Rural Reform Critical to Building ‘More Peaceful, Prosperous Colombia’, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Speakers Laud Progress Made by Government, including on Implementing Peace Accord
Unanimously adopting resolution 2673 (2023), the Security Council today decided that the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia shall monitor the implementation of certain provisions of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace relating to rural reform and ethnic perspectives.
Further by that text (to be issued as document S/RES/2673), the Council decided that, the Mission shall monitor the implementation of section 1 and section 6.2 of the Final Agreement as set out in the Secretary-General’s letter (document S/2022/940) in addition to the provisions in the Verification Mission’s existing mandate, as set out in resolution 2655 (2022).
The Council also expressed its willingness to continue working with the Government of Colombia on the Verification Mission’s mandate on the basis of agreement between the parties.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, highlighted steps taken in the last few months regarding the comprehensive rural reform such as the agreement on purchase of land and the increase in the budgets for agriculture.
“Rural reform is clearly moving to the centre of efforts to build a more peaceful and prosperous Colombia,” he declared. Condemning ongoing violence against communities and social leaders as well as the former leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), he pointed to his Government’s “total peace” policy coupled with a new human-security approach.
He also reported that the first round of peace dialogues between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) is widely supported in Colombian society, especially by conflict-affected communities. The new year began with the President of Colombia announcing that there would be six-month ceasefires with several illegal armed actors, he recalled, noting that — if successful — the Government’s differentiated dialogues with the groups aimed at ending the violence “would greatly contribute to generate the security conditions necessary for the different provisions of the final peace agreement to materialize”.
Also briefing the Council, Armando Wouriyu Valbuena, Secretary, Special High-Level Body on Ethnic Peoples of Colombia, and a member of the Indigenous Wayuu people, welcomed the extension of the mandate to the ethnic chapter. To be “a third actor at the table” is unparalleled, he said, recalling the genocide and slavery that his people suffered and describing the Final Agreement as an attempt to transform this reality. “For centuries we have lived in a State that does not see us,” he asserted, calling for guarantees of self-determination to ensure economic sovereignty. He also highlighted the importance of including ethnic communities in the Verification Mission’s mandate.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the encouraging progress made by the Colombian Government, including the implementation of the Final Agreement, particularly the Government’s prioritization of provisions concerning ethnicity, gender and rural reform, as well as the current negotiations under way with ELN as well as with other armed groups. However, numerous speakers expressed concern about continuing violence against civilians, former combatants and political and community leaders.
Describing Colombia as “an example to the world of the transformative potential of dialogue and leadership”, the representative of the United Kingdom welcomed Government-led efforts to secure a ceasefire and alleviate the suffering of conflict-affected populations.
Along similar lines, the representative of the United States said “all victims of Colombia’s conflict deserve justice”. Condemning any actions that threaten the peace process, she expressed support for the ongoing transitional justice process. However, obstacles to peace persist in Colombia, she warned, noting that drug production continues to fuel violence in conflict-affected areas and — as reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) — coca cultivation reached record levels in 2021.
For his part, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed that the new Colombian authorities — over six months — have done more for reconciliation in the country than the previous Administration in the past four years. Highlighting progress in agrarian reform, integrating ex-combatants, and promoting legislative initiatives to ensure the legal foundation of the peacebuilding process, he said “a great deal of work remains to be done”, including restoration of relations with Venezuela. Normalization of relations between Colombia and Venezuela will contribute to resolving the migration situation in the region, strengthening border control and countering transnational organized crime and drug trafficking, he stressed.
On that note, the representative of Ecuador — a country with longstanding history of bilateral cooperation with Colombia — spotlighted current efforts to address challenges along the common border and to combat transnational organized crime. Underlining the relevancy of agrarian reform and access to land for a peaceful Colombia, he welcomed the greater emphasis on participation of women in the peace process.
Rounding out the discussion, Francia Márquez Mina, Vice-President of Colombia, said the international community’s political, technical and financial support made it possible to advance implementation of the Final Agreement even when political will was insufficient. The Government’s commitment to guarantee the life of every single citizen will not be possible unless armed conflict is de-escalated and criminal structures that perpetuate violence are dismantled. Citing unequal access to land and neglect of rural populations as driving forces for the war, she pointed to her Government’s policy of distribution of 3 million hectares of productive land for agricultural development.
