Press release Report of the Secretary-General on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
“Three years after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, Colombians are striving to write a new chapter of peacebuilding, reconciliation and hope,” stated the latest Quarterly Report of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Security Council on the Verification Mission in Colombia.
The report covers the period from September 27, 2019, to December 26, 2019, highlighting that “the strong participation and comparatively peaceful nature of the October local and departmental elections showed once again the gradual advance towards a more inclusive and democratic Colombia. The Final Peace Agreement and the commitment of the parties to its implementation, despite multiple challenges, has created the conditions for these and many other positive changes.” The Secretary-General congratulates newly elected mayors, governors, and other official who have expressed nearly unanimous interest in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the Peace Agreement to bring long-awaited peace and development to communities that have suffered immensely from the conflict. “The role of local and departmental authorities is critical for the success of Colombia’s peacebuilding efforts,” the Secretary-General underlines and encourage them to make peace implementation an agenda of their own.
Despite stigmatization against them, funding limitations, and security issues during the campaign, the FARC party and former combatants participated actively in the elections, including exercising their right to vote. The participation of former combatants and the FARC party in these polls represents an important step in the political reintegration process. Over 300 candidates were endorsed by FARC and by coalitions including FARC, 67 per cent of whom were not former combatants. Some former combatants also ran with other parties and women former combatants participated actively (38 per cent of candidates). Twelve candidates were elected for different offices, including two women.
Moreover, the Report relates the social mobilizations that began on 21 November backed by various sectors, including student movements, unions, and indigenous and Afro-descendant organizations, with a broad array of demands, including, the protection of social leaders and former FARC-EP combatants, and the comprehensive implementation of the Peace Agreement, among others. The Secretary-General has acknowledged the largely peaceful spirit that has characterized the marches and welcomed the stated willingness of the Government to engage in dialogue and called on all actors to refrain from violence, exercise maximum restraint and engage peacefully.
On his report, the Secretary-General also highlights dialogue as an essential tool for the parties to the Agreement to hold strategic discussions and overcome differences over its implementation. The Secretary-General urges the parties to make full use of the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI) to resolve their disputes and move forward.
During the reporting “thousands of former combatants continue their reintegration to civilian life while Colombian communities and society continue showing inspiring signs that they are willing to embrace them. Victims are participating more and more actively in the transitional justice mechanisms and continue to be powerful voices in the search for truth, justice and reconciliation.”
The National Reintegration Council (NRC) met twice during the reporting period and approved 12 new collective productive projects, bringing the number of approved projects to 47, benefiting 2,454 former combatants (688 women) and 83 members of local communities. Twenty-four of these approved projects have received funds, benefiting 1,530 former combatants (450 women). As for individual projects, the number of initiatives approved and disbursed is now 705, benefiting 827 former combatants (178 women). In total, 18 per cent of accredited former combatants have received financial support for productive projects through these mechanisms. Moreover, progress has been made in reaching consensus between FARC and the Government on the reintegration roadmap.
The Secretary-General further recognizes “the steps taken by the Government to reach former combatants living outside former TATRs, specifically with productive projects” and urges “all actors to continue their efforts to help ensure that they have adequate access to security, basic services, and opportunities for education, employment and productive projects.” In addition, reports significant progress in increasing the number former combatants pursuing academic studies from 2,461 in January to 5,059 in October
The Secretary General's Report reiterates how communities, human rights defenders, social leaders and persons involved in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, especially in rural areas, continue to be targets of violence and intimidation by illegal armed groups, criminal organizations, drug cartels and other actors. The Secretary-General is alarmed by the consequences, particularly for ethnic communities of the fighting between illegal armed groups in the illicit trafficking corridor that extends from the Bajo Cauca region in Antioquia department to Chocó department, as well as the incessant violence in Cauca department
The Secretary-General of the United Nations emphasizes that the security of social leaders and human rights defenders, as well as former combatants, is intrinsically tied to the safety of their communities. Notwithstanding the overall improvements in security following the Peace Agreement, communities continue to be preyed upon by illegal armed groups and criminal organizations in areas where the limited presence of the State has left institutional vacuums and where the lack of economic opportunities has left them vulnerable to illicit economies.
Since the signing of the Peace Agreement, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has verified 303 killings of human rights defenders and social leaders, 86 of which occurred in 2019 (including 12 women). The Attorney General’s Office and the Police Elite Corps are leading investigations and have reported progress in 39 per cent of the 86 cases.
The Secretary-General also reiterated his call “for more effective measures to protect the lives of former combatants, particularly considering that 2019 has been the most violent year for former FARC-EP members.” During this reporting period, the Mission verified 20 homicides of former FARC-EP members, making 2019 the most violent year for former combatants, with 77 killings to date, compared to 65 in 2018 and 31 in 2017. The total number of killings since the signing of the Peace Agreement has now reached 173, in addition to 14 disappearances and 29 attempted homicides. The Report also highlights as particularly worrying the killing of Alexander Parra Uribe, known as ‘Rodolfo Fierro,’ a respected leader in the former TATR of Mesetas, Meta. This was the first killing to occur inside the protection perimeter in a former TATR.
Regarding the killings of former members of the FARC-EP, the report highlights the interinstitutional mechanism coordinated by the Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization to monitor security for former combatants, and the progress in 15 of these measures including the deployment of additional investigators and police officers in the territories to strengthen the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the Elite Corps of the Police. The SIU of the Attorney-General’s Office reports 21 convictions and 13 cases in trial stage. Cooperation between the local community and the Attorney General’s Office was instrumental in bringing to justice a non-commissioned officer of the Colombian Armed Forces who was found guilty of the murder of former FARC-EP member Dimar Torres, killed in April in Norte de Santander. The SIU also reports that 80 per cent of the attacks are linked to illegal armed groups and criminal organizations. Challenges remain regarding the dismantling of the structures behind these killings, as only nine of 67 arrested suspects are the intellectual authors.
The Secretary-General calls, once again, “for more effective measures to protect the lives of social leaders, human rights defenders, and persons involved in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, including specific measures for women and for indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders.” And urges “the Intersectoral Commission on Security for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders to finalize and implement its action plan, in coordination with women’s organizations. It is also important to work towards improved dialogue between the Government and civil society regarding the Comprehensive Public Policy for the Respect and Guarantees of the Work of Defending Human Rights.”
The Secretary-General encourages the Government to reconvene the National Commission on Security Guarantees in order to make progress in the finalization and implementation of this policy. “As another important vehicle to improve the security of communities in former conflict areas, further progress on the implementation of Decree 660/2018 regarding the Comprehensive Security and Protection Plan for Organizations and Communities in the Territories should be considered.”
The quarterly report welcomes progress in the implementation of the development programmes with a territorial focus – envisioned under Section 1 of the Peace Agreement as part of a broader rural reform – which are starting to bring peace dividends to these conflict-affected rural communities in the form of much-needed investments in infrastructure and services. The Secretary-General notes that these investments must be coupled with progress in extending to these areas a sustained and integrated presence of the State, including not just the public security forces but also the civilian institutions that can bring education, health, basic services and overall development.
By recognizing that the Peace Agreement envisaged a long-term transformation of Colombia, the Secretary-General stresses that the foundations of that transformation should be built now through concrete actions by all actors to implement the entirety of the Agreement.
With the Peace Agreement as its roadmap, Colombia can continue building the peace that its citizens yearn for. The United Nations remains fully committed to that goal, working in partnership with the parties, with Colombian society and with the international community.
The Secretary General's Report will be presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu, to the United Nations Security Council on 13 January 2020 in New York.