Statement by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General United Nations Security Council meeting on Colombia
Statement by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General
United Nations Security Council meeting on Colombia
14 October 2020
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
Thank you for the opportunity to present the latest report of the Secretary-General on Colombia, it is a pleasure to do so in the company of Foreign Minister Claudia Blum.
Almost four years after the conclusion of the negotiations that led to the Final Peace Agreement, it is important to recall its main objective: ending more than five decades of confrontation between the Colombian State and the FARC-EP, as well as the opening of a long and complex phase of building lasting peace. This peace would be based on fundamental processes provided for in the Agreement, some of which are already completed and irreversible, such as the laying down of arms by the FARC-EP and its transition into a political party; and others that are still under construction, including: the effective reintegration of its members into civilian life; the search for truth, reparations and restorative justice for victims; and the transformation of rural Colombia. There have been historic and undeniable achievements along the way, but enormous challenges still remain. A continued commitment by the parties to the implementation of the Agreement is required, as well as the active participation of Colombian State entities and civil society to ensure that the achievements are built upon and truly sustainable.
Despite continued attacks and stigmatization against them, the vast majority of those who laid down their weapons remain engaged in the reintegration process, with nearly a third of them having received funding for productive projects through mechanisms created by the Peace Agreement. Former combatants are currently working alongside their families and local communities to withstand the health and economic effects of the pandemic. I would like to highlight the recent approval of the first reintegration roadmap with an ethnic approach, in the indigenous community of Mayasquer, of the Pastos indigenous peoples, in Nariño department. Thanks to this agreement, the indigenous authorities agreed to support the formal reintegration process of 114 former combatants, mostly of indigenous origin, within the community and in accordance with their traditions. This development demonstrates the importance of ensuring an ethnic perspective to the reintegration process.
The issue of land continues to be one of the most pressing matters for the reintegration process. I welcome the recent purchase of land for the former Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration in Icononzo, and I trust that this will be followed by others so that the Government can fulfill its objective of purchasing plots of land for nine former territorial areas until the year ends. As the consolidation of these areas advances, I once again call attention to the needs of over 9,000 former combatants who are living outside of them. I trust that the Government and FARC will soon agree to a joint approach on how to provide adequate support for these new reintegration areas, whose security challenges and other vulnerabilities the Secretary-General has highlighted in several of his reports.
Distinguished Members of the Council,
The transitional justice process is building momentum as the three components of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-Repetition take forward their crucial work. The Unit for the Search for Persons Deemed as Missing continues its important task of determining the whereabouts of victims of the conflict for their families and loved ones. The Truth Commission has brought victims and actors involved in the conflict together in meaningful dialogue on reconciliation and non-repetition. And the Special Jurisdiction for Peace continues making progress in cases covering crimes committed within the armed conflict. Over the last few weeks, several top FARC party leaders admitted responsibility for their role in various crimes committed during the conflict, demonstrating powerfully that the peace process is beginning to deliver on its promise to shed light on the horrors of the past, which is an essential building block to provide healing to Colombian society. To continue paving the way towards reconciliation, support for the work of the Comprehensive System remains fundamental, including through full respect for its autonomy and independence; cooperation from all actors; and active and authentic participation from those who took part in the conflict.
The decision by what was the largest armed group in the country to lay down its weapons voluntarily has contributed significantly to the overall reduction of violence since the signing of the Peace Agreement. Unfortunately, some of the areas that suffered immensely during the conflict continue to be besieged by violence from other actors who continue attacking social leaders, human rights defenders, former combatants and entire communities. Recent massacres in various departments have served as a painful reminder of how innocent civilians, including young people, are falling victim to the actions of these groups.
