8581st Security Council Meeting: Report of Secretary-General on UNVMC

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19-Jul-2019 02:06:21
Special Representative says Colombia’s people must focus on what unites rather than divides them, during briefing to Security Council at 8581st meeting.

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The people of Colombia must focus on what unites them rather than what divides them, as they follow the path of peace and reconciliation under the 2016 peace agreement that ended the country’s civil conflict dating back to the mid-1960s, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

A week after the 15-member Council’s visiting mission to the South American country, Carlos Ruiz Massieu reported that, as Council members saw for themselves, progress in implementing the peace process is mixed, with Government efforts to reintegrate former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, FARC-EP) starting to show results but security in conflict-affected areas still a grave concern. Mr. Ruiz also heads the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC).

He said the great majority of former FARC-EP members and the leadership of the FARC party remain strongly committed to the peace process, adding that the Government has reassured former combatants of its commitment to formalizing land arrangements for the 24 territorial areas intended for training and reintegration, the legal status of which is scheduled to expire on 15 August. However, the security situation in former conflict areas is extremely concerning, he said, noting that a total of 127 former FARC-EP members have been killed since the signing of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace on 24 November 2016.

Welcoming President Iván Duque Márquez’s new measures for improving security and protection for former combatants, he emphasized that every effort must be made to ensure that local elections in October — another important step in FARC’s political reintegration — will be as peaceful as the 2018 presidential and legislative polls. However, he expressed grave concern about the situation of social leaders and human rights defenders, stressing: “The plight of hundreds of brave leaders under threat around the country is unacceptable.” Given the presence of illegal armed groups, the importance of establishing an integrated State presence in former conflict areas cannot be overstated, he added.

While applauding Colombia’s peace process as an example to inspire conflict-stricken areas elsewhere around the world, Council members broadly agreed with the Special Representative’s assessment, encouraging the Government as well as citizens to stay the course. Several speakers welcomed the enactment in June of legislation to establish the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a judicial mechanism created under the peace agreement that will deal with cases involving serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

“There is no turning back in Colombia,” emphasized Peru’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for July, explaining that this was a message the Council delegation heard loud and clear during its visit. Underlining the need for comprehensive land reform and crop substitution, he said remarkable progress has been made towards reintegrating former FARC combatants. Welcoming Government measures to improve security in rural communities, he also stressed the need to redouble efforts to combat the illicit trade in cocaine, pointing out that crop substitution provides economic and trade opportunities.

Welcoming President Duque’s request that the Council extend UNVMC’s mandate by one year, the United Kingdom’s representative — who co-led the visiting mission alongside his counterpart from Peru — commended the Government for setting out plans to counter attacks against social leaders, human rights defenders and other actors. The peace process goes hand-in-hand with strengthening the rule of law, he added. Applauding the inclusive peace process, he declared: “Colombia is a bright spot on the Council agenda and a shining example for the world.”

The representative of the United States said Colombia and the international community must remain vigilant because the illicit production of and trade in cocaine threatens Latin America and the world. Thanks to President Duque’s counter-narcotic efforts, cocaine production has decreased for the first time since 2012, he noted, adding that the United States is committed to a whole-of-Government approach to halving production by the end of 2023.

The Dominican Republic’s representative said there is no doubt that the Government is working towards a national consensus on polarizing issues, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and coordinated dialogue. The independence and autonomy of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and other judicial channels must be upheld, he added. He went on to express concern over the killing of former combatants, community leaders and women, saying his country is “filled with sorrow” for acts of violence and intimidation by organized criminal groups.

Finally, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said the Government is determined to fulfil its commitment to the more than 10,500 former combatants who remain on the legal path. The vast majority are complying with the peace agreement and are optimistic about their future, he added. However, the decision by Seuxis Hernández Solarte — also known as Jesús Santrich — to leave his security detail on 30 June in a territorial area near the Venezuelan border reflected his intention to flee from justice, since he was due to appear in court for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking after the signing of the Final Agreement.

He went on to emphasize that the Government will not leave those living in the territorial areas to fend for themselves after the expiry of their legal status in mid-August. The biggest challenge is ensuring security for former fighters residing outside the territorial areas, often in places where illegal armed groups are present, he said. Military and police operations are under way to contain the threat posed by such groups, which — together with criminal economies — pose the greatest challenge to the peace agreement, to stability and to co-existence. He reiterated President Duque’s request for the extension of UNVMC’s mandate.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Indonesia, South Africa and China.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:26 p.m.

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