Colombia - Security Council, 8818th Meeting

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13-Jul-2021 02:11:00
Nearly five years into Colombia’s historic peace agreement, unprecedented strides in justice marked alongside lingering violence, experts tell Security Council.

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Vice President Emphasizes Accord’s 15-Year Timeframe, Vowing Bogotá Will Protect Those ‘Who Have Laid Down Their Weapons and Opted for Peace’

Colombia has notched unprecedented achievements in transitional justice as the fifth anniversary of its landmark peace agreement approaches, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, as delegates noted both strides and lingering challenges that led recently to large-scale protests across the country.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/603), noting that the peace process in Colombia stands at a critical juncture nearly five years after the signing of its Final Peace Agreement — which formally ended more than fifty years of civil conflict — in 2016. The reconciliation process achieved a new milestone in April, when former combatants from the now-defunct Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) armed group accepted responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes involving hostage-taking and other serious deprivations of liberty.

He also noted that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace indicted 11 former army officials and a civilian for crimes involving assassination and forced disappearances presented as deaths in combat. Further, hundreds of victims’ bodies have been found thanks to information provided by former guerrillas, paramilitary actors and State agents, which has given their families “tranquillity after years of painful uncertainty”. He said all of those developments — which were unthinkable in Colombia until recently — have been possible thanks to the Final Peace Agreement.

It will take time, he continued, to disarm the structure and identities inherited from the five-decades-long conflict and achieve reconciliation. Noting that the Verification Mission plays an important role in ensuring compliance with sentences handed down by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which is Colombia’s transitional justice mechanism, he voiced concern over continued violence against former FARC-EP members and members of the new FARC political party ahead of 2022 elections. In that context, he urged Colombian society and institutions to view the Final Peace Agreement as an opportunity to help tackle the longstanding issues facing the country.

Melissa Herrera, Founder and Director of the Latin-American civil society group Viva la Vida, also briefed the Council, describing the 2016 peace agreement as a symbol of hope for the young people of Colombia. While recent protests have amplified the challenges faced by youth, they stand ready to engage in dialogue and social change. She offered several recommendations for the Council, including considering the gender perspective on youth issues and conducting a visiting mission to her country to consult with this group in all its diversity. “Youth is the missing piece of the puzzle to build peace and we must protect young people,” she stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed progress made in transitional justice on Colombia’s path towards truth, justice and reconciliation. Many voiced concern, however, over recent social unrest and the deteriorating security situation — including violence against former combatants, social leaders and human rights defenders — as well as a lack of progress on agricultural reform and land use. Members also underscored the need to fully implement the Final Peace Agreement, calling on all relevant parties to engage in constructive dialogue towards that end with the participation of women and youth.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, joined other Council members in calling on relevant parties to advance the full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement. Pointing out that no progress has been made on that agreement’s provisions guaranteeing the rights of ethnic communities, she urged the Government to take action to that end and called for enhanced measures to facilitate the proper reintegration of former combatants into Colombian society.

Mexico’s representative also urged the protection of former combatants, along with human rights defenders and indigenous and Afro-Caribbean communities. The high number of persons displaced by the actions of illegal armed groups is concerning, he added, as are the challenges facing the illicit-crop-substitution programme, which requires greater financial efforts to support more than 100,000 families participating.

The representative of the Russian Federation echoed the need for progress on agrarian reform and measures to address the deteriorating security situation, noting that increased cocaine production has inevitably led to rising levels of violence and corruption and territorial clashes have displaced some 7,500 people and claimed the lives of 64 others. Meanwhile, he said, no evidence has been given by Government representatives in the area of transitional justice, which raises the question of whether balance can be achieved in that process.

The representative of the United States also voiced concern over growing coca cultivation and production, stressing that the best way to sustainably address that problem is to combine law enforcement efforts with a robust rural development programme and the promotion of legal economic activity. He expressed hope that the Government, in the wake of disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to do more in 2021 to help rural farmers.

Also addressing the Council was Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, who stressed that drug trafficking remains a challenge in her country despite Government and societal efforts towards genuine, sustainable peace. Calling for shared international responsibility in addressing this issue — along with the related threats of deforestation and human trafficking — she also emphasized that the Final Peace Agreement was designed to be implemented over 15 years. It has only been five since its signing, and progress — including security measures the Government enacted to protect FARC political party candidates from assassination or kidnapping — must be acknowledged. The Government will not waver in its efforts to protect those “who have laid down their weapons and opted for peace”, she stressed.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Norway, India, Ireland, China, Estonia and France.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:01 p.m.

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