Implementation of Colombia Peace Accord Gaining Traction, Special Representative Tells Security Council, as It Prepares to Discuss Expanding Verification Mission
Concerns Voiced over Violence against Ex-Combatants, Marginalized Groups
The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia can make a significant contribution through the monitoring and verification of ceasefires, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council today, as members prepare to deliberate on the Government’s request for an expansion of the Mission’s mandate, amidst positive developments in Colombia’s implementation of the Final Agreement with the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army (FARC-EP), and ongoing violence against ex-combatants and other marginalized groups.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative and the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2023/477), noting that implementation of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace is gaining traction across several sections. Particularly noteworthy are the numerous peace-related provisions of the national development plan, increased attention to comprehensive rural reform, and the allocation of much-needed funding to implement the Agreement. He detailed steps it has taken to further implement its ethnic chapter and bring about restorative justice. However, violence against peasant leaders, land claimants and ex-combatants continues to prevent realization of the accord’s full potential.
Turning to the regional elections scheduled for October, he called on illegal armed actors to respect the right of all citizens, including political candidates, to participate and on the authorities to take the requisite steps to guarantee a safe environment, including for women’s participation. He recalled that, last week, the “cessation of offensive actions” between the parties took effect — one step towards the full entry into force of the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire on 3 August. Pointing out that Colombia is at a critical juncture, he said the Mission can make a significant contribution through the monitoring and verification of ceasefires. “We are facing a window of opportunity in which the support of this Council is decisive,” he stressed.
The Council also heard from Diana María Salcedo López, Spokesperson for the Special Women’s Instance for the follow-up of the implementation of the peace agreement in Columbia and Director of the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom, who recognized the Government’s commitments to steady the course of the 2016 Final Agreement in its seventh year of implementation. However, the Government must go from 12 per cent of the Agreement’s gender provisions implemented, to more tangible progress, she said, detailing challenges that remain in the participation of women and LGBTIQ+ people in decision-making and systematic incorporation of the gender approach to rural reform. She urged Colombian authorities to improve, in the short term, the security conditions for ex-combatants, noting that at least 12 women signatories have been murdered since the accord was signed in 2016.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the agreement on a six-month national ceasefire between the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), with others also commending the Colombian authorities’ efforts to reach further ceasefires with other armed groups. They voiced concern however about the violence faced by Afro-Colombians, Indigenous Peoples, women and children, and the most vulnerable populations, as well as ex-combatants who must be safely reintegrated into society.
The representative of the United Kingdom, Council President for July, spoke in her national capacity and was among speakers who echoed concerns about the situation of women in the country. Female leaders and ex‑combatants continue to face conflict-related sexual violence, she pointed out, encouraging the Government to prioritize full implementation of the Final Agreement’s gender provisions. She thanked the Secretary-General for giving the Council options for an expanded United Nations role in verifying ceasefire agreements, noting that her delegation will share a draft resolution in the coming days for discussion with Council members.
On that note, China’s representative, like other speakers, supported the Council’s active consideration of expanding the Mission’s mandate and underscored its vital role. Joining other delegations, he welcomed the six-month ceasefire agreement reached by Colombia’s Government and ELN during the third round of peace talks, and backed Bogota’s continued dialogue and negotiations with other armed groups. Curbing violence and conflict is crucial to maintaining people’s confidence in the peace process, he stressed, commending the Government’s efforts to strengthen security protection for ex‑combatants and women, children and ethnic minorities.
The speaker for the United Arab Emirates, in a similar vein, highlighted the importance of safely reintegrating ex-combatants, stressing that those men and women honoured their commitment to the Final Agreement.
Mozambique’s delegate, speaking also for Gabon and Ghana, stressed that, to attain peace in Colombia and address historical inequalities that have fuelled conflicts, fair and inclusive policies for Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities must be implemented. In this regard, the three African members in the Council welcomed the Colombian Government’s consideration of Indigenous and Afro-Colombians in the land-distribution process, he said.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s representative spotlighted the Colombian Congress’ approval of a law establishing the Agrarian Jurisdiction to resolve rural conflicts and another recognizing the constitutional rights of peasants, noting that they are vital for rural reform.
