Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, SRSG and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Security Council Meeting 12 April 2022
Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, SRSG and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Security Council Meeting, 12 April 2022
I thank you, Mister President.
I thank you for the opportunity to present the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the Verification Mission in Colombia.
It is an honor for me to be in the Security Council today in the presence of the President of the Republic of Colombia, Iván Duque. And I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my appreciation and gratitude for his support to the United Nations in general, and to the Verification Mission in Colombia in particular. Your confidence in the Mission’s role, President Duque, has allowed us to accompany the Government, the former FARC-EP combatants and civil society in their efforts towards the consolidation of peace in Colombia.
Mister President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
As the Secretary-General has said, with the Final Peace Agreement and its implementation, Colombia reminds the world that even an armed conflict of more than five decades, with a painful toll of millions of victims can be resolved through dialogue, laying the foundations for reconciliation and non-repetition.
Today, the United Nations is a privileged witness to a peace-building process that is advancing, although at different levels, along the path laid out by the Final Peace Agreement. Certainly, progress is the product, above all, of the perseverance of the Colombian State and the former FARC-EP, and the determined support of civil society, victims and communities from all regions.
For Colombia and for the world, it is essential to recognize what has been achieved through this process, especially in order to protect it and carry it into the future. Naturally, recognizing progress made does not mean minimizing the challenges and risks that still threaten the consolidation of peace in the country. On the contrary: overcoming those obstacles –starting with the increasing violence in some regions– and persisting in the comprehensive implementation of the Agreement must be the objectives that guide the work in the years remaining for the full materialization of what was agreed.
The current electoral cycle helps illustrate some of the dividends of peace. For the second time since the signing of the Agreement, elections were mostly free of violence.
There is no question that the successful laydown of thousands of arms of the former FARC-EP –verified by the United Nations– significantly reduced nation-wide levels of conflict-related violence.
Recent elections also saw an increase in the number of women candidates and women elected to Congress, even in the face of major challenges, including gender-based political violence.
As the Council is also aware, the recent Congressional elections featured for the first time the opportunity for Colombians to elect representatives of 16 new electoral districts established under the Peace Agreement, in conflict-affected regions. And despite a range of difficulties that constrained campaigning, Colombia’s democracy will no doubt be enriched by the increased voice of victims. The United Nations stands ready to support their effective participation, and I trust the new Congress that takes office in July will work to advance on the pending legislative agenda of the Peace Agreement.
Mister President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
Peacebuilding is an ever-evolving process with its breakthroughs and its setbacks, and the reintegration of former combatants is no exception. Despite challenges including security, former members of the extinct FARC-EP and members of the Comunes party were able to campaign and to vote in congressional elections for the second time since the signing of the Agreement. Obstacles to their vote were jointly addressed by authorities, former combatants’ representatives and the Verification Mission.
Throughout the countryside and in many cities, those who laid down their arms are building productive new lives through a myriad of projects that also benefit communities and foster reconciliation. The vast majority of the more than 13,000 accredited former combatants remain engaged with the peace process, and almost two-thirds of all former members of the FARC-EP are now taking part in collective and individual income-generating initiatives.
These examples are certainly noteworthy, as is the commitment of authorities and partners whose work has made this possible over the years. Progress is being made regarding key elements for the long-term success of reintegration, including most recently on the provision of land and housing.
Nevertheless, the sustainability of the process is still contingent upon additional efforts, including to halt the violence that still jeopardizes former combatants’ plans to build a new life. And while I recognize the different measures in place, more can still be done to improve their security.
Mister President, Members of the Council,
Two weeks ago, alongside representatives of the Catholic Church and the United Nations country team, I visited Arauca, a region facing a critical situation with more than a hundred people killed and thousands forcibly displaced this year alone.
We met with authorities, civil society organizations and members of the communities, and what we heard was a desperate plea for help. We conveyed our support to those affected as well as the urgency for authorities to take appropriate actions to improve the situation. We also called on armed groups, once more, to immediately cease violence and respect international humanitarian law. Arauca is illustrative of the situation of violence in various neglected regions facing illegal armed groups, illicit economies, and a limited presence of the State.
