Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, SRSG and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Security Council Meeting
Briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, SRSG and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Security Council Meeting
12 July 2023
Thank you very much, Madam President,
I would like to thank you for this new opportunity to present the latest report of the Secretary-General on the Verification Mission in Colombia, as well as to update the Council on developments related to the implementation of the Final Agreement and other peacebuilding efforts.
It is a pleasure, as always, to be with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Álvaro Leyva, to whom I take the opportunity to reiterate my gratitude for the continued collaboration of President Petro’s Government with the Mission and the United Nations in Colombia.
I am also honoured to be in the presence of Diana Salcedo, an outstanding leader who works tirelessly in the implementation of the gender provisions of the Agreement and in the national action plan of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
When this Council met in July of last year, a new administration had just been elected in Colombia amid great optimism about the prospects for peacebuilding to advance. I highlighted, at the time, the enormous opportunity and responsibility that President Gustavo Petro’s government would have for accelerating the implementation of the Agreement.
I do believe that the steps forward registered in the Secretary-General’s latest report are an indication that implementation is gaining traction across several sections of the Agreement, including those that had been lagging behind despite having the greatest potential to address the root causes of the conflict. Especially noteworthy are the numerous peace-related provisions of the National Development Plan, the increased attention to the comprehensive rural reform, and the allocation of much-needed funding for the implementation of the Peace Agreement.
The establishment of the Ministry of Equality, led by Vice-President Francia Márquez, as well as progress by the Office of the Vice-President in crafting ways to further the implementation of the Agreement’s ethnic chapter, are important steps for improving the situation of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and other vulnerable groups.
Sound planning and coordination will be important to maximize the potential of these initiatives to bring tangible peace dividends. To that end, I take the opportunity to reiterate the importance of following through on the decision to appoint a top official within the Presidency dedicated to overseeing implementation of the Final Peace Agreement.
Congress also has a key role to play in implementing the Agreement. I welcome the approval of legislation pertaining to the comprehensive rural reform and I trust that all political actors will continue to find ways to build consensus to consolidate peace.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
The centrality of victims is a promise of the Agreement and a fundamental principle of its implementation. As the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) continues to advance in its different macro-cases, including through new indictments, the voices of victims demanding truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition have resonated strongly in recent hearings of the Jurisdiction with members of the different parties to the conflict appearing before the Jurisdiction.
One of these hearings took place in Dabeiba, Antioquia department, despite death threats from those who seek to hinder truth and justice. With shocking testimonies, the members of the security forces under the Jurisdiction’s authority acknowledged their responsibility in extrajudicial executions, crimes that illustrate the degradation of the conflict.
The presence of several ministers and government officials at this hearing is a significant gesture and an important step towards the imperative goal of non-repetition of the conflict.
I am confident that the SJP will continue to move decisively towards the issuance of its first restorative sentences, which will undoubtedly mark another milestone in the Colombian peace process.
Additionally, victims and civil society organizations have persisted in seeking justice for crimes related to sexual violence in the conflict, and continue to await a definitive decision by the SJP regarding the opening of Case 11 on this matter.
Lastly, with regards to the SJP, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my solidarity in the face of new threats reported yesterday by the President of the SJP, Justice Roberto Vidal.
Regarding the reintegration process, I echo the Secretary-General in commending the Government’s new approach, stressing sustainability, community-based reintegration with an emphasis on reconciliation, access to land and gender and women’s empowerment.
The approval by the parties of a sustainability strategy to support collective productive projects and the allocation of funding for this purpose are important actions. The approval of new collective projects, additional support for individual initiatives and for access to employment would significantly boost thousands of former combatants’ livelihoods and help anchor their transition into civilian life.
Madam President, Members of the Council,
Regrettably, violence continues to hinder the realization of the full potential of the Agreement. I trust that recent improvements regarding security guarantees such as the adoption of a new security and defense policy will soon bear results and help improve the situation in conflict-affected regions.
One of such regions is Catatumbo, where I recently had the opportunity to attend a humanitarian roundtable convened by local leaders and grassroot organizations. Their pleas for an increased presence of the State and its institutions, as well as services, for legal alternatives to illicit crops, and for perseverance in resolving armed conflict through dialogue, are the same ones heard in many parts of the countryside.
As implementation of rural reform advances, we see an increase in violence against peasant leaders and land claimants and obstacles against government officials working on land reform.
Also concerning is the persistent violence against former combatants, five of whom have been killed since the publication of the Secretary-General’s report.
Just last week, another reintegration area was relocated due to insecurity, as dozens of former combatants and their families moved from Vista Hermosa, Meta, to the nearby municipality of Granada. I trust that support from the Government will soon result in durable solutions both for former combatants and host communities.
Much more must be done to protect those who exercise leadership and stand up for the rights of entire communities, as well as those who laid down their arms in good faith under the Peace Agreement.
Madam President, Members of the Council,
I take this opportunity to condemn once again the recent armed attack against members of the Catholic Church in Caldono, Cauca, and to reiterate our solidarity with the Church, an invaluable ally for peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Similarly, in view of the October territorial elections, I call on illegal armed actors to respect the right of citizens and candidates of all political parties to participate in a campaign free of threats.
I reiterate my call to the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that the elections take place in a safe and participatory environment, with full guarantees for the participation of women in politics.
The Government’s drive for the implementation of key aspects of the Peace Agreement has been accompanied by efforts to engage in dialogue with armed groups of different nature. These two efforts are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
The results achieved in Cuba in the third round of negotiations between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are very encouraging. Last week, the cessation of offensive actions between the parties entered into force, a step towards the full implementation of the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire as of 3 August. Likewise, in a few days the National Participation Committee will be installed, which will promote the broad involvement of society in the peace process. I trust that the will of the parties will be maintained and will lead to further progress.
On the other hand, and in spite of the challenges, engagement with the group that calls itself “Estado Mayor Central FARC” is also noteworthy. The joint announcement made by the Government and this group on 8 July regarding the installation of a negotiating table is positive news. I hope that trust-building between the parties will continue, and that there will soon be developments regarding the formal start of negotiations and a renewed national ceasefire.
This and other dialogue initiatives are an opportunity to achieve concrete commitments to reduce the suffering of civilians victims of the conflict and in particular to reduce violence against former combatants and social leaders.
Madam President and Distinguished Members,
Additionally, the dialogues offer opportunities for the United Nations to redouble its support to peace. This is a critical moment in which the determined will of the parties, along with the support of the international community, can consolidate incipient peace processes. In this context, I reiterate the Secretary-General’s conviction that the Mission can make an important contribution through the monitoring and verification of ceasefires.
Undoubtedly, the progress made during this period shows that, with the participation of different actors, efforts to consolidate peace are yielding important results.
For Colombia to finally see its longing for non-repetition materialize, it is essential to persevere and build upon the achievements attained, to resolutely face security challenges, and not to falter in the search for a solution to violence that prioritizes dialogue. We are facing a window of opportunity in which the support of this Security Council is decisive.
Thank you very much, Madam President.