Álvaro Leyva Durán, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, highlighted his Government’s institutional and legislative initiatives. Among them is the national development plan, which includes, for the first time, the adoption of a foreign policy with a gender focus. The talks with ELN are advancing and have brought concrete results, he added, detailing other developments. He asked the international community and the Security Council to accompany his country in ceasefire verifications, as a guarantor of total peace. “Colombia wants its society to advance, no longer towards 100 years of solitude,” he said, referring to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, “but towards a hundred years of coexistence and peace. That would be the real victory.”
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:44 p.m.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, presented the Secretary-General’ latest report (document S/2023/477) said implementation of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace is gaining traction across several sections. Particularly noteworthy are the numerous peace-related provisions of the national development plan, increased attention to comprehensive rural reform, and the allocation of much-needed funding to implement the Agreement. The establishment of the Ministry of Equality, led by Vice-President Francia Márquez, as well as progress by the Office of the Vice-President in crafting ways to further implement the Agreement’s ethnic chapter, are important steps for improving the situation of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and other vulnerable groups. Following through on the decision to appoint a top official within the presidency to oversee the Agreement’s implementation is essential. Congress also has a key role to play, he said, welcoming the approval of legislation on comprehensive rural reform.
The voices of victims calling for truth, justice, reparation and non‑repetition have reverberated strongly in recent hearings of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. During one hearing in Dabeiba, Antioquia, public security officials gave striking testimonies acknowledging their responsibility for extrajudicial executions, he said, adding that the presence of several ministers and civil servants was an important step to prevent a return to conflict. He voiced hope that the Special Jurisdiction will continue to make decisive progress with the issuance of its first sentences, which will mark another milestone in the peace process. On reintegration, he echoed the Secretary-General in commending the Government’s new approach, stressing sustainability, community-based reintegration with an emphasis on reconciliation, access to land, and gender and women’s empowerment. The approval of new collective projects, additional support for individual initiatives and access to employment would significantly boost thousands of former combatants’ livelihoods.
However, violence continues to thwart realization of the Agreement’s full potential, he said, voicing hope that the adoption of a new security and defence policy will help improve the situation in conflict-affected regions, such as Catatumbo, amid calls by local leaders and grass-roots organizations for an increased presence of State institutions and services; legal alternatives to illicit crops; and perseverance in resolving armed conflict through dialogue. As rural reform advances, there has been an increase in both violence against peasant leaders and land claimants, and obstacles for Government officials working on land reform. Also concerning is the persistent violence against ex-combatants, five of whom have been killed since publication of the Secretary-General’s report, he added, calling for greater protection for those who stand up for the rights of entire communities. He condemned the recent armed attack against members of the Catholic Church in Caldono, Cauca, noting that the Church is an invaluable ally in peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Turning to the regional elections scheduled for October, he called on illegal armed actors to respect the right of all citizens, including political candidates, to participate and on the authorities to take the necessary steps to guarantee a safe environment, including for women’s participation. The results of the third cycle of negotiations between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are very encouraging. Last week, the “cessation of offensive actions” between the parties took effect — one step towards the full entry into force of the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire on 3 August. Welcoming the joint announcement by the Government and the Central High Command-FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] on the establishment of peace talks, he voiced hope for a formal start of negotiations and a renewed national ceasefire soon. Colombia is at a critical juncture. The Mission can make a significant contribution through the monitoring and verification of ceasefires. “We are facing a window of opportunity in which the support of this Council is decisive,” he stressed.
DIANA MARÍA SALCEDO LÓPEZ, Spokesperson for the Special Women’s Instance for the follow-up of the implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia and Director of the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom, recognized the Government’s commitments to steady the course of the Final Agreement in its seventh year of implementation, among them guaranteeing the accord’s inclusion in the national development plan and other processes, and formulation of the national action plan for Council resolution 1325 (2000), the feminist foreign policy and the total peace policy. The Government, however, must go from 12 per cent of the Agreement’s gender provisions implemented, to more tangible progress.