Outlining other measures undertaken by her Government, she said on 4 January, legislation was signed creating the Ministry of Equality and Equity — the foundation for “total peace”, which encompasses implementation of the Final Agreement, dialogue with groups and addressing inequality. Further, she continued, the Government has been designing racial-justice policies to bridge gaps in equity by establishing ethnic and territorial rights for ethnic communities, who have disproportionately experienced the effects of armed conflict and structural racism.
Also speaking were representatives of Brazil, Gabon (also speaking for Ghana and Mozambique), China, Switzerland, France, Malta, Albania, United Arab Emirates and Japan.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 16:55 p.m.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefing the Council, condemned the attempt on the life of the Vice-President Francia Márquez reported on yesterday. A week ago, President Gustavo Petro and Vice-President Francia Márquez signed the law which enacted the Ministry of Equality, a new institution that seeks to address deep inequalities affecting women, indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples. Echoing the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/1004), he highlighted steps taken in the last few months regarding the comprehensive rural reform such as the agreement on purchase of land and the increase in the budgets for agriculture. Further momentum in rural reform issues was seen in the authorities’ convening of the first National Convention of Peasants, he recalled, pointing to proposals made by representatives of peasant communities to implement elements of the comprehensive rural reform of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace and reaffirm their key role in peacebuilding. “Rural reform is clearly moving to the centre of efforts to build a more peaceful and prosperous Colombia,” he asserted.
Describing as “regrettable” that more than six years since the signing of the Agreement, violence is ongoing against communities and social leaders as well as the former leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), he voiced concern over numerous acts of violence in recent weeks in areas prioritized for the implementation of the Agreement. Further, he condemned ongoing violence against indigenous leaders and communities, including Afro-Colombians. The Government is taking bold steps to reduce violence within the framework of its total peace policy through the implementation of a new human- security approach. He also stressed that the recent steps taken by the National Commission on security guarantees will enable coordinated implementation of the provision of the Agreement on those guarantees. “Peace and justice can and must be mutually reinforcing,” he said, adding that the Mission will continue to support the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Government entities while they prepare to ensure conditions for the implementation of these sanctions.
While pressing forward with the implementation of the Final Agreement, Government engagement with illegal armed actors has continued in the framework of its “total peace” policy, he said. In December, the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) concluded the first round of peace dialogues in Venezuela, he recalled, noting that the parties’ decision to reinitiate discussions is widely supported in Colombian society, especially by communities affected by the conflict. He highlighted his mediator role in the dialogue process, at the request of the two parties and supported by the Secretary-General.
The new year began with a hopeful announcement by the President of six-month ceasefires with several illegal armed actors operating in various areas across the country, he said. These de-escalation measures can significantly reduce violence and suffering of conflict-affected communities while building trust in fledgling processes of dialogue. “The lasting success of the Colombian Peace agreement […] is contingent on the ability of the Colombian authorities to address the persistent violence that poses its greatest threat,” he underlined, drawing attention to the Government’s differentiated dialogues with the illegal armed groups aimed at ending the violence. “If these dialogues are successful, this would greatly contribute to generate the security conditions necessary for the different provisions of the Final Peace Agreement to materialize,” he declared. The Council’s decision today to authorize the expansion of the Mission’s mandate to include the Agreement’s comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter in its verification tasks will enable the Mission to increase its contribution to peace in Colombia, he said.
ARMANDO WOURIYU VALBUENA, Secretary, Special High-Level Body on Ethnic Peoples of Colombia, describing himself as a member of the Indigenous Wayuu people who live in the deserts in the extreme north of Colombia, said he was speaking on behalf of the Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples of his country. Expressing gratitude for the extension of the mandate to the ethnic chapter, he recalled the genocide and slavery that his people suffered and said the Peace Agreement is an attempt to transform this reality. To be “a third actor at the table” is unparalleled, he said, while highlighting the difference between being included in the Agreement and having it implemented. In addition to earmarking specific budget line items, he added, it is necessary to implement an institutional system that understands the ethnic approach.
“For centuries we have lived in a State that does not see us,” he said, stressing that the autonomy of the ethnic peoples must be guaranteed. Their ancestral structures of Government at the national, regional and local order must be included in the public policy of the Colombian State. Noting that the ethnic communities inhabit a third of the country’s territory, “mostly made up of rivers, lakes and trees”, he called for guarantees of self-determination to ensure economic sovereignty. “Land is a key issue for ethnic groups throughout time,” he said, also calling for a special normative mechanism for cocoa and cannabis, which are considered sacred plants in ethnic communities.
