Press Release on the Quarterly Report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Bogota, 13 January 2022. “Colombia is proving the value of investing in peace while providing an example that violent conflicts can be ended through dialogue and that societies can heal the wounds of war and bring about development opportunities to those most in need,” affirms the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his latest report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which covers the period from 25 September to 27 December 2021.
The Secretary-General highlights the fifth anniversary of the Final Peace Agreement as an opportunity for actors engaged in peacebuilding efforts and Colombian society at large to discuss the Agreement and its implementation, recognizing the historic progress as well as the major challenges that remain. The Secretary-General is encouraged by the dividends of peace he witnessed during his visit to Colombia, but reiterates his concern about the obstacles facing the consolidation of peace, especially the persisting violence in areas prioritized for implementation. The Secretary-General notes that reversing this trend will require more sustained and effective action, noting that, should this violence persist, this “historic window of opportunity may gradually close”.
Regarding the reintegration process, the Secretary General highlights that among the most important elements of the Agreement are those creating the conditions for the transition into civilian life of former combatants who laid down their arms and remain committed to peace, pointing out that he was able to hear their hopes and concerns first-hand during his visit. During this period, the National Reintegration Council approved eight collective productive projects and the Agency for Reintegration and Normalization approved 370 individual projects. The report informs that, five years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, almost 59% of the more than 13,000 accredited former combatants, including 64% of female former combatants, are involved in productive projects.
According to the report, in these five years, violence against social leaders, former combatants and communities has been concentrated largely in 30 municipalities, most of them prioritized for the implementation of the Agreement. After five years, violence against former combatants remains the single greatest threat to their transition into civilian life. Since the signing of the Agreement, 303 former combatants (10 women) have been killed, ten during the reporting period, including one woman, María Muñoz, an indigenous former combatant from Cauca.
Although the report highlights that killings of former combatants have decreased by 27% in the last year, it also notes that there is an increasing trend of threats by illegal armed groups against former combatants involved in collective initiatives, affecting their productive projects and cooperatives. Recently, the former Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration in La Macarena, Meta, had to be urgently relocated to Caquetá, following an increase in threats from illegal armed groups. The Secretary-General stresses the importance of providing former combatants with the security and support necessary for their efforts to be sustainable, including deeper transformations contained in other sections of the Agreement.
In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights received information about the killings of 34 human rights defenders (7 verified and 27 under verification). Additionally, seven massacres were documented, leaving 29 victims, for a total of 56 massacres and 222 victims in 2021. In addition, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, in 2021, approximately 72,600 people have been displaced and 65,200 forcibly confined, with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities being particularly affected.
In this regard, the Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Government and State entities to spare no effort in comprehensively implementing the Agreement. “Reinforced progress in all sections, including pending provisions on security guarantees, and an increased presence of the State are required to unleash the Final Agreement’s transformative potential and enable civilian institutions to effectively provide long-awaited goods and services throughout the country.”
The report mentions progress in the preparations for the implementation of the Mission's mandate on the verification of the restorative sentences to be issued by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), and highlights that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to providing the necessary support and resources and is collaborating with the SJP. The report also highlights important developments in the work of the SJP, the Truth Commission and the Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing, including acknowledgement of responsibility of members of the security forces accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Case 03, known as "false positives."
The Secretary-General highlights the moving encounter he had with a group of victims at the Fragmentos counter-monument, adding that it was a powerful reminder that victims are at the heart of the peace process. “Their strength and generosity must be met with genuine commitment by all parties to the conflict to contribute to the truth and acknowledge their responsibilities.” In this regard, the Secretary-General once again recognizes the work of the transitional justice system and renews his call for full cooperation and respect for it.
Furthermore, the Secretary-General highlights the efforts of Colombian civil society to keep the flame of peace alive. “I commend their efforts, and especially those of Colombian women who continue to work tirelessly to consolidate peace, and of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities who, even in the face of tremendous hardship, work for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
In reference to the 2022 electoral process, the Secretary-General trusts that Colombians and the country’s political leaders can recognise that achieving lasting peace can no longer be a source of disagreement. “Given the devastating human toll of more than five decades of conflict between the State and the former FARC-EP, it is a moral obligation to guarantee the success of Colombia’s hard-won peace,” concludes the Secretary-General.
The report of the Secretary-General will be presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, to the United Nations Security Council on 20 January 2022.