9598th Meeting (AM)

Despite Prevailing Violence, Divisions across Political Spectrum, Colombia Still Model for Conflict Resolution, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Delegates Support Efforts to Implement Historic 2016 Ceasefire Accord, Role of Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Advancing Transitional Justice

Colombia remains a model for conflict resolution despite prevailing violence and other challenges, speakers told the Security Council today during a quarterly meeting on a country that has emerged from a decades-long war between the Government and a major rebel group. 

“However difficult and demanding of patience, Colombia’s decision to prioritize dialogue as a principal means to resolve conflict sets the country apart as a model that is more relevant than ever in today’s world,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, in his briefing on the implementation of the Mission’s mandate from 27 December 2023 to 26 March 2024 as set forth in the Secretary-General’s report(document S/2024/267).

He noted continuing efforts to advance the implementation of various aspects of the 2016 peace accord, officially known as the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace between the Government of Colombia and the former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).

“As the Security Council was able to observe firsthand during its recent visit, there is deep desire for peace in Colombia that extends from the highest levels of Government and State institutions, across civil society and to vulnerable communities in the regions still afflicted by conflict,” he said.  However, transforming that aspiration into reality will require Colombians to overcome divisions across the political spectrum based on a common interest in securing a peaceful future. 

Several key challenges and opportunities include transitional justice, reintegration of former combatants, rural reform and ceasefires with other rebel groups, he said, adding that while thousands of former FARC-EP members laid down their weapons in good faith, the Government must finalize the legal instruments to consolidate their transition into civilian life.

Regrettably, 11 more combatants have been killed since the Secretary-General’s last report was issued, he warned, underscoring the importance of security guarantees.  The current bilateral ceasefires are an important step to build trust with armed groups and reduce violence in the country.  However, those are “not a substitute” for State security policies aimed at protecting communities affected by the conflict.

“I trust that this Council will echo our calls to encourage all actors in Colombia to redouble their efforts to implement the 2016 Peace Agreement and to pursue dialogue as a way to further consolidate peace in the country,” he concluded.

Also briefing the Council was Marcela Sánchez, Executive Director of Colombia Diversa, who reported that as of March 2024, 6,000 crimes were estimated to be committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons during the armed conflict.  “Social stigma, lack of documentation, and fear of reprisals mean that we may never know the full extent of the violations that occurred against us,” she said.  Furthermore, there are no concrete and precise data on LGBTQ victims or the crimes they suffered.  “This lack of information demonstrates that our lives are not considered relevant for effective peacebuilding initiatives in the country,” she pointed out.

She urged the Council to send a powerful signal to the LGBTQ population in Colombia that their lives matter by demanding the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and LGBTQ people in implementation of the peace agreement and negotiations with other armed actors.  The Council can also call on the Verification Mission to regularly report about all human rights defenders, including LGBTQ defenders, and prioritize support for implementing the peace accord’s gender provisions and Ethnic Chapters.  Further, it can urge the Government to include the prohibition of conflict-related sexual violence and violence against women and LGBTQ people in all future ceasefire agreements with armed groups and regularly consult with diverse women and LGBTQ civil society to develop and implement its national action plan on women, peace, and security.

“Think of Colombia as a laboratory for implementing the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and inclusivity that are so central to the WPS [women, peace and security] agenda,” she said, emphasizing:  “Success or failure here could set an important precedent for the protection of LGBTQ rights elsewhere in the world.”

In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed support for the implementation of the 2016 peace accord and the need to reduce ongoing violence.  They also stressed the importance of land reform to address inequalities and the role played by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in advancing transitional justice. 

The representative of the United Kingdom called on the Government to redouble efforts to tackle impunity as “the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has a central role to play, as part of the transitional justice architecture established in the Agreement”.  Along the same lines, France’s representative stressed that “transitional justice is a cornerstone peace agreement”.  Agreeing, Switzerland’s delegate said that “the guarantee of justice and accountability for the crimes committed is essential to the success of the peace process.”  His country therefore organized a Council event yesterday to gain a better understanding of the progress, opportunities and challenges involved in promoting justice and reconciliation.

China’s representative expressed concern over the lack of progress in key areas — such as rural reform, land distribution and reintegration of former combatants — encouraging the Government of Colombia to scale up its efforts.  The speaker for the Republic of Korea said that its land reform in the 1950s and international support for the post-Korean war period are a stepping stone to where his country is now today.

Japan’s representative expressed strong support for Colombia’s continued commitment to “total peace” underpinned by the concept of “human security”, which calls for protection and inclusion of all individuals and the establishment of stable mechanisms for that purpose.  However, the speaker for the Russian Federation voiced concern over the “exceedingly high” level of armed violence in the country, rejecting the ongoing attacks on the lives of former combatants and urging guarantees and opportunities to ensure their return to civilian life.  His counterpart from the United States also warned against increased violence in regions that threaten the safety of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. 

“The positive developments in peace talks should not be eclipsed by violence,” said the representative of Malta, Council President for April.  To that end, parties must seek to strengthen commitments to civilian protection, including child protection, and take concrete measures for the immediate benefit of conflict-affected communities.  This includes strengthening the integrated presence of the State across Colombia’s territory.

Injecting a unique perspective, Slovenia’s delegate pointed out that the environment is “the silent victim of the conflict”, expressing strong support for the integration of the cross-cutting climate-related security risks into the broader context of the peace process and the implementation of the 2016 final agreement.

The representative of Guyana, speaking also for Algeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone, said that despite the complex and challenging nature of the conflict, “Colombia constitutes a positive example of conflict resolution through inclusive dialogue and implementation of peace agreements.”

“Colombians want peace,” said the representative of Ecuador, urging the Council to remain committed to that goal.

Wrapping up the discussion, Luis Gilberto Murillo Urrutia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia noted that despite many challenges, the implementation of the 2016 historic peace agreement is decisively making progress.  For instance, the Government has acquired 157,191 hectares of land for the victims, formalizing 808,815 hectares of land for peasants, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.  Recently, the Government has allocated $3.7 million to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace to help it fulfil its mandate.

“Colombia is a global example, and we come to the Security Council to speak of peace and not of war,” he said, concluding:  “Columbia’s success in its bid for peace will also be the success of the United Nations.”

For information media. Not an official record.