Stressing that the follow-up by the United Nations Verification Mission must be carried out in accordance with the ethnic approach, he underscored the importance of including ethnic communities in the Mission’s mandate. Also expressing gratitude for the support of the United States and Mexico, he offered “greetings of resistance” to the 115 Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant group. “After five centuries of being decimated and mistreated, we are fighting for a dignified life,” he declared.
DAVID RUTLEY (United Kingdom), welcoming the Colombian Government’s commitment to implement the 2016 agreement, highlighted renewed momentum over the past three months, including the Government’s purchase of 3 million hectares from the Cattle Ranchers Association, the reactivation of the National Reintegration Council, and the concluding resolutions passed by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. Further, he welcomed the Council’s decision to expand the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission to cover progress on the rural reform and ethnic chapters of the peace agreement. Violence remains the greatest threat to the consolidation of peace in Colombia, he asserted, pointing to the decisive action taken by the Government to strengthen public security forces in the new reintegration areas, and the Vice-President's announcement of increased funding to safeguard women leaders and human rights defenders. Welcoming Government-led efforts to secure a ceasefire and alleviate the suffering of conflict-affected populations, he described Colombia as “an example to the world of the transformative potential of dialogue and leadership”.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), expressing solidarity with Colombia’s Vice-President in connection with the recent attempt on her life, condemned the same and stated that political extremism and attempts to block policies of inclusion “will not prosper on our continent”. He also welcomed the unanimous extension of the Verification Mission’s mandate to include the ethnic and rural-reform chapters of the Final Agreement, as requested by the Colombian Government. That Government is committed to efforts to ensure the security of former combatants and to strengthen policies focused on women, indigenous people and Afro-descendants, but full reintegration of such combatants into civilian life depends on their access to land, housing and productive projects. He therefore welcomed Government efforts to strengthen implementation of the provisions of the Final Agreement possessing the greatest potential to effect positive transition in the regions that have suffered most from conflict. Further, the Government’s decision to increase resources for the agricultural sector in 2023 demonstrates how serious the Administration is about rural reform. He added that the Council’s task regarding Colombia is to respond to the aspirations and needs expressed by that country’s Government.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) welcomed the steps taken by the Colombian Government to advance the implementation of the 2016 peace accord as well as the commitment to fully realize the objectives of the ethnic chapter. As declared by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, she said, “there can be no lasting peace without justice and inequality for the Afro-Colombians and the Indigenous People”. Further, the United States supports rural reform efforts to distribute property to farmers without land, she said, highlighting the significant increase in resources for the agrarian sector for the 2023 Government budget. She also expressed support for the ongoing transitional justice process, condemning any actions that threaten the peace process. “All victims of Colombia’s conflict deserve justice,” she asserted. Commending that country’s effort to broaden political participation, she underscored the significance of former combatants’ participation in the political process. However, obstacles to peace persist in Colombia, she cautioned, noting that drug production continues to fuel violence in conflict-affected areas and — as reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) — coca cultivation reached record levels in 2021. All acts of violence impede progress and peace, she said, stressing that authorities must act to reduce violence and ensure that illegal armed groups are held accountable. Against this backdrop, the adopted resolution will help better monitor the implementation of comprehensive rural reform and the ethnic chapter of the peace accord.
MICHAEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking for Ghana and Mozambique, said the unanimous adoption of the resolution underscores the Council’s engagement in supporting the Colombian people in their search for a lasting peace. Condemning the attack on Vice-President Francia Márquez, he said it underscores how urgent it is to strengthen the implementation of the ethnic chapter of the Final Agreement. The first measures taken by the new Government as part of its vision for a total peace are very encouraging, he said. What has been achieved in the six years of implementation illustrate a firm determination to correct historic inequalities, particularly by focusing on rural reform, the ethnic chapter and the protection of rights of women, he noted.
Welcoming the promulgation of a law enabling continued dialogue with ELN and other armed groups as well as ELN’s decision to examine the proposals of the Government and agree to a discussion on the ceasefire, he called for continued engagement by all the parties. The engagement of guarantor countries is also crucial, he added, underscoring the role of women as agents of peace. Highlighting women’s participation in designing the National Development Plan, he noted the appointment of several women to positions of responsibility. Welcoming plans for reintegration of all former 13,000 combatants, he also hailed the establishment of dialogue mechanisms and a system for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth Commission.
