PRESS RELEASE ON THE QUARTERLY REPORT OF THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE UN VERIFICATION MISSION IN COLOMBIA S/2022/267
Bogota, 4 April 2022. In his latest report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which covers the period from 28 December 2021 to 25 March 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reviews the progress and remaining challenges in the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement. The recent congressional elections, the second since the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, and the first in which people from conflict-affected regions voted for the special transitional electoral districts for peace represent an important milestone in the implementation of the Agreement.
In his report, the Secretary-General describes the most important developments in the implementation of the Agreement during this period and reiterates that it “remains an unprecedented opportunity to bring to fruition decades of peacebuilding efforts by Colombian society and institutions.” The Secretary-General highlights the efforts of the Government and State institutions, as well as those of former combatants and communities who have placed their hopes in the Agreement’s promises of development, reconciliation, and non-repetition. However, the Secretary-General reiterates that he has previously warned of the risks facing the consolidation of peace. “The progress made in the reintegration of former combatants, substitution of illicit crops, transitional justice and opportunities for development in conflict-affected communities will remain vulnerable unless bold and effective steps are taken to consolidate security across the country in the holistic manner envisioned in the Peace Agreement.”
The report emphasizes that the majority of the more than 13,000 former combatants (23% women) continue their reintegration process into civilian life despite the significant challenges they face, such as the deteriorating security situation in several regions. Regarding the recent congressional elections, the report highlights that the voting took place with few disruptions across the country and highlights the participation of former FARC-EP combatants in the elections as an important aspect of political reintegration. The report also highlights that the vast majority of former combatants were able to vote, and that incidents registered during election day were resolved through coordination mechanisms between Government and State entities, former combatants’ representatives and the Mission.
Regarding economic reintegration, the report indicates that, to date, 63% of accredited former combatants are involved in productive projects. There are 116 collective productive projects approved by the National Reintegration Council (NRC) benefiting 3,855 people (1,089 women), and 3,918 individual productive projects approved by the Agency for Reintegration and Normalization (ARN) benefiting 4,736 people (1,097 women). As a positive development, the report notes that the Government has purchased two plots of land for the former Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration (TATR) in Anorí, Antioquia, bringing to 10 the number of former TATRs with land.
The Secretary-General reiterates his concern about the security of former FARC-EP members. Since the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, 315 former combatants (10 women) have been killed, 11 during this period. The report also underlines that the deteriorating security is increasingly hampering productive projects and the functioning of cooperatives. The Secretary-General calls on the Government to spare no efforts to ensure the security for former combatants in former TATRs and new reintegration areas, and to properly address women former combatants’ specific risks and needs.
The report warns that levels of violence affecting the civilian population, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, have intensified in departments such as Chocó and Putumayo, as well as in Arauca due to clashes between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and FARC-EP dissident groups. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs registered 13,821 persons forcibly displaced and 48,331 confined from 1 January to 15 March. In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights received information about the killings of 43 human rights defenders and social leaders including four women (seven documented, 35 under verification, and one inconclusive or not verifiable).
The Secretary-General notes that the persisting violence in several regions calls for the full implementation of security guarantees provisions of the Agreement, specially to reinforce prevention and protection measures by the authorities. Furthermore, the Secretary-General emphasizes that insecurity can only be effectively countered through the integrated deployment of the State’s capacities and affirms that greater emphasis must be placed on dismantling illegal armed groups and criminal organizations who thrive in regions characterized by poverty, illicit economies, and an ineffective territorial control by State authorities.
The Secretary-General affirms that this year represents a turning point for the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. As the Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed as Missing continues to provide solace to hundreds of families of missing persons, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) is preparing to bring perpetrators to acknowledge their responsibilities for crimes committed during the conflict and contribute to the truth. At the same time, the Truth Commission is making progress in the drafting of its final report towards its publication. The Secretary-General trusts that, “Colombians, their leaders and institutions, will have the strength and the wisdom to use the Commission’s legacy to comprehend this painful history and to build upon its recommendations the groundwork for reconciliation and non-repetition.” The Secretary-General also reiterates that the work of the Comprehensive System deserves no less than the full support of Colombian society, the commitment of all parties to the conflict, and the necessary guarantees from Government and State institutions.
Regarding the restorative sentences to be issued by the SJP, the Secretary-General highlights that they “have the potential to demonstrate that peace and justice can be mutually reinforcing by keeping victims at the heart of the process.” The report notes that the UN Verification Mission in Colombia has intensified preparations for the implementation of its mandate to verify restorative sentences.
Finally, the Secretary-General recalls that, “by agreeing to end decades of violent conflict, Colombians reaffirmed to the world that even the most deeply entrenched conflicts can be resolved through dialogue.” As presidential elections approach, the Secretary-General encourages political forces to maintain their commitment to a campaign free of violence and stigmatization, and trusts that Colombian citizens and their political leaders will uphold the principles that inspired the Final Peace Agreement as they engage in democratic debate.
The report of the Secretary-General will be presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, to the United Nations Security Council on 12 April 2022.