Colombia - Security Council Open VTC

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21-Jan-2021 01:44:50
Special Representative outlines priority areas for progress in Colombia, as Security Council members share concern over continuing deadly attacks.

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Foreign Minister Cites Threat Posed by Armed Groups, Drug Traffickers, Highlighting Safety, Security Challenges

As Colombia enters the fifth year since signing its landmark Peace Agreement, the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission outlined five priority areas in which to make further gains, as Security Council members expressed concern about continuing deadly attacks against former combatants and vulnerable communities, during a video conference today.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, briefed members on recent developments, cited remarkable progress in the four years since the Peace Agreement was signed by the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). In the fifth year of the 15-year timeframe envisioned for implementing the entire Peace Agreement, 2021 must be remembered as the year in which bold steps were taken to bring to fruition the full promise of sustainable peace, he said, urging both parties and all Colombian actors to work together to protect the achievements made so far and to accelerate momentum on pending issues.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the situation (document S/2020/1301), he outlined achievements, recommendations and ongoing challenges, noting that violence against former combatants, social leaders, human rights defenders and communities remains the most serious threat to peacebuilding. Whereas multiple measures have been taken to address the violence, every killing is a tragic blow to peace, he emphasized, noting that four more former combatants have been killed since the report’s publication, bringing the total death toll to 252 since the signing of the Peace Agreement.

In terms of gains, he cited, among others, the 5 January announcement by Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez of measures to increase protection for the Special Forum on Gender following threats reported against 10 of its 16 members. Additionally, the Government and the United Nations country team jointly announced on 12 January a $3.1 million investment from the Organization’s Multipartner Trust Fund to support prevention and collective protection for former combatants, social leaders, human rights defenders and leaders of illicit crop-substitution programmes in three priority regions.

Summarizing the Secretary-General’s five priority areas, he recalled his repeated warnings about the implications of continued budget shortfalls for the subdirectorate of the National Protection Unit, which provides collective and individual close-protection schemes for former combatants. More than 550 vacancies for bodyguards remain and over 1,000 requests for close protection are still pending review, he said, stressing the need to prioritize that issue in light of its direct implications for the safety of former combatants. Equally important is ensuring that former women combatants have equal access to close protection and to bring those responsible for attacks to justice, he added. He went on to underline the importance of ensuring the sustainability of the reintegration process, expressing hope for continued positive momentum following promising developments since the meeting between President Iván Duque Márquez in November 2020 with former combatants.

Highlighting other priority areas, he said they include consolidating the integrated presence of the State in conflict-affected areas, given the presence of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations that profit from a limited State presence. Additionally, strengthening local protection and conflict-resolution mechanisms and providing lawful economic opportunities for vulnerable populations constitute the strongest bulwark against illegal armed groups and criminal organizations, he said. Dialogue also remains a priority, he said, urging the parties to spare no efforts in working together — including through the tripartite mechanism with the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia — on issues related to former FARC-EP assets, bearing in mind that the ultimate aim of the process is to contribute to reparations for the conflict’s victims.

The final priority is to continue laying the groundwork for reconciliation across the country, he said. Victims and Colombian society in general will be looking with great expectation at the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-Repetition in 2021, with the first sentences due to be handed down by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. “The firm backing of this Council and of the international community remains one of the key factors allowing Colombia to continue to be a source of hope and inspiration for peaceful conflict resolution around the world,” he emphasized, declaring: “Your unanimous and unequivocal support will remain essential as Colombians continue persevering in the full implementation of their landmark Peace Agreement.”

Council members commended tenacious ongoing efforts to advance along the path of peace, encouraging the full implementation of the Peace Agreement. They also shared a range of concerns, including persistent reports of violence against former combatants, with many speakers calling for additional protection measures, particularly in terms of recent attacks targeting women, children and indigenous peoples around Colombia.

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