DAI BING (China) welcomed Colombia’s progress in political dialogue and nation-building, which has ushered in a new chapter of peace, development and reconciliation. He also welcomed today’s unanimous expansion of the Verification Mission’s mandate, expressing hope that the international community will continue to provide the necessary support to the peace process. While the Government’s efforts towards land distribution and rural reform deserve to be acknowledged, implementation of the Final Agreement is a long-term, systematic undertaking that requires continued effort by all parties. Noting that Colombia ended conflict through dialogue and started peacebuilding through negotiation, he expressed hope that the country will continue along this path. He further welcomed Government efforts to tackle uneven development through rural reform, which comprise part of its approach to achieve peace through development. On this, he expressed hope that the United Nations and international partners will support Colombia in developing its economy and improving livelihoods. Adding that some areas of the country suffer from instability, he said that the Government should increase development in areas where national security remains fragile, also calling on the United Nations to provide technical support to enhance national demining capacity.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) welcomed the important efforts of the Colombian Government to advance the full implementation of the peace agreement as well as the resumption of negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the continuation of dialogue with other armed groups, including with a view to obtaining ceasefires. Commending the work of the United Nations Verification in supporting Colombia on its path to peace, she welcomed the extension of the mandate of the Verification Mission to monitor the implementation of the rural reform and the ethnic chapters of the peace agreement. Achieving the defined objectives will address the root causes of the armed conflict as well as historical inequalities, she added. Describing recent efforts by the Colombian Government to combat criminal activity as “commendable”, she voiced concern over the level of violence faced by a number of political parties, social leaders, human rights defenders, former combatants, and Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Indigenous children are disproportionately affected by grave acts of violence, she cautioned, welcoming the recently adopted Safe Schools Declaration — a necessary step towards the implementation of preventive measures to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable. She also supported the ongoing peace negotiations with the ELN.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), stressing that “Colombia is on the right path”, said the search for peace through dialogue is essential. Welcoming the current negotiations under way with ELN as well as with other armed groups, she noted the clear engagement of the Government in terms of access to land, rural reform and the agricultural sector. The Government must continue to offer new socioeconomic opportunities to populations that have suffered from the conflict, she said, praising the progress accomplished by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. Expressing concern about high levels of violence in some regions, she called for guarantees of security for former combatants and human rights defenders. In a world marked by conflict, Colombia is an example for the international community, she said.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), expressing solidarity with Colombia’s Vice-President, said that the unanimous adoption of resolution 2655 (2022) demonstrated the Council’s commitment to the peace process in Colombia. Today’s adoption is a further sign of support for the Colombian Government. That Government has stated that agrarian reform and access to land are particularly relevant for a peaceful, prosperous Colombia, and recent agreement between the Government and certain cattle ranchers concerning the purchase of 3 million hectares of land for distribution is a positive contribution in this regard. Noting that one of his country’s priorities during its term on the Council is promoting the women, peace and security agenda, he welcomed that Colombia is considering greater participation for women — including those of African and Indigenous descent — in the entire peace process. He added that Ecuador has a longstanding history of bilateral cooperation with Colombia, spotlighting current efforts to address challenges along the common border and to combat transnational organized crime — particularly drug and weapon trafficking due to their impact on peace and security.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), welcoming the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the ELN in Caracas last month, said she supported the work of the Government for a prolonged ceasefire with combatants and called on all armed groups to lay down their weapons and engage in dialogue. Violence continues to be the existential threat to Colombia’s peace process. Though a year of great progress, 2022 also saw hundreds murdered in large-scale killings, clashes between dissident groups, and victims of explosive ordnance, including children. Threats against former combatants also remain acute, highlighted by the increase of emergency relocations. Moreover, violence towards civilians, journalists, and social leaders remains a great concern, with 89 human rights defenders being killed over the past year. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Indigenous and Afro-Colombians are among the most targeted leaders. She also stressed that conflict-related sexual violence continues to be used to displace communities and as a tactic of territorial control. Against this background, she encouraged the Colombian Government to strengthen mechanisms to protect victims of conflict-related violence. Drawing attention to Colombia’s comprehensive rural reform, she highlighted the unprecedented agreement to purchase 3 million hectares of land to be distributed through the Land Fund.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), commending the Colombian Government’s vision, resolve and hard work in promoting total peace, said the 2016 Final Agreement is the cornerstone of the peace process in that country. Welcoming the New Year’s Eve agreement with several large armed groups operating in the country, he also applauded the process of dialogue between the authorities and the ELN. The expanded mandate of the United Nations Versification Mission contained in the resolution adopted today will enable the monitoring of the implementation of the rural reforms and ethnic chapters. These are two critical aspects to ensure the full implementation of the final agreement, he noted, adding that the dynamic new phase that the peace process in Colombia has entered deserves strong international support.