The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has presented the latest quarterly report by the UN Verification Mission based in Colombia to observe the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian state and the FARC. The report focuses on the three-month period from July to September 2019.
Here is a summary of the main points raised in the report.
October regional and local elections
On 27 October, Colombians will elect more than 3,000 officials at regional department level and at municipal level, including mayors, who will take office on 1 January 2020. Although the 2018 presidential election was Colombia’s least violent election period in decades, high levels of violence have occurred during the current campaign period. The Electoral Observation Mission has confirmed 54 acts of violence, including seven candidates murdered, as well as five other attacks, two kidnappings and 40 threats. 418 electoral municipalities have been affected by violence or are deemed at-risk, representing 36 per cent of the national total.
The peace tribunal created under the agreement, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), has prioritised victims in the seven cases it is investigating. The JEP is also providing legal assistance to FARC members by organising workshops in different regions. Another one of the transitional justice institutions created in the agreement, the Search Unit for Disappeared People, is currently working to establish the whereabouts of 1,082 people who went missing during the armed conflict.
Illicit crop substitution
The agreement stipulates that coca-farming communities (coca is the raw ingredient for cocaine) are to voluntarily remove plantations and replace them with traditional and legal crops. Since the agreement was signed, 99,000 families have registered just over 60,000 hectares of coca plantations, with 37,629 hectares subsequently eradicated. However, there have been delays in establishing the economic alternatives that will provide livelihoods to coca-farming communities. People working on crop substitution programmes are being violently targeted, with the UN calling on the government to increase protective measures. Although the UN does not cite a figure in the report, at least 30 members of the COCCAM coca farmers association have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.
Reincorporation of FARC former combatants
There are around 3,100 former combatants still resident in the specially-created reincorporation zones known as ETCRs. While these were scheduled to expire in August, the government announced a two-year extension to support FARC members’ ongoing transition to civil society. In the 24 ETCR zones around the country, local authorities and communities supported this extension as the ETCR’s have brought ‘state institutions, security and economic opportunities’ to regions. However, there are long-term challenges of integrating ETCRs into communities, such as land ownership.
Economic and social reintegration
Around 5,000 FARC members are involved in productive projects to develop economic livelihoods as they transition to civil society. In some cases, the long-term sustainability of these projects needs to be defined in terms of liaising with local communities, as well as access to markets, land and technical assistance. There has been a lack of implementation of the gender focus element of the peace agreement, particularly in the decision-making process. 822 FARC members are employed in different areas of peace implementation, with the majority providing security. 3,543 FARC members are undergoing vocational training, while 3,300 are enrolled on educational programmes. Health services are inadequate, especially for FARC members outside the ETCRs, while there is very little psychosocial support.
Under the peace agreement’s chapter on political participation, the FARC reformed as a political party and has since entered the Colombian congress, where it is guaranteed ten seats for two electoral terms, a total of eight years. In the forthcoming October elections, the FARC has endorsed 308 candidates, a third of whom are former combatants and 38 per cent women, to stand for regional assemblies, municipal councils and as mayors. Some of these candidates are representing parties other than the FARC. The UN report emphasises the urgency of ensuring protective measures for FARC candidates and those endorsed by other parties.
Killings of FARC members
The UN is ‘gravely concerned’ over the high levels of violence being committed against FARC former combatants. At least 147 FARC members have been murdered (including 24 during the three-month-period covered by the report) while another 12 have disappeared and 21 have survived assassination attempts. At the current rate, the total killings for 2019 will exceed last year’s figure of 64. The worst-affected regions are those historically impacted by conflict and weak state presence. Security forces should endeavour to improve community trust, including through the presence of more women personnel. Budget shortfalls and disagreements between the government and the FARC are undermining protective measures, with an extra 100 bodyguards required. The FARC says the government has failed to guarantee former combatants’ security.
Killings of social activists
At least 123 social activists have been murdered so far in 2019. The situation in the Cauca region is extremely dire (it is also the worst region for murders of FARC members), with 19 people killed over the weekend of 30 August-2 September. The Nasa indigenous population in Cauca is facing intense violence, with 25 people killed this year, including 11 during the period covered by the report. The situation for African-descendant and indigenous populations in the Chocó region of western Colombia is also a major concern. Preventative measures require gender and ethnic focus and a strengthening of the indigenous guard. In August, President Duque convened the National Commission on Security Guarantees, which aims to dismantle criminal groups, for the first time since January, a step welcomed by the UN.
Implementing a gender approach, as stipulated in the peace agreement, is vital to FARC reincorporation as about 25 per cent of former combatants are women. The FARC gender committee presented the core needs for women former guerrillas after its first national meeting: access to funding and resources for women-led productive projects; access to higher education and work; childcare support; sexual healthcare services; greater support for gender approach from the FARC leadership; strengthening of women’s community organisations. The UN Verification Mission is in regular dialogue with women’s and LGBT organisations.
Legal accreditation is essential to FARC members to access benefits stipulated in the peace agreement and advance their reincorporation. Delays in this process have created uncertainty. 13,057 FARC members have been legally accredited, while 270 others are under review (164 of whom are in prison). The government has denied petitions of 1,000 other FARC members who missed the accreditation deadline in August 2017. The FARC disagrees with this position and is raising the issue with the CSIVI commission which oversees implementation of the peace agreement.
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Peace talks have not resumed since President Duque took office in August 2018. The government says dialogues are conditioned on the ELN releasing hostages and ending violent activity, while the ELN says they should resume on the basis of progress made with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos. The ELN remains active in several regions.