Finding ways to curb this violence is imperative to deliver on the promise of the Peace Agreement. To that end, it remains necessary to finalize and implement the public policy for the dismantling of illegal armed groups, criminal organizations and their support networks. The work of the technical committees and regional sessions of the National Commission on Security Guarantees over the last two years should now translate into the prompt finalization of this crucial public policy and, more importantly, its swift implementation. Similarly, timely responses to address the risks identified by the early warnings of the Office of the Ombudsman can be decisive in reducing violence. I take the opportunity to also reiterate the Secretary-General’s call, supported by this Council, for a global ceasefire to allow for all efforts to focus on relief from the pandemic. Reduction of violence in conflict affected areas is all the more important in the context of this public health crisis.
Working jointly with the communities is also essential to devise effective security measures tailored for local contexts. I am encouraged by the joint work between civil society actors and Government entities in the framework of the technical committees of the Comprehensive Security and Protection Programme for Communities (Decree 660). It is now necessary to move forward to make this operational on the ground, including through the various pilot initiatives, so that we can report concrete progress over the coming months.
Equally important is making headway on improving protection for former combatants, who continue to be killed in alarming numbers, and fighting impunity for these crimes, including by bringing intellectual authors to justice. Priority should be given to staffing and resources for the National Protection Unit to clear the backlog of pending requests for protection for former combatants. I trust that recent progress in investigations of crimes against former combatants by the Special Investigations Unit of the Attorney-General’s Office will be sustained, particularly through cooperation by other State entities, including security forces at the regional level.
Mr. President, Members of the Council,
One of the objectives of the Peace Agreement that I mentioned earlier is to achieve a profound transformation of rural Colombia. The consequences of the pandemic have highlighted the urgency of taking on the historic challenge of bringing development, security and opportunities to rural areas in Colombia. In this regard, I would like to reiterate the Secretary General’s call to all actors in Colombia to view the implementation of the Peace Agreement as an essential part of the recovery from the effects of the pandemic, and to take advantage of the Agreement’s tools to address the challenges associated with recovery. For example, the necessary public health investments in rural areas can be guided by the elements on rural health in the first section of the Agreement. Economic recovery in conflict-affected areas can be enhanced by strengthening productive projects that benefit former combatants and communities. Similarly, the development programmes with a territorial focus (PDETs) continue to be a valuable mechanism for bringing investments and State presence to the 170 municipalities most affected by conflict and poverty. Given the financial constraints posed by the pandemic, I applaud the efforts to diversify funding for implementing these programmes, including the recent approval by Congress of additional funds from mineral royalties, and resources from the private sector through the “Work for Taxes” program. It is important to ensure that the implementation of the PDETs is carried out in collaboration with regional and local authorities, and with the participation of local communities; as well as to ensure that they are articulated with other programs set out by the Peace Agreement, including the reintegration process and the National Comprehensive Programme for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS in Spanish).
Ultimately the efforts to build peace and the pandemic recovery efforts should be complementary, focusing on the fundamental objective of strengthening the integrated presence of the State in the regions that for decades have demanded it the most.
In two weeks, the Council will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Few peace agreements in history have addressed gender issues as comprehensively as the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia. The Colombian peace process demonstrates the value of ensuring the meaningful participation of women and the importance of taking into account both how women have been affected by conflict and, even more importantly, how they can contribute to conflict resolution. Challenges still remain in terms of improving security for women social leaders and human rights defenders, ensuring a more robust participation of women former combatants in reintegration efforts, and addressing the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence, which has seen an upsurge during the pandemic. I encourage all actors, including the Government and the FARC party, to take inspiration from the anniversary of Resolution 1325 to redouble their efforts to fully implement the gender provisions of the Agreement, together with the leadership of women’s organizations at the national and local levels.
Let me conclude by paying tribute to the strength and courage of Colombia’s countless women peacebuilders: the leaders and members of women’s organizations I have met in travels around the country; the women social leaders who are too often under threat in their communities; the victims who are participating actively in reconciliation efforts; and the women leaders of ethnic organizations who strive to protect their culture and ensure the rights of their communities. We owe it to these brave women, and to the generations that will succeed them, to ensure that peace in Colombia continues to take root through the continued implementation of the Final Peace Agreement.
I Thank you Mr. President and Distinguished Members of the Council.