Press release Report of the Secretary-General on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia

31 Mar 2020

Press release Report of the Secretary-General on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia

In his latest quarterly report on Colombia, the United Nations Secretary-General sets out three priorities for the comprehensive implementation of the Final Peace Agreement by 2020:

  1. take all necessary measures to put a stop to the tragic killings of social leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants;
  2. strengthen the long-term reintegration sustainability process and ensuring that the benefits of reintegration reach all former combatants; and
  3. ensure that communities, especially victims, are at the centre of all peacebuilding efforts.

Bogotá, 31 March 2020. - Confident that 2020 can bring encouraging developments for Colombia through the comprehensive implementation of the Peace Agreement, the UN Secretary-General highlights the progress and challenges of the implementation of the Agreement in his latest quarterly report to the Security Council on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, covering the period from 27 December 2019 to 26 March 2020. 

The Secretary-General emphasizes the role of local and departmental authorities in the implementation of the Agreement. The Secretary-General welcomes "the multiple expressions of support for and commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement issued by the recently inaugurated mayors and governors" who took office in January, including 12 former combatants and candidates of the FARC party who were also elected in the local elections of 2019. In this regard, the Report highlights the launch of the National Network of Local Authorities for Peace in February and the launch of the road map for the effective protection of social leaders with a departmental focus at the "Round table for Life" held in Puerto Asis. Also notes that 162 municipalities and 15 departments have adopted legal measures to include the development programmes in their territorial planning instruments. The Report comments that the cooperation of local authorities will be key to incorporate the former territorial areas into municipal administrative and planning arrangements.

The Report recognizes that the COVID-19 outbreak will pose many challenges for Colombia over the coming months.  However, the Secretary-General welcomes the Government's commitment to ensuring the continued implementation of peace-related programmes in this challenging context and welcomes "the swift and collaborative manner in which FARC and the Government have taken preventive actions for the former territorial areas". Specifically, the report notes that 98 per cent of former combatants have been enrolled in the national health system.   

In addition to reviewing implementation during this period, the Secretary-General proposes three priorities for 2020.  The Secretary-General identifies as the top priority for 2020 the adoption of all necessary measures to put a stop to the tragic killings of social leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants. During the reporting period, the Mission verified 16 killings of former FARC-EP members (including one woman), bringing the total to 190 (including three women) since the signing of the peace agreement. Approximately 73 per cent of killings of former combatants have occurred in rural areas characterized by a limited State presence, poverty, illicit economies and the proliferation of criminal organizations.

The Report also highlights that, between 1 January and 24 March 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received 56 complaints regarding killings of social leaders and human rights defenders, 6 of which have been verified, including the killing of two women.

In this regard, the Secretary-General states that "no efforts must be spared in granting protection and security to those facing specific risks as a result of their roles in the promotion of human rights, the implementation of the peace agreement and the defence of their communities’ interests, and to those who laid down their weapons and remain committed to the peace process."

The Secretary-General calls for the strengthening of the mechanisms provided for in the Agreement to ensure protection and security for those individuals and their communities. On the one hand, he reiterates his call on the National Commission on Security Guarantees to make progress in the adoption of public policy to dismantle criminal organizations and their support networks. It also notes the importance of providing sufficient resources to the National Protection Unit urgently requires resources and personnel to be able to fully staff all close protection schemes and respond to over 400 pending requests.  Finally, the report highlights the progress made by the Special Investigation Unit of the Attorney-General's Office in its investigations into attacks against former combatants and social leaders, and at the same time urges all relevant actors to fully support the Unit’s critical work to bring the perpetrators of such attacks, including intellectual authors, to justice.

The report notes that the Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization and Consolidation continues to coordinate the implementation of the measures announced in June 2019 to strengthen protection for former combatants and support the entities responsible for investigating attacks against them. It is significant, for example, the four meetings at the regional level of the Inter-institutional Coordination Mechanism for Security and Protection, including the municipality of Ituango, where the Secretary-General notes his particular concern given that it is the municipality with the highest number of attacks against former combatants since the signing of the Agreement.

As a second priority for this year, the Secretary-General notes that the foundations of the longer-term reintegration process must be strengthened, and it must be ensured that the benefits of reintegration reach all former combatants. The Report acknowledges the adoption in December of the reintegration road map, which was agreed between the parties and sets out the long-term framework for the socioeconomic reintegration process and encourages the parties to continue to work together, in a spirit of constructive dialogue, during its implementation.  The Secretary-General places particular emphasis on the issue of access to land, both for the former territorial areas and for productive projects, as a fundamental building block for former combatants and their families to develop their life projects alongside local communities.

The Report highlights the 49 collective projects and 1225 individual projects approved benefiting just over 3500 former combatants. The Secretary-General recalls that this figure represents 27 per cent of accredited former members of the FARC-EP.

The Secretary-General notes in the report the situation of more than 9,400 ex-combatants living outside the former territorial areas.  While 22 of the 49 collective productive projects approved by the National Reintegration Council benefit ex-combatants who reside outside the former territorial areas, "most of these new reintegration areas where collective processes are taking place still have limited access to land, housing, education, productive opportunities, health care and security.”  In this regard, the Secretary-General suggests that all actors – including FARC, the Government, local authorities and the international community – need to adapt to that reality.  "The reintegration process will only succeed if every single former combatant who remains committed to the peace process receives opportunities, protection and security, regardless of where he or she lives," the Secretary-General notes.

As a third priority for 2020, the Secretary-General focuses on the importance of putting communities, and especially victims, at the centre of all peacebuilding efforts. "The long-term success of the peace agreement will ultimately be determined by how much communities that suffered from decades of violence can enjoy the benefits of peace.," affirmed the Secretary-General. 

In this regard, the report notes that substantial progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Security and Protection Programme for Communities and Organizations in the Territories - provided for in the Agreement - would have a positive impact on the serious security situation of communities in rural areas of the country.  The Secretary-General also notes that continued progress in comprehensive rural reform, including the Development Programme, will be essential, maintaining social participation and effective coordination with other programmes. Finally, the Secretary-General reiterates his assessment that the sustained and integrated presence of State institutions remains the most effective means of ensuring peace and stability in the territories.  On this point, the Secretary-General is confident that, in cases where it is decided to relocate some former territorial areas for security reasons, this will not lead to a reduction in the presence of the State but, on the contrary, to its strengthening, in order to ensure the protection of communities in those areas.

The Secretary-General stresses that in each of these three priorities, it is essential to pay special attention to the specific needs of women, children, ethnic communities and young people. 

The Secretary-General also reiterates his support for the three components of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition - the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Special Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing and the Truth Commission. In its report, it acknowledges that the seven cases launched by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace continue to advance, receiving testimonies from 291 former FARC-EP members, 232 members of the public security forces and 7 non-combatant State agents and third parties., and with the accreditation of more than 260,000 victims. In this regard, the Secretary-General calls on all actors to contribute fully to their work, including by being forthcoming with their contributions to truth and empathetic in their acknowledgement of the suffering of victims.

The Secretary-General concludes his report by reaffirming that, despite the difficult circumstances related to COVID-19, he is confident that the year 2020 can bring encouraging progress for Colombia through the comprehensive implementation of the Peace Agreement.

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 in New York on 14 April 2020.


Download the Report of the Secretary-General on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. S/2020/239