Despite Recent Challenges, Colombia Represents Pinnacle of Success in Fostering Peace, Security Council Hears at Briefing on New Developments

While circumstances had tested commitment to the peace agreement in Colombia, a united Council had helped to sustain resolve, demonstrating how it could effectively contribute to peace, members of that body heard this morning.

In a milestone initiative that transited the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from weapons to politics, congressional elections drew millions of Colombians to the polls in March amid a trend towards a reduction of electoral violence, said Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, as he briefed members of the Council on Secretary General’s latest report on that operation.

However, the last several weeks had brought new challenges to the peace process, he said, noting the arrest of one of its leaders on drug trafficking charges. There was also a need for a sustained drive to put the reintegration of former combatants on a more solid basis before the end of the Government’s mandate. Weaknesses in that effort could only increase the risk of the drift of some former combatants to criminal groups.

Outlining steps taken by the Colombian Government toward the socioeconomic reintegration of FARC members and ex combatants, he said the approval of a programme for the security and protection of communities, organizations, social leaders and human rights defenders represented one of the main commitments in the 2016 peace agreement, which had ended decades of fighting between the Government and FARC. Other steps included the resumption of negotiations between the Government and the National Liberation Army, with both parties reiterating their interest in United Nations support for the implementation of a future ceasefire, and the approval of a landmark decree providing access to land for former combatants.

Council members commended progress, saying Colombia was a shining example of how peace could be fostered with united support from the Council. The representative of China said the implementation of Colombia’s peace process was critical to maintaining the stability of the entire Latin American and Caribbean region. Expressing hope that the Government and FARC could meet each other halfway and continue to work towards implementing their peace agreement, he said its irreversible nature was critical and called for the international community to provide the country with constructive assistance.

Meanwhile, Bolivia’s delegate conveyed his region’s unshakeable commitment to Colombia’s peace process. While uncertainty and hate speech were increasing ahead of upcoming presidential elections, Colombia had embraced a path to which there was no return. Highlighting the process of the political, economic and social integration, he called for the acceleration of such measures, which were essential to ensuring lasting peace.

Describing Colombia as a source of inspiration, Ethiopia’s representative said Colombia’s patience and perseverance in the pursuit of peace had begun to yield results. In the meantime, some sensitive issues still required careful attention, he said, including the social and economic reintegration of former FARC combatants and their access to land, and the persistent threats and killings of FARC members, human rights defenders, community leaders and their families.

Echoing that sentiment, Sweden’s representative expressed concern that such threats, violence and killings continued, adding that the full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC members was of utmost importance, including amnesty provisions and access to land.

Several speakers welcomed the resumption of talks between the Government and the National Liberation Army, urging both parties to negotiate constructively to reach a new peace agreement. Others said the successful conduct of the upcoming presidential elections would be vital to ensuring Colombia’s continued progress.

A�scar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, Vice President of Colombia, thanked Council members for their support. While Colombia was determined to continue along the path towards peace, it was a difficult task and a complex, challenging process. The Government was focusing on addressing the challenges noted in the Secretary General’s report, including the protection of human rights defenders and social community leaders.

Citing more efforts, he said Colombia’s broadened institutional framework had led to high voter turnout in the March elections. The Government would continue to provide guarantees for political participation and would shortly issue a final decree giving those who had laid down arms access to land and the ability to take part in productive projects. Other initiatives included ensuring the transition of former combatants towards legality, including registering them for health care and education.

Addressing Colombia’s upcoming presidential election, he said whoever won would have a sound road map forward, and the dividends of peace would permeate throughout the region. No matter what, a transformative agenda and a silent revolution were on the way for the Colombian people, he concluded.

At the outset of the meeting, the Council held a minute of silence in acknowledgement of the sudden passing of Bernard Tanoh Boutchoue, Permanent Representative of CAte d’Ivoire to the United Nations, with delegates expressing their condolences. The representative of Peru, Council President for April, expressed the Council’s deepest condolences, praising his colleague’s immense knowledge and diplomatic skill, adding that his wisdom and spirit would be greatly missed. The United States’ delegate, addressing the people of CAte d’Ivoire, said we feel your sorrow, we feel your pain, adding that he had represented them well. We have lost the sweetest among all of us.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, France, Russian Federation, Netherlands, CAte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Poland and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.

Briefing

JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the Council on the 2 April report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document S/2018/279). Highlighting that millions of Colombians had turned out to vote for congressional elections in March, he said that was a milestone in the transition of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from weapons to politics. With the presidential election five weeks away amid a backdrop of political polarization, the campaign had so far underscored the trend towards a reduction of electoral violence.