Colombia has faced challenges for years, such as informal labour, corruption and pillaging, she said. Despite the notable increase in the National Land Agency’s budget and progress on formalizing land tenure for women, challenges remain in the participation of women and LGBTIQ+ people in decision-making, she said, stressing the need for systematic incorporation of the gender approach to rural reform. Turning to women’s political participation, she stressed the need for a prompt measure to curb violence against women. The absence of perspective of LGBTIQ+ people who exercise political leadership is also concerning. She, however, recognized the Government’s efforts to formulate seven policies to safeguard the work of women in the territories.
She went on to urge Colombian authorities to improve, in the short term, the security conditions for ex-combatants, noting that at least 12 women signatories have been murdered since signing of the Final Agreement. She also recommended improving the quality of psychosocial care for emotional healing and recovery of the victims of armed conflict, particularly those affected by sexual violence. Mental health is a primary concern for the survivors. Implementing the Final Agreement, especially the gender provisions, can make a difference and promotes total peace. “Safeguarding the lives of women, LGBTIQ+ people and the dignity of peoples is the path to peace today,” she said, calling on the Security Council to continue its effort to help Colombia become a country where people can live in dignity.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), Council President for July, speaking in her national capacity, said the gender chapter is an essential element of the Final Agreement and her delegation is concerned that women leaders and female ex‑combatants continue to face conflict-related sexual violence. She encouraged the Government to make full implementation of the Final Agreement’s gender provisions a priority. As regional elections approach in October, she encouraged the Government to move to ensure the safety of peace signatories seeking to participate in the democratic process. She strongly condemned violence against ex-FARC combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders. Her delegation welcomed the announcement in June of a ceasefire between the Government and ELN. Thanking the Secretary-General for giving the Council options for an expanded United Nations role in verifying ceasefire agreements, she said her delegation will share a draft resolution in the coming days for discussion with Council members.
GENG SHUANG (China) voiced hope that United Nations agencies and international partners will provide active support and assistance to Colombia in its efforts to promote sustainable development, consolidate achievements of the peace process and achieve peace and security in the country. Curbing violence and conflict is crucial to maintaining people’s confidence in the peace process, he underscored, welcoming the six-month ceasefire agreement reached by Colombia and ELN during the third round of peace talks. He voiced support for the Government’s continued dialogue and negotiations with other armed groups, as well as its efforts to increase deployment of security forces in former conflict zones that lack effective control and strengthen security protection for ex-combatants and women, children and ethnic minorities. Underscoring the important role of the Mission, he expressed support for the Council’s active consideration of its mandate’s expansion.
ADAM KUYMIZAKIS (Malta) highlighted the culmination of the third round of peace talks between the Government and ELN in Cuba, and the agreement on a six-month national bilateral ceasefire as “positive developments”, also welcoming the announcement by the Government of upcoming talks with several illegal armed actors. He then called on them to seize this opportunity and engage in good faith. Acknowledging the request made by the Government for a further expansion of the Mission’s mandate, he said his country looks forward to working closely with Security Council colleagues on supporting the Government’s efforts for sustainable and permanent ceasefires. The recently approved bills to address violence against women in politics and establish a 50 per cent quota for women in public entities are important for ensuring that women can fully, meaningfully and safely participate in the political process.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) said Colombia has again demonstrated its great potential for becoming a model of peacebuilding through the approval of the national development plan by that country’s Congress. The plan includes commitments to the ethnic chapter of the Final Agreement and rural reform, which are imperative for peacebuilding. All peacebuilding efforts can only be effective when they are led by a trusted Government, she said, underscoring the importance of peacefully conducting the departmental and municipal elections in October without any violence. Noting the request by the Government for an expansion of the Mission’s mandate and considering the Secretary-General’s recommendations, Tokyo remains engaged in identifying how the Mission could most effectively carry out its mandate and help sustain peace and stability in Colombia. To promote community initiatives, the Council should encourage Colombia to continue utilizing the Peacebuilding Commission.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the recently approved national development plan, which embeds the Final Agreement in its foundations. His delegation is encouraged by efforts to implement the Ethnic Chapter and Rural Reform, while stressing the need to prioritize implementation of the Gender Provisions. Expanding women’s political participation is important, but it must be coupled with measures that address the increased security risks and violence against women and girls, particularly conflict-related sexual violence, he said. He supported the National Reintegration Council’s approach to ensure a sustainable strategy to reintegrate ex-combatants, stressing that these men and women honoured their commitment to the Final Agreement and that enabling their effective and safe reintegration into Colombian society should remain a priority. He remained concerned by the persistent violence against civilians, including former combatants and community leaders, which threaten efforts for peacebuilding and reconciliation. He fully supported the Mission, under the leadership of Special Representative Massieu.
