Statement to the Security Council by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia
Distinguidos miembros del Consejo de Seguridad,
Estoy muy complacido por esta oportunidad de dirigirme a ustedes, por primera vez, con ocasión de su consideración del informe del Secretario General sobre la Misión de Verificación de Naciones Unidas en Colombia. Saludo la participación en esta reunión del Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Colombia, Sr. Carlos Holmes Trujillo, y del Alto Consejero para el Posconflicto, Sr. Emilio Archila. Aprovecho también para expresar mi gratitud por el cálido recibimiento que he tenido en su país.
The tragic events of late last week in Bogotá remind us once again of the urgency of ending violence and persevering in efforts to ensure a more peaceful future for all Colombians.
Both the Council and the Secretary-General delivered a strong and clear condemnation of the car bombing at the General Santander Police Academy on 17 January that left 21 dead and dozens injured. On 21 January, the National Liberation Army (the ELN) acknowledged responsibility for this attack.
In the swift rejection of the attack from across the political spectrum in Colombia, and in the marches held around the country this past Sunday, Colombians demonstrated their ever-broader consensus around the rejection of violence that has been highlighted in the reports of the Secretary-General as one of the fruits of peace. This consensus must continue to be nurtured.
Since taking up my duties on 7 January, I have met with key interlocutors for the Mission, including the Colombian Government, the FARC, civil society and the international community.
I held productive initial meetings with President Duque, Foreign Minister Trujillo, High Counsellor Archila, and High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos.
I also met with FARC leaders in Bogotá and visited two of the Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration in the departments of Antioquia and Caquetá. These visits confirmed both the strong desire of former combatants to work and to find their place in society, as well as the uncertainty many still feel regarding their security, including their legal security, and economic future.
I held discussions with civil society representatives, including women’s organisations, and with the presidents of both the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Commission, all of whom stressed their commitment to the peace process and their appreciation for the work of the Mission.
In my meetings with the Resident Coordinator and members of the UN Country Team, we discussed the importance of their partnership with the Mission on reintegration and legal and security guarantees, as well as their complementary support to the implementation of agreements on rural development, political participation, transitional justice and voluntary substitution of illicit crops. Discussions also touched on ongoing cooperation on cross-cutting dimensions of gender, ethnic affairs, child protection and youth.
I am pleased to report that the Government’s High-level Forum on Gender, responsible for implementation of the gender provisions of the Peace Agreement, met for the first time on 16 January.
The inauguration of the Truth Commission, which now embarks on a three-year mandate to foster truth and reconciliation, represents also an important milestone.
On 16 January, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, entrusted with one of the most sensitive dimensions of any peace process, that of transitional justice, completed its first year of operation. As a measure of what is at stake, the five cases initiated in the first year of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace will examine responsibility for violent actions impacting no less than 32,000 victims.
Progress on the cases before the Special Jurisdiction continues. The Jurisdiction has taken testimony from 46 members of the Armed Forces in the context of extrajudicial killings. Two days ago, it announced that 31 members of the FARC leadership will also be required to appear, in person, to provide their testimony on individual and collective responsibility for kidnappings.
As this Council has itself insisted, it remains vitally important that the independence and autonomy of the Special Jurisdiction are respected and that it receives the support required to operate effectively.
Turning to the economic reintegration of former FARC-EP members, I welcome the approval of additional productive projects by the National Reintegration Council and advances in disbursements for these projects. The challenges ahead, as noted in the report and confirmed in my first discussions and field visits, is to further accelerate such efforts and, to ensure their sustainability, to advance on the acquisition of land and to work on the development of markets for goods and services produced, including with the participation of local governments and the private sector.
I welcome the Government’s decision in December to extend food distribution to former combatants in the Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATRs) for an additional eight months. This assistance, as well as current health and education services and the provision of basic monthly payments to all former FARC-EP members, are set to expire in August.
A near-term challenge is to define the status of the 24 Territorial Areas, whose current authorization, due to expire on 15 August, is a matter of concern and uncertainty for the thousands of former FARC-EP inhabiting those spaces. I welcome Mr. Archila’s recent public remarks reassuring those in the reintegration process that a solution will be found, building on a current census of those living and working in these areas. It will require, however, a concerted effort to work through the legal, financial and other implications and to arrive at an agreed set of proposals. Therefore, time is of the essence to arrive at an agreed way forward.
Regarding political reintegration, on 27 October the FARC party will participate for the first time in the regional and local elections, marking another advance in their political participation.
To ensure the security of the FARC to undertake political activities at the local level during the coming elections, the Technical Committee on Security and Protection has begun work on a protection plan.
Colombia’s presidential elections in 2018 were the most peaceful in decades. To ensure similar conditions prevail in this year’s elections and given specific concerns with regard to the FARC party, comprehensive prevention and protection measures will be needed to ensure safety for candidates of all parties as well as communities and their leaders.
A wave of killings of social leaders in the very first days of the new year reinforce the deep concerns about these killings expressed by the Secretary-General in his report and which the Council has also expressed repeatedly. Seven leaders (six men and one woman) were killed in the first seven days of January and a total of 31 attacks in ten departments were reported since the publication of the report.
According to investigations by the Office of the Attorney General, three-quarters of these killings are being committed by criminal and illegal armed groups. Leaders being targeted include members of Local Action Boards, leaders involved in land reclamation processes, leaders active in the voluntary crop substitution programme, and leaders of indigenous communities.
President Duque has expressed his personal commitment to addressing this issue. The Government has indicated that it has activated its Action Plan on protection of leaders in specific departments. The Ministers of Defence and Interior and the High Commissioner for Peace have been charged with identifying additional actions required. The Inspector General has called for implementation of a series of commitments in the Pact for Life and for the Protection of Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders endorsed by the Government and civil society representatives in August. I urge that these measures be implemented swiftly and coupled with broader efforts to ensure an effective State presence in these areas.
I welcome President Duque’s decision to convene the National Commission on Security Guarantees on 30 January, as it is entrusted to define a strategy to dismantle criminal and illegal armed groups, with the participation of civil society.
In addition to the fourteen FARC members killed during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, two more have been killed this year. A total of 87 have been killed since the Peace Agreement was signed. This underscores the importance of the provision of effective security for new settlements outside the TATRs, which is where the vast majority of these killings have taken place.
The security of communities, leaders and FARC members are ultimately tied to the ability of the State to establish an integrated security and civilian presence in conflict-affected areas.
The Government’s “Peace with Legality” plan provides a roadmap for achieving this important objective. It builds on the 16 Development Plans with a Territorial Focus agreed under the Peace Agreement and links them more clearly to assistance to nearly 100,000 families under the voluntary crop substitution programme and to the reintegration of former FARC-EP members.
As stated by the Secretary-General, what is now urgently required is the translation of this and other plans into effective actions that change the realities on the ground.
Distinguished members of the Council,
Before concluding, I would like to pay tribute to the important contributions over the past three and a half years of my predecessor, Jean Arnault. I add my words of appreciation to those I have heard from so many Colombians for the important role he has played in the peace process.
I would like to stress that one of the messages I have heard consistently from Colombians during my first weeks on the ground is how strongly they both welcome and expect the support and accompaniment of the international community as they seek to overcome the many challenges to consolidating peace.
The continued engagement and support of the Security Council will remain a vital pillar of Colombia’s peace process. I assure you of the commitment of the Mission to carry forward the tasks you have entrusted to it.