Statement by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu for United Nations Security Council Briefing on Colombia
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council:
Thank you for the opportunity to present the latest report of the Secretary-General on Colombia. I welcome the participation in today’s meeting of Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization and Consolidation Emilio Archila, and thank them for their support to the work of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
The peace process has continued to move forward through a challenging period since the last briefing. Two years after the successful conclusion of the laying down of arms by the former FARC-EP guerrilla, the vast majority of former fighters remain engaged and committed to the Peace Agreement. Thousands of former fighters are pursuing academic studies, receiving vocational training, participating actively in cooperatives, and are employed in activities related to the Peace Agreement. More than 3,500 former combatants are involved in collective and individual productive projects, ranging from agricultural ventures to clothing manufacturing to eco-tourism.
It is important to emphasize the commitment of these former combatants to the peace process given the regrettable and unjustified actions of a few former FARC-EP commanders who recently announced that they have taken up arms again. I would like to recognize the swift and categorical rejection of these actions by all sectors across the country, including the FARC political party - which has expelled those who took up arms again - and certainly by President Duque and his government. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace also declared that all those who announced their rearmament would be excluded from its jurisdiction and lose the benefits provided under the Peace Agreement.
It is now more important than ever to support the women and men who remain resolutely committed to peace and transforming their lives and those of their families and communities.
Important results have been achieved in the approval of productive projects by the National Reintegration Council, but further efforts are still needed given that the projects that have thus far received this funding represent 14.7% of the accredited former combatants. It is key to accelerate the pace of disbursement of funding and to guarantee access to land. Additionally, it is fundamental for all actors to ensure that these projects become sustainable so that former combatants and surrounding communities can see lasting results from their hard work.
All reintegration efforts should involve and benefit local communities as well as empower women. I welcome that all productive projects approved by the National Reintegration Council include a gender-sensitive approach. I trust that both parties will work together to move forward in their implementation.
I am pleased to report that the Government temporarily extended the monthly allowance, the provision of food and services, and the presence of public security forces around the former territorial areas for reintegration. The decree regulating this transition was adopted on 9 September, although specific details are still pending. I welcome the announcement by the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization of the extension of the monthly allowance and food services until August 2020.
Now, I would like to draw your attention to the situation of the more than 8,000 former combatants living outside the former territorial areas. These former combatants have limited access to reintegration benefits, and they are more vulnerable to violence and to recruitment by illegal armed groups. More should be done to support this population.
La semana pasada estuve en el departamento de Putumayo, una región donde más de la mitad de la población está registrada como víctima del conflicto y que sin embargo no ha recibido plenamente los beneficios de la firma del Acuerdo de Paz. Sostuve una reunión con varias lideresas sociales y fue muy inspirador constatar la valentía y la fortaleza con la cual ejercen liderazgo a favor de sus comunidades y trabajan por la paz territorial a pesar de tantos obstáculos y amenazas contra de sus vidas.
La situación de estas admirables mujeres es un reflejo de la situación de miles de líderes y lideresas, defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos y comunidades que siguen siendo victimizadas por la violencia. En esta y todas mis visitas a los territorios, se escucharon los mismos mensajes. Las comunidades claman desarrollo, servicios básicos, seguridad y oportunidades económicas a través de una presencia integral del Estado. Adicionalmente, piden estrategias inmediatas para mejorar la protección y seguridad en las regiones, de la mano con las comunidades y las autoridades locales. Esta es sin duda la promesa del Acuerdo de Paz.
Parte de la solución para atender esta preocupante situación recae en la Comision Nacional de Garantías de Seguridad, la cual fue convocada por el Presidente Duque en agosto pasado y tiene como tarea formular, con insumos de la sociedad civil, una política pública para el desmantelamiento de las organizaciones criminales y sus redes de apoyo.
Es esencial que las discusiones en este marco se realicen de manera regular y que sus decisiones se traduzcan en acciones concretas y en el corto plazo que protejan a las comunidades y consoliden la institucionalidad del Estado en las zonas afectadas.
Unfortunately, I must report that attacks against former FARC-EP combatants continue to be of serious concern. Since my last briefing to the Council, 20 former combatants have been killed, for a total of 151 since the signing of the Peace Agreement. There has been some progress in the implementation of various measures announced by the Government to strengthen security guarantees for former combatants and to step up investigations into these killings. But more needs to be done, including to address continued budgetary shortfalls faced by the entity in charge of providing protection for former combatants.
The departmental and local elections are less than three weeks away and violence against candidates is affecting political parties across the ideological spectrum, including FARC, which is participating in local elections for the first time. Protection measures for all candidates should be strengthened.
I welcome the national pact signed in August by twelve national political parties rejecting violence and calling for a peaceful and respectful campaign. It should serve certainty as example of how dialogue can lead to consensus.
Dialogue is also key to overcoming challenges in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. I encourage the Government and FARC to continue to engage constructively as shown in their joint visits to the former territorial areas. In the same spirit, I hope they make increased use of the architecture established by the Peace Agreement for this purpose, specially the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI).
Constructive dialogue that is inclusive of FARC should also be reflected in any further discussions on reforms related to provisions of the Peace Agreement, to the extent that these continue. It will also be important to ensure that any such reforms have only future application as Minister Holmes Trujillo has emphasized previously to this Council.
On 26 September, ten former FARC-EP commanders appeared before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace to acknowledge their responsibility and ask forgiveness for kidnappings committed during the armed conflict. This was also an important step in the implementation of the provisions in the Peace Agreement that seek to ensure accountability, truth and reconciliation. This willingness of Colombia’s victims to embrace forgiveness is inspiring. The Truth Commission in this regard, plays an essential role in fostering truth and reconciliation by bringing the victims to the forefront. Victims must continue to be at the center of the peace process.
This a precious opportunity to put an end to the recurrent dynamics of violence in Colombia. The United Nations remains convinced that the way forward is through a comprehensive implementation of the Final Peace Agreement. Advancing rural development and political participation, just to mention an example, is as important to consolidating peace as reintegrating former combatants. This is a conviction that I have heard repeatedly in the rural areas of Colombia –from community activists to local authorities to peasant women to indigenous leaders.
The hopes of Colombians for a peaceful and prosperous future can be realized if all of us – the Government, FARC , Colombian society as a whole and the international community – work together to ensure that the letter and spirit of the Peace Agreement become concrete deeds and actions to improve the lives of those who have most suffered from the conflict. The unified support of the Security Council to the peace process will continue to be instrumental. The Verification Mission along with the United Nations Country team, which has played a key role in supporting different aspects of implementation are ready to continue doing their part to help consolidate peace.
I thank you, Mr President.