As a piece of legislation derived from the Peace Agreement, he said, the Constitutional Court had endorsed the Law on the Status of the Opposition and had also just unanimously declared constitutional the political participation of FARC. With regard to the socioeconomic reintegration of that group, entities under the supervision of the Superintendent of Banks could provide banking services to former FARC members as part of the reintegration process. With respect to security guarantees, a programme for the security and protection of communities, organizations, social leaders and human rights defenders had been approved. That programme was one of the main commitments in the Peace Agreement, he said, noting that he would provide maximum support to its implementation.

However, the last several weeks had brought new challenges to the peace process, he said, noting the arrest of one of its leaders on drug trafficking charges. There was also a need for a sustained drive to put the reintegration of former combatants on a more solid basis before the end of the Government’s mandate. Weaknesses in that effort could only increase the risk of the drift of some former combatants to criminal groups. As mentioned in the report, the ingredients for a breakthrough were known � viable productive projects, functional cooperatives and the availability of land � and much of the legal and technical preparation had been done towards that end. In that connection, he looked forward to the approval of the decree allowing access to land for former combatants.

Meanwhile, he continued, the Special Investigative Unit had expanded its investigations to cover killings of community leaders and human rights defenders, after initially focusing primarily on the assassination of FARC members. While it was too early to take stock of a peace process that had set ambitious and long term goals, a notable reduction of violence in the congressional elections had already been observed. Similarly, a series of institutions had been created to overcome patterns of social, economic and political violence in areas of conflict. That was a substantial change, he said. Looking ahead, the next few months would provide an opportunity to bring together Government institutions, local authorities and social organizations to press forward with that agenda. Notably, negotiations between the Government and the National Liberation Army had resumed, he said, noting that both parties had reiterated their interest in United Nations support for the implementation of a future ceasefire. While circumstances had tested their commitments, the unanimous support consistently voiced by the Council had helped to sustain their resolve.

Statements

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said the Colombian experience revealed that peace could be achieved when bold leadership existed. She welcomed the holding of Congressional elections that had seen for the first time the participation of the FARC political party alongside the progress in implementing the peace process and the return to talks with the National Liberation Army. However, continued insecurity in some areas and violence and threats against some FARC members persisted. The Government’s strategy for protection and reintegration should be properly supported. Another concern was continued violence against human rights defenders and community leaders, she said, urging the prompt investigation of all such incidents.

