What's In Blue

Posted Wed 11 Oct 2023

Colombia: Quarterly Meeting*

This afternoon (11 October), 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 June to 26 September. Briefings are also expected from Deputy Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UN Hrvoje Ćurić Hrvatinić, in his capacity as the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), and a civil society representative, who will speak about environmental issues.* Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán will represent his country at the meeting.

In August, the administration of Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego completed one year in office. The Secretary-General’s report reflects on the various steps taken since August 2022 by the government to advance its policy of “total peace”. This policy 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). While the report notes positive progress, including on such aspects as rural reform, it also highlights the continuance of conflict-related violence as a major challenge.

At today’s meeting, the briefers and Council members are expected to express grave concern about 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 15 ex-combatants, bringing to 393 the number of former FARC-EP members killed since the signing of the peace agreement. Killings of social leaders and human rights defenders continued unabated. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received 52 allegations of killings of human rights defenders, of which four were verified, 44 were under verification and four were inconclusive. The reported cases involved 14 indigenous leaders, ten peasant leaders,11 Afro-Colombian leaders, four women leaders, and one leader of the LGBTQI community.

On 7 September, the National Commission on Security Guarantees, a body established by the 2016 agreement, presented a public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks and an action plan for its implementation. According to the action plan, the government will seek to promote comprehensive actions that address the multiple causes—including socioeconomic, political, ideological, and cultural—that contribute to the creation and persistence of criminal structures. The plan stipulates, among other things, the strengthening of the state’s presence in areas where institutional weakness has allowed such structures to take root.

Many speakers are likely to welcome the presentation of the public policy and express hope that the government advances its implementation swiftly. They may also emphasise the importance of enhancing the integrated presence of the state in conflict-affected areas. They might note that this is particularly crucial in light of the departmental and municipal elections that will take place on 29 October, as electoral campaign periods in Colombia have historically been characterised by heightened violence. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the verification mission received reports of several killings of members of political parties from across the spectrum, including of a woman candidate and an indigenous candidate. Members may call for greater institutional efforts to guarantee fair and secure participation in the electoral process, including of women and of former combatants.

Several Council members are likely to discuss the work of 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. Among other issues, they are likely to welcome the fact that on 27 September the court opened a new macro-case, Case 11, on gender-based violence. The Secretary-General’s report notes that in a meeting between Ruiz Massieu and the SJP in July, the Special Representative highlighted the need to advance swiftly towards the issuance of the first restorative sentences, given their “importance for the reparation and restoration of victims and for the comprehensive implementation of the Final Peace Agreement more broadly”. In the exchange, the SJP’s magistrates raised concerns about the amount of time needed to complete their investigations and the security of the individuals appearing before the court.

In-country diplomats of member states serving on the Security Council have continued to interact informally with members of the Comunes party, which is comprised of former FARC-EP members, by organising meetings at their embassies in Bogotá to discuss the findings of the Secretary-General’s quarterly reports. The latest such meeting was organised by the Swiss embassy in Bogotá on 5 October. At that meeting, it seems that Comunes representatives expressed concern about the lack of implementation of several provisions of the 2016 agreement, including those related to security guarantees for former combatants, reintegration of ex-combatants, and the accord’s ethnic chapter. They also emphasised the importance of establishing an office within the presidency dedicated to advancing implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. More than six months since Petro announced his intention in March to establish such an office and to appoint a high-level official to oversee the implementation of the peace process with the former FARC-EP, neither has been done. At today’s meeting, some Council members may emphasise the importance of establishing such an office and of promoting the comprehensive implementation of the 2016 accord as the core of the “total peace” policy.

The government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country is another expected focus of today’s meeting. On 3 August, a bilateral six-month ceasefire agreed between the Colombian government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) came into force. On the same day, the sides established a “National Participation Committee”, which is tasked with designing a methodology for the participation of civil society in the process. The Security Council expanded the verification mission’s mandate to monitor and verify the implementation of the ceasefire between the government and the ELN in resolution 2694 of 2 August. (For more information, see our 2 August What’s in Blue story.) The Secretary-General’s report says that the parties “have successfully avoided any significant confrontation” during the reporting period.

In resolution 2694, the Council also indicated its willingness to consider mandating the verification mission to monitor and verify a ceasefire with the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (EMC FARC-EP), when the Secretary-General “confirms a ceasefire including appropriate verification protocols has been reached” with the armed group. (The EMC FARC-EP mainly consists of former FARC-EP dissidents who did not sign the 2016 accord.)

On 19 September, the government and the EMC FARC-EP announced their decision to set up a “peace dialogue table” on 8 October. The parties also pledged to begin implementing, on that day, a ten-month bilateral, national ceasefire, committing to uphold respect for the civilian population. However, it seems that the sides have not reached agreement on some aspects of the envisioned process. In a joint statement issued on 8 October, the sides pledged to “suspend offensive actions as a mechanism to protect the civilian population and reduce the effects of the confrontation”. The statement says that on 16 October, the “exploratory and preparation stage will culminate” and then the dialogue process will begin formally. On the same day, the government is expected to issue the official ceasefire decree. Notably, although the parties announced in September that the ceasefire would last ten months, the 8 October statement does not specify the duration of the bilateral ceasefire that the parties plan to implement.

At today’s closed consultations, Council members may ask for more information from Ruiz Massieu about the dialogue process with the EMC FARC-EP. Members might also seek the Special Representative’s views on the upcoming renewal of the verification mission’s mandate, which expires on 31 October.


Post-script: An earlier version of this story indicated that Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UN Ivan Šimonović will brief in his capacity as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The story was amended to reflect that Deputy Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UN Hrvoje Ćurić Hrvatinić eventually briefed in this capacity.

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