Statement to the Security Council by Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia
New York, 10 October 2018
Distinguished members of the Council
I am grateful for this occasion to present to you the report of the Secretary General on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. And it is a pleasure to be able to do so in the presence of the Foreign Minister of Colombia, Mr Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and one of our closest partners in the Colombian Government, Mr Jose Emilio Archila, High Counsellor for Post-Conflict.
I am also pleased to inform the Council that since the Secretary-General´s report was issued, the key mechanisms provided for the implementation of the Peace Agreement, in particular those provisions on the reintegration and security of former members of the FARC-EP have resumed their work for the first time since the start of the new Government. They include the Commission to Follow up, Promote and Verify Implementation; the National Reintegration Council; the Technical Board [Mesa Técnica] to oversee the security of former combatants; and the Working Group on legal guarantees. The Mission participates in several of those mechanisms and we welcome the spirit of cooperation that has been prevailing in the meetings of these bodies. We trust that this spirit will be sustained in the weeks and months to come. As the Secretary-General have said several times, reintegration in the current circumstances in Colombia is a very complex task, and both sides have an important role to play in completing it successfully.
Distinguished members of the Council,
As those bodies resume their work, a short assessment of where reintegration stands seems in order, together with a review of the challenges ahead, in their various aspects: political participation, security, economic opportunities and legal guarantees.
With regard to political participation – a central aspiration of FARC and a driving consideration behind its decision to negotiate an end to the conflict – we take a positive view of the current situation. Eight of the ten FARC representatives afforded seats in the two chambers of Congress have assumed their responsibilities and are contributing to the debates and the legislative activities of these bodies. We welcome the collegial spirit that is being displayed in Congress in spite of sharp political differences. We also note that the financial difficulties that undermined FARC participation in the elections at the beginning of this year have been largely overcome. We appreciate that President Duque´s efforts to build political consensus on policy issues have included FARC members of Congress.
In relation to physical security, you have noted from the Secretary-General´s reports the stark contrast between the situation of those former guerrillas that are under security measures provided by the state, and those who are outside their scope: while not incident-free, the security perimeters that protect the designated areas where reintegration is taking place have been effective; and so have been the close protection teams granted by the National Protection Unit of the Interior Ministry to hundreds of FARC leaders and residents of the reintegration areas. I note that the goal in the Peace Agreement of training and recruiting 1,200 close protection personnel is nearing completion, a significant number of them women – a first in the National Protection Unit.
To address security risks outside the training and reintegration areas, the Police is providing former members of the FARC-EP with training in self-protection. The National Protection Unit, the Security forces, and the Mission have deployed tripartite teams to 18 departments where groups of reintegrated combatants are present. These teams monitor closely the security situation in those areas and take action as required. With the number of FARC members killed outside the Government security umbrella reaching now 74 since the signing of the Peace Agreement, it is obviously imperative that these measures soon make a difference.
Economic reintegration remains today a subject of serious concern. The vast majority of those in the process of reintegration still have no clear economic prospect beyond the monthly stipend that is to end by August of next year. The resumed National Council on Reintegration has therefore a huge task before it, under the difficult circumstances of a much wider geographical dispersion of the former members of the FARC-EP. To succeed where the previous Council failed, it needs a solid consensus on its approach to productive projects, land and the proper mix of collective and individual reintegration. Some of the lessons learned from the past year are shared between the Government, the FARC and ourselves.
They include the need to connect reintegration much more directly to local development; to empower local authorities; and to link up more systematically with the private sector, universities and other actors willing and able to assist with long-term reintegration. Resources will of course be critical. We have taken note that the Government´s budget proposal for 2019 provides that public spending on reintegration be maintained at the same level as last year. We hope that Congress will uphold that proposal. I should add that the Mission and the United Nations as a whole will continue to do their utmost to support effective reintegration. And in this respect, I would like to acknowledge the countries whose voluntary support have enabled the Mission and the UN Country Team to step up their contribution to productive projects.
In addition to the need to broaden and accelerate economic reintegration effort, a heightened subject of concern at this point is the sense of legal uncertainty that remains pervasive among former FARC-EP members. As mentioned in the Secretary-General´s previous report, that sense of uncertainty has dogged the reintegration process over the past couple of years due to the controversy surrounding the peace agreement, and the protracted political¡, legal and constitutional debates over the establishment of the Special Peace Jurisdiction.
While the ruling from the Constitutional Court last August has upheld the powers of the Jurisdiction, it has not removed the persistent questioning of its role by some sectors. This is not a situation unique to Colombia. Reconciling peace and justice is everywhere a controversial and emotional issue. To overcome it, the Colombian peace process has sought to innovate by bringing together the full guarantees of due process, victims´ participation and the benefits of restorative sanctions. This is a promising solution to old and difficult dilemmas.
Those magistrates who bear today the heavy responsibility of providing truth and reparation to victims, and reliable access to transitional justice for participants in the conflict, are deserving of the respect and support of state institutions, and the full cooperation of all persons under their Jurisdiction. They are also deserving of the support of the international community. It is the field of conflict resolution as a whole that will benefit when the Special Jurisdiction succeeds. Of course, once again, financial support is a critical dimension. I welcome that the funds assigned to the system of court lawyers attached to the Jurisdiction were just made available. We also note that the Government has proposed a slightly increased budget for the three bodies that make up the System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition, and we hope, once again, that Congress will endorse that proposal.
Unfortunately, the tragic killing of social leaders continues. Over the weekend, in the department of Cauca, the coordinator of a coca crop substitution committee was killed together with his two sons. That this leader was promoting a government-sponsored. program that is part of the peace agreement illustrates the brazenness of the killers and the pressing need to mobilize state institutions for the prevention and prosecution of these crimes. We fully share the sense of urgency expressed by the President, the Inspector General [Procurador General], other national and departmental authorities as well as civil society who subscribed in August the National Pact for Life and the Protection of Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders. As a first step towards translating this commitment into action to stop the killings, we look very much forward with anticipation to the Action Plan under preparation by the Government to implement the National Pact.
Distinguished members of the Council,
Before concluding, on behalf of all the staff of the Verification Mission in Colombia I should like to express our deep gratitude to the Government of Colombia, to FARC and particularly to your Council for your support to the extension of our mandate. We believe we have contributed to overcome several of the implementation challenges the peace agreement has faced, and to preserve confidence in the future. The new administration has decided to take on the great responsibility to carry forward the peace process. The Mission, the United Nations as a whole are committed to continue to do our part to ensure success.