ZHAOXU MA (China) said the implementation of Colombia’s peace process was critical to maintaining the stability of the entire Latin American and Caribbean region. Expressing hope that the Government and FARC could meet each other halfway and continue to work towards implementing their peace agreement, he said its irreversible nature was critical. The international community should provide constructive assistance, support the parties and respect their independence, he said, adding that China was prepared to make further contributions to support the peace process.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), congratulating Colombia for its huge achievement of holding elections, described the country as a source of inspiration promoting an important message that patience and perseverance in the pursuit of peace had begun to yield results. Some sensitive issues still required careful attention, including the social and economic reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC EP) combatants into Colombian life and their access to land, and the threats and killings of FARC members, human rights defenders, community leaders and their families. Regarding the negotiating process between the Government and the National Liberation Army, he welcomed the resumption of talks and urged both parties to negotiate constructively and in good faith to reach a new peace agreement. The successful conduct of the upcoming presidential elections would be vital to ensuring Colombia’s continued progress.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the Colombian peace agreement was a historic achievement and all had a role in ensuring it succeeded. While progress had been seen, the challenge was for the Government to expand its presence throughout the country. The international community could not allow former FARC members to regain control of those areas. She encouraged both parties to carry out all elements of the peace plan, which was an opportunity to address historic land issues at the root of that conflict. Indeed, improving access to land was essential for transforming rural livelihoods. With secure land titles, the Colombian people could provide for those families without feeling beholden to armed groups. Peace was a two way process. FARC must honour its commitments, provide compensation to victims of the conflict and participate honestly in the justice process. She praised the role Colombia had been playing to combat drug trafficking, which was also key to the success of the peace agreement. While the Government must accelerate its counter narcotic efforts, FARC must share information on trafficking routes. For its part, the United States stood ready to assist in the recovery, she said, also thanking the Colombian Government for welcoming Venezuelans fleeing the [Nicolas] Maduro [Moros] regime.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that, in recent months, Colombia had seen positive developments in its ongoing peace process. In view of its upcoming presidential elections, he said the new President and the Government must continue to implement the peace process and put victims of the armed conflict at the centre of its political agenda. Welcoming the launch of Colombia’s transitional justice tribunal � the Special Jurisdiction for Peace � he also expressed support for the recently signed landmark decree to formalize land ownership for 2.5 million farmers. Given that land ownership was the root cause of the more than half century of armed conflict, we believe that land titles’ legalization is key in ensuring peace construction, he said. Agreeing that Colombia still faced a complicated journey to address alarming trends such as the killings of social and community leaders and human rights defenders triggered by the power vacuum in territories abandoned by ex combatants, he said it was crucial to strengthen the nexus between security and development and enhance efforts towards the social reintegration of former FARC combatants.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) praised the political courage of the Colombian Government in reaching an agreement with FARC, saying they were an inspiration to us all. Meanwhile, the United Nations had played a key role in the transition, including the monitoring of former combatants, which was a crucial step in the agreement’s implementation. He congratulated Colombian authorities for the recent legislative elections in which FARC participated, which was an exercise in democracy. He encouraged both parties to consolidate achievements to date towards the agreement’s full implementation, including amnesty for detainees. He welcomed measures taken to end murders of civil society members, human rights defenders and people undertaking coca substitution programmes. On that note, he encouraged efforts in extending State services in those areas. Drawing attention to the importance of access to land and sources of income, he said those issues would be key to the peace agreement’s implementation. Economic projects would give former combatants hope for the future, and the return of peace to areas affected by conflict depended on that. More broadly, France hoped the peace agreement would mark the beginning of a new era in Colombia, one in which former combatants could take their place in society. Looking ahead, a new ceasefire between the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army could bring a historic peace to the country and send a message of hope to the entire world.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden), commending the commitment of Colombian parties to overcome challenges in the peace agreement’s implementation, said 2017 had seen the successful laying down of arms and the conversion of the FARC EP into a political party. Congressional elections on 11 March 2018 had been the most inclusive and least violent in decades. This demonstrates how peace is already benefitting Colombia and Colombians, he said, also welcoming that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace had now begun its crucial work. However, the Secretary General’s report showed that threats, violence and killing of human rights defenders, community leaders and FARC members and their families continued. Voicing concern over those events, he said the full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC EP members was of utmost importance. That included amnesty provisions, productive projects and access to land. Expressing hope that the decree allowing access to land for former combatants would be promptly approved, he underlined a need for a sustained effort across Colombia in support of the wider peace agreement, including rural reform. Colombia demonstrates how a united Council can contribute to peace, he concluded.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that while Colombia’s national ownership of its peace process had led to significant progress in its early implementation, much work remained. Noting that certain old problems still erected obstacles to the country’s peace process, he voiced support for the work of the first United Nations support mission in the country, which among other things had certified the surrender of weapons by FARC members. Those successes had enabled the Council to proceed to a second phase, namely the launch of a verification mission. Unfortunately, there were signs of new challenges, including bureaucratic impediments in reintegrating former combatants and the killing of community leaders. On 9 April, one of the FARC member negotiators in Colombia’s peace agreement had been kidnapped. All those challenges required careful attention by the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the international community, which had spotlighted the country as an example of post conflict rebuilding. The Council and the Secretary General had put their credibility on the line in helping Colombia establish a lasting peace.

HEDDA SAMSON (Netherlands) said the peace process was transforming Colombia. Highlighting the need to improve the security situation in former conflict areas, she said sustainable peace could only be achieved when the civilians living there could benefit from the peace dividend. Expressing concern about new armed group activity in those areas, she welcomed the Horus Plan, a new stabilization strategy, and encouraged its further implementation in line with other efforts to restore State authority. Insecurity in former conflict areas had led to an increase in threats and acts of violence against community and social leaders and human rights defenders, she said, underlining the importance of protection as a core priority. Calling for inclusivity, including a provision of amnesty and access to land for former FARC members and the full participation of Colombian women in the peace process, she expressed hope that negotiations would continue towards overcoming challenges between the Government and the National Liberation Army.

