The United Nations has released the latest quarterly report by its Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, on UN Verification Mission’s analysis of Colombia’s peace process and human rights situation. Below is a press release summarising the report’s core findings.
PRESS RELEASE REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE UN VERIFICATION MISSION IN COLOMBIA
Bogotá, 2 July 2019. In his most recent quarterly report to the United Nations Security Council on the Verification Mission in Colombia, the UN Secretary-General invites Colombians to work together and maintain an inclusive dialogue in the face of new challenges in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. He also renews “the commitment and determination of the United Nations to help Colombians realize their aspirations for a more peaceful future.”
The report covers the period from 27 March 2019 to 26 June 2019 and notes that, the Mission continues to observe a strong commitment to the reintegration process by the Government and the FARC. As part of the National Reintegration Registry, completed in early 2019, the Agency for Reintegration and Normalization (ARN) surveyed 10,708 out of 13,068 accredited former FARC-EP members who confirmed their participation in the reintegration process, an encouraging sign almost two years after the completion of the laying down of weapons.
According to the report, “the Government stated that the 2,360 remaining FARC-EP members that could not be contacted for the survey had not necessarily left the reintegration process and a total of 11,018 are receiving a basic monthly allowance.” In addition, the registry identified more than 7,000 former FARC-EP members within the reintegration process but living outside Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATR) in smaller rural settlements or in urban areas.
Regarding the upcoming expiration of the legal status of the 24 Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATRs), scheduled for 15 August; the Secretary-General notes in his report that this transition process “is being agreed upon with FARC, local communities and authorities, and the Government is taking steps to implement the transition gradually over a period of 12 months and will seek approval for the extension of the provision of food and basic services until long-term measures are put in place.”
The Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization, ARN, and the FARC, with the accompaniment of the Mission, began a series of joint visits to 11 areas where the Government has identified obstacles to their integration into formal municipal arrangements in their current locations. “Both the Government and former combatants showed flexibility and willingness to take into account each other’s views as well as those of local communities, who expressed fears that a departure of the TATRs would negatively impact their security and social and economic conditions,” the report says.
With regard to productive projects, the National Reintegration Council has approved 24 collective projects of which it has disbursed resources to 17 of these projects, while ARN has approved 190 individual projects of which 160 have had funds disbursed.
The report notes that nine departmental boards for reintegration and 24 local committees have been established to date, which has promoted coordination among local actors to support reintegration efforts.
In his report, the Secretary-General assures that “progress in reintegration for former FARC-EP members will reduce the vulnerability of ex-combatants to recruitment by dissident groups” and that “both Government and FARC leaders have responsibility for providing economic opportunities and effective leadership, respectively.” The Secretary-General also emphasizes the importance that all FARC leaders set an example, contribute actively to the truth, and uphold their commitment to the process.
Regarding security guarantees, for the Secretary-General “it is deeply concerning that, since the signing of the Peace Agreement, the Mission has verified 123 killings of former combatants, 10 disappearances, and 17 attempted homicides. During this reporting period, 14 former FARC-EP members were killed, including the second recorded killing of a female former combatant, Lucero Jaramillo Alvarez, on 4 April in Putumayo.”
The report underlines the cases of Dimar Torres in Norte de Santander and Jorge Enrique Corredor Gonzalez, known as Wilson Saavedra, in Valle del Cauca.
In this regard, the report highlights the measures and actions recently announced by the Government that seek to articulate institutional efforts to “strengthen the security of former FARC-EP members,” outside TATRs. The Secretary-General reaffirms that “urgently implementing comprehensive security guarantees and redoubling efforts to dismantle illegal groups and criminal structures, which pose a major threat to communities and peace implementation, are key steps to address these challenges.”
Regarding the situation of social leaders and human rights defenders, the report mentions that during the reporting period “egregious attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders continued, even though many initiatives and consultative platforms on prevention and protection policies have been put in place involving, to varying degrees, the Government, regional authorities and affected communities and civil society.”
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (OHCHR), 230 killings have been verified since the signing of the Peace Agreement. During this period, OHCHR reported that 7 killings had been verified and 8 were in the process of verification. The verified cases took place in the departments of Arauca, Cesar, Nariño and Chocó. The Secretary-General recognizes President Duque’s stated commitment regarding protect leaders and points out that “concrete results are urgently needed.”
The report notes that the challenge of protecting communities affected by the conflict, social leaders, and former FARC-EP members depends on the establishment of a comprehensive and effective State presence. The Secretary-General is confident “that the Government will advance on the broader stabilization vision set out in Peace with Legality and the Stabilization Roadmap. The start of implementation of the PDETs, a backbone of this stabilization effort, marks an important milestone.” The report also states that “establishing State presence and State services is a long-term effort that draws together multiple threads of rural development as envisioned in point 1 of the Agreement, voluntary crop substitution, and community-based reintegration efforts.”
The Secretary-General “deeply regret once again the continued atmosphere of polarization over elements of the Peace Agreement,” pointing out that the Agreement “provides Colombia with a unique opportunity to overcome a deeply entrenched legacy of conflict.”
The debates around the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and constitutional reforms illustrate this polarization. In this context, the Secretary-General recognizes that “Colombian institutions appear to be rising to the challenge and are working through constitutionally-defined channels toward resolution of these difficult matters. I hope that these issues will be progressively resolved, and concerns addressed as implementation advance,” the Secretary-General affirms.
“I call upon all parties to ensure that any reforms undertaken respect the commitments made to those who laid down their arms in good faith and on the basis of provisions in the Peace Agreement, a principle that the Security Council has itself underscored,” the Secretary-General states.
“I welcome the recent call by President Duque for a national pact with all political actors, recalling his earlier message to focus on what unites rather than divides Colombians,” the Secretary-General remarks.
Finally, the Secretary-General reaffirms the continued commitment of the United Nations to the implementation of the Peace Agreement, in which Colombians will have to work together instead of remaining immersed in internal division, as the challenges of the present and the future are too great for Colombians. The Secretary-General emphasizes that, in the face of both progress and new challenges to the peace process, the continuing engagement of the international community is essential. Therefore, the Security Council’s forthcoming visit, announced this week, “is both an opportunity to help Colombians to overcome current obstacles and to reaffirm the example that Colombia can set for other countries in conflict around the world.”
The Secretary General’s Report will be presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu, to the United Nations Security Council in New York on 19 July, one week after the visit of the Security Council to Colombia.