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed continued progress in implementing the Final Agreement, particularly the Government’s prioritization of provisions concerning ethnicity, gender and rural reform. Spotlighting the Government’s initiative to design Colombia’s first national action plan to implement resolution 1325 (2000), she said that this could help achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, which contributes to peacebuilding. She went on to express concern over persistent threats and violence against civilians, former combatants and political and community leaders, noting that further coordination between the Government and local authorities, along with increased police personnel in areas of reintegration and conflict, can minimize risks to safety and security. She welcomed, however, recent progress in dialogue between relevant parties, which can contribute to a significant reduction in violence across communities in Colombia. Continued commitment to implementing key provisions of the Final Agreement must be added to these efforts, she emphasized, highlighting provisions relating to successful reintegration and disarmament processes, security guarantees and ending violence.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) welcomed the decisive commitment of the Administration of President Gustavo Petro to comprehensively implement the Final Agreement. New Colombian authorities — over six months — have done more for reconciliation in the country than the previous Administration in the past four years, he said, noting progress in agrarian reform, integrating ex-combatants, and promoting important legislative initiatives to ensure the legal foundation of the peacebuilding process. However, “a great deal of work remains to be done”, he stressed, drawing attention to security of human rights defenders and ex-combatants of FARC. To ensure peace and sustainable socioeconomic development, relations with Venezuela must be restored. Normalization of relations between Colombia and Venezuela will contribute to resolving the migration situation in the region, strengthening border control and countering transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. The international community should support Colombia’s efforts of reaching peace with armed groups as well as its noble aim of ending violence and suffering among the population, he asserted, underscoring also the importance of achieving peace between Colombia and ELN.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), Council President for January, making a statement in his national capacity, commended Colombian President Petro’s commitment towards the comprehensive implementation of the 2016 Final Agreement as a core element of his Government’s “Total Peace” policy. This commitment is manifested in the joint request for United Nations support by his Administration and the former FARC-EP, he said. Further, the unanimous adoption of the resolution authorizing additional mandates for the Verification Mission is an excellent example of the Council acting in union to promote peace in Colombia. The ethnic chapter must be further implemented in a systematic and institutionalized way, he said, welcoming the passage of the bill to establish the Ministry of Equality and Equity as well as the appointment of Vice-President Francia Márquez, who has been a great social leader in defending the rights of ethnic minority groups, as Minister of Equality and Equity. Acknowledging Colombia’s tireless efforts to advance the peace process in an institutionalized and inclusive manner, he said such an approach will eventually discourage violence and protect people in vulnerable situations.
FRANCIA MÁRQUEZ MINA, Vice-President of Colombia, noting that today’s unanimous vote demonstrates the importance of the Final Agreement, thanked Council members for their expressions of support and solidarity regarding continuing violence in Colombia. She further stated that the international community’s political, technical and financial support made it possible to advance implementation of the Final Agreement even when political will was insufficient. She went on to say that democratic will to confront violence, social injustice and structural inequality led her Government to design policies for the Colombian people and to make her country a “global Power of life” following rule by the cruelty of war and the politics of death. The Administration’s central commitment, therefore, is to guarantee the life of every single citizen, care for those who defend human rights and protect communities that find themselves caught in crossfire. None of this will be possible, however, unless those who have expressed their determination for peace are respected, armed conflict is de-escalated and criminal structures that perpetuate violence are dismantled. Further, as unequal access to land and neglect of rural populations were driving forces for the war, the Government has defined a policy of democratization and distribution of 3 million hectares of productive land for agricultural development.
She went on to note that, on 4 January, legislation was signed creating the Ministry of Equality and Equity. This is part of the Government’s efforts to effect structural changes that will serve as the foundation for “total peace”, which encompasses implementation of the Final Agreement, dialogue with groups that continue to disrupt life in various regions and addressing inequality. Spotlighting the challenge of achieving historical reparation for ethnic communities — who have disproportionately experienced the effects of armed conflict and structural racism — she said that the Government has also been designing racial-justice policies to bridge gaps in equity by establishing ethnic and territorial rights. Returning to today’s unanimous expansion of the Verification Mission’s mandate, she said this demonstrates strong international support for the Government’s commitment, but also urged the United Nations to continue supporting Government efforts to engage in dialogue with other actors to achieve a total peace. She added an invitation for members to hold a Council session in Colombia to both express the organ’s support for peace on national territory and witness first-hand the challenges the country is facing.
* The 9239th Meeting was closed.