THA�ODORE DAH (CAte d’Ivoire) thanked Council members for their messages of condolences following the passing of Ambassador Tanoh-Boutchoue, who was passionate about his work and would be greatly missed. Turning to Colombia’s peace agreement, he welcomed progress in the implementation of the peace process and hailed the recent legislative elections that had included FARC. In that context, he hoped the presidential elections would further strengthen those achievements and that the resumption of talks between the Government and the National Liberation Army could further de escalate tensions. He welcomed the implementation of institutional measures that would address the security situation and encouraged the Government to continue its work, despite obstacles ahead. More specifically, reforms were needed to continue to reintegrate former FARC members back into society. He was also concerned by targeted murders of ex members of FARC and stressed the need for security of all Colombians, without exceptions.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLA�Z (Bolivia) conveyed his region’s unshakeable commitment to Colombia’s peace process, which was an example of what could be achieved even when no one thought it possible. While recent legislative elections were a major step forward towards peace, uncertainty and hate speech were increasing ahead of upcoming presidential elections. However, Colombia had embraced a path to which there was no return. Highlighting the process of the political, economic and social integration of FARC members, he called for the acceleration of such measures and encouraged progress on amnesty efforts. Strengthening security in areas affected by the conflict was also essential, he said, noting a recent spate of killings. In addition, rural reform and land access were essential to ensuring lasting peace. He underscored the commitment to consolidate peace in Colombia, which was not only the birthright of the Colombian people, but the heritage of the entire world.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) expressed support for the Colombian peace agreement, which was an example that could be applied to other conflicts around the world. Recent successful elections with FARC participation was an important step from conflict towards stability, he said, noting that upcoming presidential elections would consolidate that progress. He praised recent talks between the Government and the National Liberation Army in Quito. Welcoming the Colombian Government’s efforts to search for missing persons, he noted that about 60,000 people had gone missing due to the conflict and that such measures would enhance trust between all parties. Measures were now needed for economic, political and social guarantees to reintegrate FARC members into society.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) expressed support for all parties’ efforts to move forward with the peace agreement’s implementation. The National Liberation Army had upheld a temporary ceasefire, and the FARC political transition was showing signs that it would soon bear fruit. However, there was a growing mistrust on the part of former combatants that the Government would not fulfil its commitments to them. No land had yet been transformed within the framework of the Government’s agricultural project and thousands of former combatants remained detained. Calling for the adoption of a strategy linking reintegration of those former combatants with development and land ownership, he said more crop substitution programmes were needed, rather than forcible efforts by the Government end the current cultivation pursued by many Colombian farmers, which could cause mistrust and resentment.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed Colombia’s progress in the transition from conflict to peace, which was a good example of how frank, direct negotiations could lead to progress when there was goodwill and a genuine desire to leave years of conflict behind. However, great concerns persisted about problems in the social reintegration of former FARC combatants and their lack of access to land, as well as the killings of community and social leaders, which risked setting back efforts to consolidate peace. Colombia should explore its full economic potential, he said, calling on the Council and the international community to continue to support the peace process and respect the independent will of the Colombian people.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, calling on the Government of Colombia to adopt measures to guarantee security and work towards the successful reintegration of former combatants. The mass participation of Colombians in democratic elections in March had been a positive development, as was the renewed negotiation process between the Government and the National Liberation Army. Voicing concern that Colombia’s homicide rate remained stagnant, and highlighting the recent murder of three Ecuadorian journalists, he said ensuring the rule of law was critical, as was ending impunity. Colombia was experiencing a rebirth, especially in the tourism sector. Welcoming the United Nations Mission’s work, he commended all efforts to move Colombia, one of Peru’s regional neighbours, towards a lasting and sustainable peace.

A�SCAR ADOLFO NARANJO TRUJILLO, Vice President of Colombia, thanked Council members for their support of the peace process, the Secretary General for his balanced report and the Special Representative for his admirable leadership. Peace in Colombia meant peace in the Latin American region. Rather than be discouraged by obstacles, Colombia was determined to continue along the path towards peace, which was a difficult task and a complex, challenging process. In that light, national determination was needed so peace would be irreversible. The Government was focusing on challenges noted in the Secretary General’s report. Perhaps most importantly, there was a need to continue to protect the lives and well being of social community leaders. Despite the lowest number of homicides over the past period, Colombia was witnessing the killing of leaders who were speaking out against illegal drug activities. Colombia would strengthen its institutional capacities to make sure the region freed itself of that type of crime.

At the heart of the peace process was people, he continued. For the first time, there was political participation by FARC, which had spent 50 years fighting. Colombia’s institutional framework had broadened and had led to an unprecedented election, which had seen an additional 2 million voters compared to the previous election. For its part, the Government would continue to provide guarantees for political participation. At the same time, guarantees were still needed for economic and social reintegration. On the issue of land, his Government was moving towards issuing a final decree that would give those who had laid down arms access to land and the ability to take part in productive projects.

Highlighting other efforts, he said the Government was working to ensure the transition of former combatants towards legality, including registering them for health care and education. Whoever won the upcoming elections would have a sound road map forward, and the dividends of peace would permeate throughout the region. Touching upon the scourge of drug trafficking, he said that for 40 years organized crime networks had undermined national security and communities, including by fostering illegal crops. National capacities used to combat FARC would now be used towards tackling organized crime. Authorities were now reaching areas of the country that had never had a Government presence, implementing their commitment to fulfil its obligation to combat crime. At the same time, building peace meant bridging the equality gap between the rural and urban areas. Indeed, a transformative agenda and a silent revolution were on the way for the Colombian people, he concluded.

Source: United Nations

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