What's In Blue

Posted Wed 10 Jan 2024

Colombia: Quarterly Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon (11 January), the Security Council will hold an open briefing 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 2023. The Council will also hear a briefing from an Afro-Colombian woman civil society representative, who will speak about gender and ethnic issues. Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva Durán will represent his country at the meeting. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

Council members that have signed on to the Shared Commitments on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS)—Ecuador, France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US—are expected to read a joint statement on Colombia ahead of the meeting.

Tomorrow’s meeting follows the seventh anniversary, on 24 November 2023, of the signing 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), marking the halfway point in the 15-year timetable envisioned for the accord’s implementation. It also comes after the conclusion of the second municipal and departmental elections since the agreement’s signing, which were held on 29 October 2023. The briefers and Council members may reflect on these milestones and commend the Colombian government, former FARC-EP combatants, and civil society on their expressions of renewed commitment to the implementation of the 2016 agreement. Members might also highlight the important role of the newly elected authorities in promoting the comprehensive implementation of the accord at the local level.

Speakers are likely to discuss the “total peace” policy, which Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego has been promoting since taking office in August 2022. This policy entails the promotion of dialogue with armed groups operating in the country, as well as the implementation of the 2016 agreement. Several Council members may commend the political will the government has shown, and the approval of policies and programmes for the implementation of various aspects of the accord, while emphasising the need to move from planning to concrete implementation, underscoring in this regard the need to allocate adequate resources and to enhance inter-institutional coordination.

Members may also refer to the Council’s planned visiting mission to Colombia that is expected to take place in February. The UK, the penholder on Colombia, announced its intention to organise a visiting mission to the country during a 21 December 2023 meeting under “any other business”.

At tomorrow’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. A 24 November 2023 report 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—notes that the “total peace” policy had mixed results in the first ten months of 2023 in terms of promoting security. Although fewer civilians were killed or injured, reports of crimes linked to economic dynamics and social and territorial control—such as kidnapping, extortion, forced recruitment, and conflict-related sexual violence—either remained the same or increased in some areas.

During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the verification mission verified the killing of 11 ex-combatants, bringing to 406 the number of former FARC-EP members killed since the signing of the peace agreement. This marks a decrease compared to the previous reporting period, which saw the killings of 15 former combatants. The report highlights that “investigations of crimes against former combatants continue facing challenges”, noting that no convictions were obtained during the reporting period in the 498 cases under investigation by the Office of Colombia’s Attorney General.

Members are also likely to express serious concern about the continued insecurity facing social leaders and human rights defenders. At least 163 such individuals were killed between January and November 2023, according to Colombia’s Ombudsperson. The Secretary-General’s report warns of a pattern of increased targeting of leaders involved in land restitution, indigenous and Afro-Colombian traditional authorities, and members of local administrative boards, who “are often forced to leave their places of residence, hindering the processes they lead and further eroding the social fabric”.

Several members are likely to echo the Secretary-General’s report, which emphasised that the deployment of an integrated presence of state institutions and services is a key component in eradicating conflict drivers. They might also encourage swift implementation of mechanisms such as the public policy for dismantling criminal organisations and their support networks, which was presented on 7 September 2023 by the National Commission on Security Guarantees, a body established by the 2016 agreement. Several members are expected to express concern about the increase in child recruitment, noting that measures relating to child protection can serve as an early confidence-building function in peace negotiations, and call on parties to include such considerations in their dialogues. Several Council members and the civil society briefer are likely to emphasise the need to tackle insecurity affecting women, including sexual and gender-based violence.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first on Colombia for new elected members Algeria, Guyana, the ROK, Sierra Leone, and Slovenia. Guyana, which replaced outgoing member Brazil in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) seat, apparently intends to position itself as the “plus one” member of the “A3 plus one” grouping. The Council’s African members grouping (the A3)—this year comprised of Algeria, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone—has traditionally sought to highlight issues relating to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, which continue to be disproportionately affected by violence. These and other Council members may welcome the fact that the Colombian government signed, on 20 November 2023, a pact pledging to complete at least 60 percent of the 2016 agreement’s ethnic chapter by 2026. Some other new elected members are expected to highlight priorities such as WPS, the protection of civilians, and environmental issues.

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 French embassy in Bogotá on 9 January. Among other issues, it seems that Comunes representatives expressed concern about insecurity facing former combatants, noting that 15 of the 24 former territorial areas for training and reintegration (TATRs) are at high security risk. They also emphasised the importance of establishing an office within the presidency dedicated to advancing implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. More than nine months since Petro announced his intention in March 2023 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.

The government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The government and the guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) have been observing a bilateral ceasefire since August 2023, which is due to expire on 30 January. At the fifth round of negotiations, held in Mexico between 4 and 17 December 2023, the sides announced several key decisions, including the establishment of eight crucial locations for humanitarian action. Although it was initially announced that the ELN had also agreed to suspend ransom kidnappings, the group later reportedly said that it will only do so if the government upholds its promise to finance projects that could provide the rebels with alternative sources of income. The next round of talks between the sides is set to take place in Cuba between 22 January and 5 February.

After multiple setbacks in 2023, the government and the dissident group of the former FARC-EP that identifies itself as the Estado Mayor Central Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (EMC FARC-EP) began implementing on 16 October 2023 a bilateral ceasefire that is in effect until 15 January. During December 2023, the sides reached agreements on several issues, including protocols covering the ceasefire’s rules, and the EMC FARC-EP announced that it would suspend ransom kidnappings. The third round of talks between the sides began yesterday (9 January) and is expected to last until 20 January.

Several members are likely to welcome the progress in both processes and call on the sides to reach agreement on the extension of their respective ceasefires. As in previous meetings, there may be differences in tone among Council members in addressing these processes. Some members, such as the US, advocate a more cautious approach in respect of Council support for the government’s dialogue efforts with armed groups operating in the country. (The ELN and the EMC FARC-EP are foreign terrorist organisations under US law.) The US has also been vocal in past meetings about the need for armed groups that are participating in the dialogue process to cease committing such acts as kidnappings. Other members would apparently like to see a more proactive approach from the Council in support of the dialogue processes.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications