Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Security Council Meeting

UN Photo

11 Jan 2024

Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Security Council Meeting


Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Security Council Meeting


Thank you, Madam President.


Madam President,

I appreciate the opportunity to brief the Security Council once again, at the start of a new year that can be a decisive one for peace in Colombia.

It is a pleasure to be joined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Álvaro Leyva, to whom I reiterate my appreciation for the Government’s continued cooperation with the United Nations in Colombia.

I also welcome today the participation in this meeting of Ms. Yolanda Perea Mosquera, a remarkable Afro-Colombian leader whose work on women and victims’ rights and the response of conflict-related sexual violence is a powerful example of the resilience and commitment of Colombian civil society.

Indeed, despite the many serious challenges the country still faces in extinguishing the embers of an armed conflict that has lasted more than six decades, it is an immense privilege and opportunity for the United Nations to be in this position to assist the Colombian government and people in their drive to consolidate peace. As we saw recently, during the observances of the 7th anniversary of the Final Peace Agreement, there are obstacles to overcome but also ingredients for success in the case of Colombia that would be an example for conflict settings elsewhere around the world. First, a political negotiated peace agreement that provides a detailed roadmap for addressing the causes as well as consequences of conflict; one that remains as relevant today as the day it was signed. Second, strong national political will, as we can see in the expressed commitments of the Government, diverse institutions of state and civil society. And third, a region and international community, including this Council, that has remained united in its support of the peace process, rightly inspired by the dogged commitment of Colombians to peace.


Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

As described in the latest report of the Secretary-General, the year that just passed showed the clear linkages between the implementation of the Agreement and the dialogue initiatives with other armed actors undertaken by the Government. Recent developments also illustrate the need to move forward coherently in these processes, which, if conceived holistically, have the potential to address persistent challenges and to broaden the scope of peace. After laying important foundations, it is necessary to understand this stage as an opportunity to accelerate pace and materialize agreed commitments. Let 2024 be a year of implementation.

For example, the pact for the implementation of the ethnic chapter and the priorities set by the Vice-President in this regard should serve as a guide to move forward in this transformative component of the Agreement during 2024.

It is also worth highlighting the notable increase in land acquisition and formalization as a result of the prioritization of comprehensive rural reform in the Government’s agenda. Furthermore, I am certain that, if used as expected, the recently launched National Agrarian Reform System will contribute to deepen these results for the benefit of peasant populations, ethnic peoples and rural women.

Translating the long-awaited public policy for the dismantling of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations into concrete and effective actions, whose results are felt by the populations in the territories, would be another fundamental step in this necessary transition between the design of plans and their adequate implementation.

Undoubtedly, building on progress made and prioritizing areas lagging behind will be fundamental to meet the expectations of millions of Colombian men and women, and to strengthen the legitimacy and credibility of the Agreement, which are preconditions for the successful development of other peace efforts which are currently underway.


Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

Unquestionably, security is the basis for the successful development of any peace initiative. However, there have been events in several regions of the country that are reason for concern.

Regrettably, since the cut-off date of the report, four former FARC-EP combatants have been killed in Cauca, Chocó, Sucre and Meta, respectively. Crimes against social leaders, including indigenous and land claimants, also continue. I would like to condemn before this Security Council, once again, and in the strongest possible terms, these unjustifiable attacks, which also erode the social fabric of entire communities.

The situation in areas of departments such as Cauca, characterized by the significant presence of indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples, is particularly challenging due to the presence and actions of various armed actors. It is precisely in areas such as these where an integrated deployment of the State is most urgently needed to curb and contain the violence.

On the other hand, there are regions where, even in the midst of difficulties, there is evidence that reversing violence is possible. For example, according to figures from the National Police, homicides reduced by 16 per cent from January to October 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, in municipalities historically affected by the conflict, where development programmes with a territorial focus (PDET) are implemented. There were notable reductions, for example, in municipalities of the departments of Arauca and Meta. For these and other encouraging results not to be merely circumstantial and instead be sustainable, progress without delay in the effective implementation of key public policies for prevention and protection is essential. Such efforts, carried out in parallel and in complement to the de-escalation sought through the dialogues with different groups, offer a perspective of relief for the civilian population.


Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

While facing challenges, the steady progress within Colombia’s transitional justice system is a reason for optimism and hope in 2024. Its innovative and comprehensive structure, which combines both extrajudicial and judicial mechanisms, continues to further victims’ rights.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace continues to investigate and prosecute grave crimes committed during the conflict by former members of FARC-EP, members of the public security forces, other state agents and civilian third parties, while preparing for the issuance of its first restorative sentences. In December, for example, the SJP indicted eight former members of the former FARC-EP’s Western Bloc within Case 01 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 1993 and 2016.

Given the crucial importance of restorative sentences to be delivered by the SJP for the success of the peace process, every effort is needed to ensure that enabling conditions necessary for their implementation are in place ahead of their issuance by the SJP. This means planning in detail the activities that will be assigned to be carried out by sentenced individuals in service to victims and communities, assuring the funding, logistical support for these projects, and establishing the adequate security arrangements for this work to take place, particularly as much of it is expected to occur in rural communities. All of this will require coordinated efforts between the SJP, national and local authorities in the runup to, and implementation of the sentences.