ALEXANDRE OLMEDO (France) welcomed the agreement on a six-month national ceasefire between the Colombian Government and ELN, voicing hope that that first step will lead to a lasting ceasefire. He also welcomed the Colombian authorities’ efforts to reach further ceasefires with other armed groups, in particular the FARC-EMC. Further, he welcomed Colombia's request to expand the Mission’s mandate to monitor and verify the various commitments. This is necessary to ensure that violence is curbed, given that local elections are scheduled for October, he said, pointing out that security guarantees remain insufficient for ex-combatants, human rights defenders and civil society representatives. Noting Congress' adoption of the national development plan as a positive step forward, he commended the Government’s commitment and recent initiatives in rural reform and land access, especially the new agrarian jurisdiction. He encouraged the Government to continue prioritizing implementation of the ethnic chapter of the Final Agreement.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), speaking also for Gabon and Ghana, stressed that, to attain peace in Colombia and address historical inequalities that have fuelled conflicts, it is crucial to implement fair and inclusive policies for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. In this regard, the three African members in the Council welcome the Colombian Government’s consideration of indigenous and Afro-Colombians in the land distribution process. Financial resources are vital for successful peacebuilding processes. Welcoming the allocation of $3 million by the Peacebuilding Fund to support negotiations and peacebuilding initiatives, at national and local levels, he said continued financial support from the United Nations, partners and donors is encouraged for the effective implementation of the Final Agreement. Ongoing dialogue and constructive collaboration among the parties involved in the conflict are crucial, he said, adding that the broad participation of all relevant actors, including civil society, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, women, youth and other entities, is essential for achieving a lasting peace in the country.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) noted the peace processes taking place in all parts of the country. The national development plan is a significant achievement as it budgets resources and includes decisive measures to implement the Final Agreement, including rural reform. The Colombian Congress’ approval of a law establishing the Agrarian Jurisdiction to resolve rural conflicts and another recognizing the constitutional rights of peasants are vital for rural reform. Brazil recognizes the importance of additional dialogues that will expand peace dividends across the country, he said, adding that peacebuilding requires the Final Agreement’s full implementation and controlling the violence, which is still exercised by other armed groups. These expressions of violence disproportionately impact Afro-Colombians, Indigenous Peoples, women and children, and the most vulnerable populations. The Council must carefully evaluate how to optimize its own contribution in order to enhance progress in all peace processes, he said.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) welcomed the six-month ceasefire agreement reached in Cuba between the Government of Colombia and ELN, pointing out that his country has unswervingly promoted dialogue with that group, even when the former Colombian Administration completely ignored such calls and when countries guaranteeing the peace process were subjected to unprecedented pressure. Regarding the request from Colombia’s head of delegation and ELN to expand the Mission’s mandate, he said his delegation is ready to consider the possibility of the Mission verifying agreements with other groups, once such agreements are reached. More needs to be done to ensure the safety of former combatants, social leaders and the most vulnerable, he said, voicing concern about the continuing high level of violence against ex-combatants. Without security guarantees for ex‑combatants, it would be impossible to integrate them into society and the economy, he stressed, voicing hope that the situation will improve significantly in the run-up to the regional and local elections in October.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said she remains concerned that conflict-related violence affects civilians and called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. As the October departmental and municipal elections approach, the Colombian authorities must implement adequate preventive measures to ensure they are free, safe and participatory. Switzerland is committed, through its cooperation programme in Colombia, to mitigate the impact of armed conflict on children. She encouraged the Colombian Government to intensify its efforts to prevent and end serious violations of children's rights and pave the way for their effective reintegrate. The recent signing of a temporary bilateral ceasefire agreement with ELN bears witness to the success of the Government’s holistic approach to prioritize dialogue with all major actors and armed groups. “The Council must promptly respond to Colombia's call to verify and ultimately consolidate the ceasefire agreements, which have the potential to be mutually reinforcing,” she stressed, adding: “Switzerland stands ready to support these efforts.”
