Press release on the UN Secretary-General's Quarterly Report to the Security Council on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Bogota, 6 April 2021. - In the latest report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which covers the period from 28 December 2020 to 26 March 2021, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, highlights the importance of consolidating the progress of the Peace Agreement during this fifth year of implementation.
The Secretary-General notes that in societies emerging from conflict, the prospects for sustainable and lasting peace depend on the strength of the gains reached in the early stages of the transition. By the end of this year, one-third of the time frame envisioned for the comprehensive implementation of the Final Agreement will have passed. He is confident that with the commitment of the parties, the active engagement of Colombian society, and the firm support of the international community, including the United Nations, the foundations of the Colombian peace process will be strong enough to withstand the challenges.
Similarly, the Secretary-General welcomes the commitment of the signatory parties to the implementation of the Agreement, which was evidenced in the recent meeting between the President of Colombia, Iván Duque, and the president of the Comunes party, Rodrigo Londoño, a constructive dialogue in which the parties agreed jointly to design a road map to advance in the implementation of the Final Agreement.
The report includes progress and challenges in the implementation of the five priorities proposed by the Secretary-General to reinforce the implementation of the Agreement in 2021: ensuring protection and security for former combatants, conflict-affected communities, and social leaders; ensuring the sustainability of the reintegration process; consolidating the integrated presence of the State in conflict-affected areas; reinforcing constructive dialogue between the parties; and strengthening conditions for reconciliation.
The Secretary-General urges a curb on violence against former combatants, communities affected by the conflict, social leaders, and human rights defenders. Since the signing of the Final Agreement, this violence has been concentrated mainly in 25 municipalities in the Departments of Cauca, Nariño, Antioquia, Caquetá, Meta, Putumayo, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander, and the Guaviare.
The report emphasizes that the concentration of violence in some regions is the result of a limited State presence, high levels of poverty and the proliferation of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations fighting over illicit economies. It reports on violence against Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in the Pacific region reflected in massive confinements and displacements, highlighting, in particular, the situation in Buenaventura. For this reason, the report mentions that the deployment of public security forces in the most critical areas, in tandem with efforts to accelerate the presence of civilian institutions, should progressively translate into greater control of the territories and better protection for communities.
During the reporting period, 14 former combatants were killed (13 men, 1 woman), bringing the number of former combatants killed to 262 (254 men and 7 women) since the signing of the Final Agreement. The report highlights that the presence of public forces in the former Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATR) remains unchanged, guaranteeing security for former combatants and their families in these areas. The report also notes that some of the former TATRs require relocation due to security issues. It also mentions that former combatants living outside the former TATRs, including in the new reintegration areas, face particular challenges and require specific solutions.
The Secretary-General's report also highlights the continuing violence against social leaders and human rights defenders. During this period, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights received information about 24 killings (including four women and seven indigenous leaders) and documented 10 massacres in which a large number of civilians were killed (another 12 are being verified).
There is also concern about violence against members of political parties from across the political spectrum, including the killing of a member of the municipal council in Argelia (Cauca) and the later displacement of 11 members of the council from the same municipality. Therefore, it highlights the importance of making increased use of the Comprehensive Security System for the Exercise of Politics, especially in the light of the upcoming elections to be held in 2022.
Adds that Colombia will be immersed in the coming months in a political campaign that coincides with a complex environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These unprecedented circumstances call for all political actors and Colombian society at large to turn to dialogue and democratic means to resolve their differences if the country is to maintain the milestone achieved in 2018 when the most peaceful and inclusive elections in decades took place.
The Secretary-General calls for the approval of the public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups and the strengthening of the Special Investigation Unit as an opportunity to deactivate threats, respond to violence and combat impunity.
Despite challenges to the implementation of the gender provisions of the Final Agreement, the report mentions that there have been positive developments by the Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Women’s Affairs, in particular around security guarantees for women leaders and human rights defenders. However, it highlights that gender-based violence is a persistent scourge hindering the reintegration of female former combatants, the valuable work of women social leaders and human rights defenders, and the dignity of Colombian women in general.
Regarding reintegration, the report highlights that 47% of former combatants are participating in collective and individual productive projects. The Secretary-General calls on the parties to work together so that, by the end of 2021, the great majority of former combatants are involved in income-generating activities. He also welcomes the progress made by the Government in the allocation of land for former TATRs and for productive projects.
During the reporting period, lands were purchased in Patía (Cauca) and Mutatá (Antioquia), for a total of 5 areas with land purchased to date. It should be noted that the titling of these lands is still pending. It is also reported that the former TATRs of Puerto Asís (Putumayo) and Miranda and Buenos Aires (Cauca) need to be relocated for security reasons.
The report highlights the holding of the first session of the National Reintegration Council at territorial level, in Villavicencio, as a result of the agreement between President Duque and representatives of former combatants after the "Pilgrimage for life and peace", where the situation in Meta, Guaviare and Arauca was analyzed. It also mentions the holding of the National Assembly of the former FARC party, where members voted to rename the party “Comunes”.
Regarding the consolidation of the integral presence of the State in the areas affected by the conflict, progress is recognized and challenges are highlighted in some of the programs of the Agreement, such as the PDETs, the PNIS and the Comprehensive security and protection programme for communities and organizations in the territories.
On strengthening the constructive dialogue between the parties, the Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the parties to extend the CSIVI until January 2022 and the importance of conducting substantive discussions in tripartite mechanisms to strengthen the comprehensive implementation of the Agreement this year and help the parties design joint solutions to respond to the challenges.
The Secretary-General highlights the importance of 2021 for the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, and the progress of its three entities in fulfilling the rights of victims and clarifying painful chapters of the armed conflict. He emphasizes that, in order to succeed in upholding the rights of victims and in setting the foundations of reconciliation, it is necessary for former combatants, members of the public security forces and third parties to the conflict to provide exhaustive and truthful accounts of the crimes committed, recognize their responsibilities and contribute to reparations of the victims.
Highlights the progress made by the SJP in case 01 on hostage-taking and other severe deprivations of liberty committed by the FARC-EP, and in case 03 on extrajudicial killings. The Secretary-General urges all actors to respect the autonomy and independence of the SJP so that it can carry out its work and reiterates, once again, the strong support of the United Nations for the Comprehensive System.
Finally, the Secretary-General calls upon the parties to continue to work jointly with great commitment in the months ahead so as to protect and expand upon those gains over a crucial window for progress. The Secretary-General stresses that "The resilience displayed by Colombians in conflict-affected areas who still await the promise of peace is an inspiration and a call to action, and every effort in 2021 will be determinant for the country to move forward."
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 April 21, 2021.