The department of Putumayo has been similarly affected by violence in recent weeks. I stress the importance of a thorough investigation by relevant authorities into the reported deaths of 11 persons including indigenous and community leaders in the context of a military operation against members of an illegal armed group in Puerto Leguízamo.
Violence is also exacting a particularly high toll on indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the form of killings, displacements and the increasing recruitment of minors.
Mister President, Distinguished Members of the Council
The continuation of such suffering in the very communities who were most victimized during decades of conflict calls urgently still for the full implementation of the Peace Agreement. It is important to recall in this regard that the Agreement was conceived as an interconnected set of mechanisms whose comprehensive implementation would not only end the conflict with the FARC but address the deep-rooted factors that continue today to underpin dynamics of violence in many areas of the country.
For instance, if implemented in a coordinated manner, the security guarantees provisions set out in the Agreement have the potential to boost key areas such as reintegration, political participation and transitional justice. Similarly, progress in bringing long needed rural reform and in combating illegal drugs in particular through voluntary crop substitution programmes, will reinforce reintegration and security. And given the differentiated effects of the conflict, gender and ethnic provisions are meant to be mainstreamed throughout.
The effective use of the institutions devised by the Government and the former FARC-EP to set these changes in motion is essential. Likewise, strengthened joint work within ad-hoc mechanisms developed throughout these years could also help the parties fulfil their obligations and meet the expectations raised by the Agreement. A clear example is the ongoing pilot to enhance former combatants’ capacities to locate minefields –only possible thanks to the collaboration of the Government and the former FARC-EP members and the support of the United Nations–. The contributions of this work to clearing contaminated areas will directly alleviate suffering in communities, preventing mines from claiming new victims and fostering development.
Mister President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
After years of constant work, in June the Truth Commission will release its final report, built on the testimonies of thousands of victims, of all actors in the conflict and of sectors throughout Colombian society. The Commission’s legacy will therefore be more than a uniformed narrative about the past, and will consist of translating that plurality of experiences into concrete recommendations and initiatives that contribute to overcoming the dynamics that drove and sustained the conflict.
In this regard, I would like to echo the call of the Secretary-General to make wise use the Commission’s report. I am confident that it will be precisely in this spirit that both victims and perpetrators, as well as Colombian society and its institutions, will receive this legacy and make it their own. We at the United Nations will be ready to support the Commission in the crucial work of disseminating the report after its publication.
I would also like to highlight the historic nature of the first public hearings of acknowledgement of responsibility to be held by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in the coming weeks. In these hearings, former FARC-EP commanders, members of the public security forces and civilian third parties will have a space to demonstrate their commitment to the truth and the rights of victims, which are the raison d’être of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. This is a decisive step towards the definition of the restorative sentences to be issued by the SJP. Their reparative potential will be key to meet victims’ expectations.
I welcome the recent announcement by President Duque of the establishment of a route of attention and accompaniment for members of the public security forces who voluntarily appear before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
Mister President, distinguished Members of the Council,
Colombia’s peace is invaluable. We must continue to build it and protect it in order to ensure its success – for the sake of Colombia and for the example it offers to the world.
I quote what the Secretary General said during his visit to Colombia last November: “In a world of geopolitical divisions, endless wars, and multiplying conflicts, Colombia sends a clear message: it is time to invest in peace”.
All the efforts in this regard that the Government led by President Duque can continue to make in the coming months will be welcome. I am aware, at the same time, that soon the baton will pass to a new administration, which will be the third since the signing of the Agreement to assume the responsibilities of the executive in its implementation.
In order to continue moving in this direction, it is essential that the parties, civil society and political actors recognize the progress made, and that they commit to advance on the pending elements and to face the challenges decisively. In this particular context, the continued support of this Security Council will be as crucial as ever.
Thank you, Mister President.