What's In Blue

Colombia: Quarterly Meeting

This afternoon (12 July), 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 March to 26 June. A woman civil society representative is also expected to brief. Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán will represent his country at the 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 the promotion of dialogue with armed groups operating in the country as well as the implementation of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace signed in 2016 between the government of Colombia and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).

Members are likely to note positive developments related to the implementation of the 2016 agreement, including progress on legislation related to rural reform, and the adoption in May of the government’s National Development Plan (NDP) for 2022-2026. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the NDP—which outlines public policy priorities and allocates funding for their implementation—includes obligations related to the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement in 50 of its 373 articles.

Several speakers are expected to highlight as a key challenge the persistent violence against communities (including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities), former FARC-EP members, human rights defenders, and social leaders. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the verification mission verified the killing of 12 ex-combatants, compared to six killed during the previous reporting period. Killings of social leaders and human rights defenders were reported in almost half of the country’s 32 departments. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received 57 allegations of killings of human rights defenders, of which 13 were verified, 28 were under verification and 16 were deemed inconclusive.

Some actors in Colombia, including members of the Comunes party (which is comprised of former members of the FARC-EP), have expressed concerns that armed groups with which the government has conducted or explored dialogue have continued committing violent acts, affecting the security of signatories of the 2016 agreement. In a recent development, the killing of a former combatant in the Caquetá department on 8 July has sparked strong condemnation and concern by several national actors. According to media reports, initial estimates indicate that a faction of the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (EMC FARC-EP), which mainly consists of former FARC-EP dissidents who did not sign the 2016 accord, may have been responsible.

In a statement denouncing the killing, representatives of the Comunes party to the National Reincorporation Council (CNR) and to the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI) said that the government should demand that armed groups respect the lives of the 2016 agreement’s signatories. The statement, which was also shared by several officials from the Comunes party, describes other risks, in addition to killings, that threaten the reintegration process of former combatants, such as displacements, confinement, threats, and forced disappearances. It notes that half of the former territorial areas for training and reintegration (TATRs) are at high security risk, and that the residents of two TATRs have recently been displaced. In this regard, former combatants from a TATR in the Mesetas municipality in the Meta department were relocated in June in light of threats issued by the EMC FARC-EP. On 2 July, ex-combatants from a TATR in the municipality of Vista Hermosa, also located in the Meta department, announced that they had been forcibly displaced due to security risks, without naming specific groups.

On 9 July, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda—who has been overseeing dialogues with armed groups operating in the country—announced that the government has agreed to establish a “dialogue table” with the EMC FARC-EP. According to the announcement, there will be a preliminary phase until the dialogue’s commencement, during which the parties will discuss and approve a bilateral and temporary national ceasefire. In a statement on the same day, Rueda demanded that the EMC-FARC respect the lives and liberties of the 2016 peace signatories, adding that this has been a requirement presented by the government to any armed group that wishes to participate in the “total peace” policy.

At today’s meeting, members are likely to highlight the need for the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups to be accompanied by actions to enhance the integrated presence of the state in conflict-affected areas. They may note that this is particularly crucial in light of the departmental and municipal elections that will take place in October, as electoral campaign periods in Colombia have historically been characterised by heightened violence. The verification mission has already recorded the killing of six members of different political parties during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. Members may call for greater institutional efforts to guarantee fair and secure participation in the electoral process, including by former combatants.

Several members are expected to express concern about the increase in child recruitment in the first quarter of 2023, which was noted in the Secretary-General’s report. They may emphasise that measures relating to the protection of children can serve an early confidence-building function in peace negotiations and call on parties to include such considerations in their dialogues.

Members might also stress the importance of promoting the comprehensive implementation of the 2016 accord as the core of the “total peace” policy. This was a message conveyed by several members during the Council’s latest meeting on Colombia, held on 13 April. Russia, for instance, noted that the government’s dialogues with armed groups operating in the country should not limit the implementation of the 2016 agreement, adding that only full implementation of the 2016 accord “can build trust among new participants in the peace process”. Some members may also say that armed groups engaging in dialogue with the government should cease all violent acts to demonstrate good faith—as Ecuador did during the 13 April meeting. President of the Comunes party Rodrigo Londoño briefed at that meeting and expressed support for the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country, while noting that these dialogues should take into account the 2016 agreement in a more meaningful manner.

Today’s meeting comes as members are expected soon to begin deliberating the government’s 14 February request to expand the verification mission’s mandate to support dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country, including through the monitoring of ceasefires. The Secretary-General presented recommendations on the matter in a 13 June letter, which says that there are “two most immediate opportunities for the Mission to add value” through monitoring and verification, namely in the processes with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and the EMC FARC-EP. (For more information, see the Colombia brief in our July Forecast.) At the time of writing, the UK—the penholder on Colombia—has yet to circulate an initial draft text of a resolution expanding the verification mission’s mandate. It remains to be seen whether and how reports of recent actions committed by these groups, including kidnappings by the ELN, might affect Council members’ positions on the potential expansion of the verification mission’s mandate.

The civil society representative is expected to discuss the gender provisions of the 2016 agreement and urge more tangible progress in their implementation. She might highlight such issues as the importance of applying a gender approach to comprehensive rural reform, including by facilitating women former combatants’ access to land, and the need to address security risks that may undermine women’s political participation in the upcoming elections.

The need to address violence against women, including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), might be highlighted by the civil society representative and several Council members. The Secretary-General’s annual report on CRSV, dated 22 June, noted that in 2022, armed groups “continued to use sexual violence as a tactic to consolidate territorial control, instil fear, and obtain information”. According to the report, Colombia’s National Victims’ Unit recorded 453 cases of CRSV affecting 391 women, 26 men, 20 girls, 12 persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, and four boys. The ELN and dissident groups of the former FARC-EP were among the perpetrators identified by the UN in the report, which further notes that state security forces “were also involved”. Some members may emphasise the need to address sexual and gender-based violence considerations in any peace dialogues.

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