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said that, with the signing of the Final Agreement, Colombia has embarked on a transformative process to reach total peace through reducing social inequalities and pursuing dialogue with armed groups. “This is a process that requires vision and courage,” she said, commending President Gustavo Petro Urrego and his Government for their resolve to press ahead with concrete measures to make total peace a reality. Applauding the approval by Congress of the Government’s national development plan with its specific focus on women, peace and security, she also welcomed the landmark legislative bills passed by Congress to implement the Final Agreement. She then reiterated her strong support for the Mission, including by expanding its mandate to encompass ceasefire verification.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said his delegation appreciates the Mission’s role in maintaining peace in Colombia and supports the cross-cutting role that women’s rights must play in implementing the 2016 Final Agreement. Noting the United States’ support, he said it remains the top international donor to the Final Agreement and has dedicated $1.5 billion to its implementation since 2017. Making tangible progress to help Indigenous People is important for the country to achieve a durable peace. He joined the Secretary-General in urging the Government to address issues of exclusion. The peace process must be shaped by the views of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Colombians. Upholding victims’ rights is also crucial. The United States is closely monitoring Government efforts to expand its peace negotiations with other groups. ELN must stop all acts of violence, kidnapping and forced recruitment, he stressed, adding that the United States supports all efforts to help Colombia achieve a real and lasting peace.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), noting progress in the implementation of critical aspects of the Final Agreement, voiced hope that parties will continue to demonstrate their commitment and good faith in the implementation of the agreements already reached, as well as the conclusion of agreements under discussion. He called for an end to conflict-related violence, especially against women, human rights defenders, social leaders and ex‑combatants, noting that most of them are Afro-Colombian and Indigenous. Voicing concern about the use of improvised explosive devices by illegal armed groups and criminal organizations, he called on the parties to foster inclusive dialogue and to make every effort to end hostilities and allow the ceasefire to come to fruition. He expressed hope that efforts will continue to extend State presence in rural areas, and to identify the location of landmines to avoid future tragedies.
ÁLVARO LEYVA DURÁN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that less positive findings in the Secretary-General’s report must always be viewed as opportunities for improvement, early warnings and calls to action in favour of the protection of what was agreed between the Government and FARC-EP. Highlighting issues that he deemed crucial to peace and fostering good-neighbourly relations with bordering countries, he said the dialogue between the parties to the 2016 Final Agreement is the backbone of the national peace policy. The Government remains firmly committed to the Final Agreement, which must be materialized into actions that impact the life of the signatory populations historically affected by the conflict. The Government has worked on a series of institutional and legislative initiatives, including the national development plan and a new security and defence policy focused on human security, the strengthening of territorial control and the dismantling of criminal structures.
The national development plan includes for the first time the adoption of a foreign policy with a gender focus, based on dialogue with civil society, aimed at implementing the Final Agreement’s gender provisions, he said. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace about restorative justice that must exalt the principle of nulla poena sine lege. The talks with ELN are advancing and have brought concrete results. Noting that the Government is waiting for the negotiating groups to present the ceasefire protocols agreed 9 June, he said the first results of the dialogues with EMC carry great expectations. He asked the international community and the Security Council to accompany his country in ceasefire verifications, as a guarantor of total peace. “Colombia wants its society to advance, no longer towards 100 years of solitude,” he said, referring to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, “but towards a hundred years of coexistence and peace. That would be the real victory.”