What's In Blue

Posted Mon 30 Oct 2023

Colombia: Vote on Verification Mission Mandate Renewal*

This afternoon (30 October), Security Council members are expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia for another year, until 31 October 2024.

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. The UK, the penholder on Colombia, circulated an initial draft of the resolution on 20 October and convened one round of negotiations on 23 October to discuss the text. After Council members submitted comments, the penholder circulated a first revised draft on 24 October and placed it under silence procedure until the following day (25 October). China and Russia subsequently broke silence over language pertaining to women, peace and security (WPS) and youth. A second revised draft was placed under silence procedure on Thursday (26 October) until Friday morning (27 October), which was again broken by China and Russia over the same matters. The UK then circulated a third revised text that included compromise language to address these members’ concerns and put it in blue on Friday afternoon.

The initial draft text prepared by the UK apparently sought a straightforward extension of the verification mission’s mandate, which was most recently extended for one year through resolution 2655 of 27 October 2022. The mission’s tasks include verifying aspects 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) related to the political, economic, and social reincorporation of former FARC-EP combatants and personal and collective security guarantees. Since adopting resolution 2655, the Council has twice expanded the mission’s mandate: to monitor the implementation of the chapter on comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter of the 2016 accord through resolution 2673 of 11 January, and to monitor and verify the implementation of a bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) that began on 3 August through resolution 2694 of 2 August. (For background, see our 11 January and 2 August What’s in Blue stories.)

It appears that Council members were generally supportive of the penholder’s proposal for a straightforward mandate extension—particularly considering the two recent expansions of the mission’s mandate—and this issue did not require substantial discussion. It seems, however, that proposed thematic language required discussions during the negotiations.

Although resolution 2694 indicates the Council’s willingness to consider mandating the mission to monitor and verify a ceasefire with the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (EMC FARC-EP), many members apparently felt that this process was not yet sufficiently advanced and therefore did not wish to expand the mission’s mandate in this draft resolution. Resolution 2694 notes that the Council will consider expanding the mandate when the Secretary-General “confirms a ceasefire including appropriate verification protocols has been reached” with the armed group. Council members may discuss a separate resolution expanding the verification mission’s mandate after receiving more information on this matter.

On 16 October, the Colombian government and the EMC FARC-EP announced the establishment of a “peace dialogue table” and signed a bilateral ceasefire decree, committing to implement a national ceasefire until 15 January 2024. The ceasefire protocols signed by the sides include several provisions aimed at protecting civilians, prohibiting such actions as forced confinement. The ceasefire announcement was welcomed by several international interlocutors, including Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu and Council member Switzerland, which agreed to serve as a guarantor country in this dialogue process and has also been serving as a guarantor in the government’s dialogue with the ELN.

The government’s dialogue process with the EMC FARC-EP has faced setbacks in the past, including its suspension in May following the killing of several indigenous youths by the armed group and car bomb attacks carried out by the EMC FARC-EP in September. (For more information, see the Colombia briefs in our July and October Monthly Forecasts.) During the negotiations on resolution 2694, it seems that some members wanted to see a broader expansion of the verification mission’s mandate, which would have included monitoring of the process with the EMC FARC-EP. Other members, however, continue to advocate a more cautious approach. For instance, during the Council’s latest meeting on Colombia, held on 11 October, the US said that it would like to see more progress in the dialogue process with the EMC FARC-EP before considering an expansion of the mandate, arguing that the process currently lacks the “maturity” that was seen in the process with the ELN. It added that the ELN, the EMC FARC-EP, and the armed group Segunda Marquetalia remain designated foreign terrorist organisations under US law.

Thematic language proposed by some members on issues relating to women, children, and youth was apparently the main area of discussion during the negotiations on the draft resolution in blue. It seems that China and Russia opposed the addition of such language, cautioning against over-emphasising certain issues and promoting a “Christmas-tree mandate”, a term which is used to describe a situation whereby Council members mandate a UN peace mission with so many tasks that they could risk diluting the mission’s efforts.

A major focus of the discussions was language on WPS, which was proposed by Switzerland and supported by many Council members, including Albania, Brazil, France, Japan, Malta, and the US. Based on Switzerland’s suggestion, the penholder incorporated in the preambular section of the first revised draft language that emphasised the verification mission’s efforts to continue to mainstream gender into its planning, verification, and reporting mandate, and noted the importance of ensuring adequate gender expertise, as appropriate. It also commended the mission’s efforts to achieve gender parity and engage systematically with women’s organisations. This language was based on recommendations presented by UN Women during a 21 August meeting on Colombia of the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on WPS. The penholder also included a new sentence, suggested by Japan, that stressed the importance of full and effective participation of all stakeholders, including women and youth, in peacebuilding efforts.

China and Russia broke silence on the first revised draft over the inclusion of the language proposed by Switzerland and Japan. It seems that these members expressed concern that the WPS-related language may be perceived as adding new tasks to the mission’s mandate. Members supporting the language apparently countered that it does not add new tasks, but rather highlights tasks that the mission is already carrying out as part of its existing mandate. In an attempt to strike compromise, in the second revised draft, instead of the provision on gender mainstreaming, the penholder incorporated language emphasising the verification mission’s efforts to continue to integrate a gender perspective as a cross-cutting issue into its planning, verification, and reporting. This was based on agreed language from resolution 2567 of 12 March 2021, which renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). As well, the sentence proposed by Japan was removed from the second revised draft, and was replaced with a reference to youth in an existing section which describes the role of different parts of Colombian society in promoting the implementation of the peace agreement.

It seems that China and Russia still had concerns about the proposed language on WPS, prompting these members to break silence over the second revised draft. In breaking silence, China proposed amendments to the text, arguing that there are other cross-cutting issues, besides gender, that should be integrated in the mission’s planning, verification, and reporting. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue emphasises the verification mission’s efforts to continue to integrate a gender perspective as a cross-cutting issue into its planning, verification, and reporting, and recognises the importance of other perspectives, including development, and ensuring adequate gender expertise as appropriate.


*Post-script: On 30 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2704, renewing the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia for another year, until 31 October 2024.

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