reflecting Council members’ unified support for the peace process in Colombia and for the work of the verification mission. The UK circulated an initial draft of the text on 5 January and convened one round of negotiations on Monday (9 January). After receiving comments from Council members, the penholder placed a slightly amended draft under silence procedure until yesterday (10 January) at noon. The draft passed silence and was subsequently put in blue.

Prior to the negotiations, Council members held an expert-level meeting with the UN Secretariat on 13 December 2022 to discuss the Secretary-General’s recommendations. It seems that several members raised questions about whether the mandate’s expansion may have budgetary implications. The Secretary-General’s 9 December 2022 letter notes that in order to perform its existing tasks, the mission has established a presence in the relevant conflict-affected areas and fostered connections with relevant interlocutors in Colombia–including government agencies and civil society—making it well-placed to undertake the new requested tasks. It says that “verification capacities may require modest reinforcement”, while emphasising that this would not require any change to the currently authorised strength of 120 unarmed international observers.

It appears that members’ questions on the budgetary implications were addressed, and this matter was not raised during the negotiations. This was a matter of discussion in the past, when the Council expanded the verification mission’s mandate to verify compliance with the sentences handed down by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP)—the judicial component of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition established by the 2016 agreement—through resolution 2574 of 11 May 2021. (For more information, see our 10 May 2021 What’s in Blue story.)

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*Post-script: On 11 January, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2673, expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to monitor the implementation of the chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter of the 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).

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