In addition, the Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed as Missing continues with the daunting task of providing solace to the families of some 100,000 Colombian men and women deemed as missing during the conflict. Last December, a resilient woman, Gloria, was reunited with her daughter, Irene, after more than 30 years separated when she was forced to flee their home in Putumayo due to threats. Irene was only 8 years old at the time. In addition to facilitating family reunifications, since its creation, the Unit has recovered close to 1,200 remains of missing persons, helping families to finally find closure after years of suffering.


Madam President,

I remain encouraged by the continued commitment to peace of the vast majority of former FARC-EP members. Their determination to move forward despite the challenges is to be applauded. I am confident that the Government’s multifaceted approach, with instruments such as the recently established Comprehensive Reintegration Programme, provides an opportunity to meet former combatants’ needs and expectations. To that end, setting in motion the National Reintegration System, with the necessary engagement of all relevant entities, is of the essence.

Another positive development which I would like to highlight is the Government and former combatants’ joint work within the National Reintegration Council to identify the “special collective reintegration areas”. With this new designation, the parties aim at fostering equal support to former combatants who opted for a collective reintegration process, whether they remained in one of the original locations where the former FARC-EP laid down their arms (known as TATRs), or moved elsewhere in the years since. These efforts are promising and, most of all, demonstrate the great level of cooperation at this time between the parties to reach common goals.


Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

I must also highlight positive results in the talks between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN). I welcome the agreements reached in the last negotiation cycle in Mexico in December, and the progress in the implementation of previous agreements, including the bilateral ceasefire and the work of the National Participation Committee. I would like to encourage the parties to persevere in resolving their differences through dialogue, despite the challenges inherent to this kind of processes. I trust that the will demonstrated so far will lead to new results during the next round of negotiations, to be held in Cuba, including the extension and strengthening of the ceasefire between the parties, among others with the explicit prohibition of ransom kidnapping, thus formalizing important commitments agreed upon in Mexico.


Madam President,

I also welcome progress in the talks between the Government and the group self-identifying as EMC FARC-EP. The implementation of the ongoing bilateral ceasefire has brought about a level of trust necessary for the process to continue. I encourage the parties to maintain their efforts towards its consolidation, including in the framework of the third cycle of negotiations that began just this week in Bogota. According to the parties, their talks will focus, among others, on an analysis of the ceasefire with a view to its possible extension beyond its current expiration on 14 January, and on measures to reduce violence in Cauca department. We will keep the Council informed on the development of these dialogues.

It is important to reiterate that the legitimate expectations for security and enjoyment of rights by communities in conflict-affected areas remain unfulfilled in several regions. This is mainly due to the high levels of violence generated by disputes between armed groups and the presence of criminal organizations, in the face of a limited deployment of State institutions.

In this regard, I echo the Secretary-General’s call to all armed actors to show concrete signs of genuine will for peace, contributing to the de-escalation of violence throughout the country, by putting an end to confrontations among them and respecting the civilian population.


Distinguished Members of the Council,

As the year began, hundreds of new regional and local authorities elected in the local elections held last October took office, among them an Afro-Colombian former combatant elected Mayor of Cumaribo, Vichada. The unique knowledge these authorities have of the dynamics and realities of their territories represents an invaluable asset for any peacebuilding effort. To this end, it is essential to strengthen the coordinated work of the State between the national, departmental and municipal levels. Condemnable actions that have occurred in recent days, such as the attempt on the life of the Mayor of Tumaco, illustrate the risks facing local authorities. Likewise, this highlights the need to guarantee their protection, for which the effective use of the Comprehensive Security System for the Exercise of Politics provided for in the Agreement continues to be essential. I also condemn the kidnapping of the Registrar of Chocó department.


Madam President,

I take this opportunity to wish Mr. Otty Patiño and Mrs. Vera Grabe success in their important work as the new High Commissioner for Peace and as head of the negotiating team with the ELN. Vera Grabe is the first woman to hold this position in the long history of peace efforts in Colombia. Undoubtedly, both functions are key to the success of the efforts undertaken so far. Of particular importance is also the creation of an office within the Presidency dedicated to the implementation of the 2016 Agreement, which was announced by President Petro last year.


Madam President, Distinguished Members,

I would like to conclude in this regard by emphasizing that, in order for the aforementioned progress to consolidate in a lasting manner, it is necessary to deepen the implementation of the Agreement and to continue advancing in the dialogue initiatives with other armed actors. Continuing to work on both tasks, aware that they are mutually reinforcing, can generate a virtuous circle that allows to take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks.

The encouraging voice and active participation of this Council will continue to be a very important support, one of the foundations –as I mentioned at the beginning– for success. Your expected visit to Colombia will be another milestone in this history of commitment to peace in Colombia.

I thank you, Madam President.