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Expected Council Action

In September, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which expires on 26 September.

Key Recent Developments

President Iván Duque was sworn in on 7 August after having won 54 percent of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections on 17 June. During the campaign, Duque said he was committed not to terminate the November 2016 peace agreement but to propose certain “corrections”. Although no firm decisions have been made, areas that the new administration may aim to modify include provisions related to the transitional justice mechanisms, land reform, and how to deal with the cultivation of coca.

During the last months of former President Juan Manuel Santos’ term, political divisions delayed the Colombian Congress’ approval of the statute of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the justice component of the transitional justice system. The SJP statute was finally adopted in June and was deemed constitutional by the Constitutional Court in a ruling of 16 August. Centro Democrático, the political party of President Duque, had proposed amendments in the final stages of the legislative process, including limiting the role of the SJP in evaluating extradition requests and forbidding human rights attorneys from serving as magistrates in the SJP, but the Constitutional Court rejected these changes. The Court also reaffirmed that those former guerrilla members found responsible for crimes by the SJP, and who have fully cooperated with the tribunal, can participate in politics, including holding office.

The new Congress was inaugurated on 20 July. The political party Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC), which was founded after the laying-down of weapons, was allocated five seats in each of the chambers (House of Representatives and Senate) in accordance with the peace agreement. FARC leader Seuxis Hernández (aka Jesús Santrich) did not take his seat as he is detained, charged with drug trafficking. In solidarity with Santrich, Luciano Marín (aka Iván Márquez) refused to assume his position as senator. FARC members continue to harbour misgivings about whether the peace agreement will be implemented in full. In his 20 July report, the Secretary-General said that “the country’s new authorities have the critical responsibility to restore a sense of confidence about the future among the rank and file, the mid-level commanders and the leadership of the former guerrilla group”. In a press statement adopted on 27 July, Council members reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to work with Colombia as it implements the peace agreement in order to secure a lasting peace in the months and years ahead. They also urged the parties to consolidate the gains already made and to work together to renew the momentum behind implementation of the peace agreement.

The UN Verification Mission has continued to implement its mandate to verify the political, economic and social reintegration of the former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), as well as the upholding of security guarantees. Attacks against former FARC-EP members and their families have persisted, and fragile security conditions for members outside some of the 26 areas designated for training and reintegration continue to pose a challenge for their return to civilian life. FARC-EP dissident groups have continued to mount attacks, including trans-border operations into Ecuador. Other armed groups that are filling the vacuum left in the large areas formerly under the influence of FARC-EP continue to be a threat to communities. Human rights defenders have been targeted as well, with 121 killed in 2017, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Despite the polarisation observed during the electoral cycle, state institutions and political parties signed a “pact of repudiation of violence against social leaders” in early July, displaying the collective concern of political actors in Colombia to address this pressing issue. Addressing the Council on 26 July, Colombian Vice President Óscar Naranjo highlighted the contradiction that although the country has had the lowest murder rate in 42 years, there has been an increase in threats and attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders.

The socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former combatants through the establishment of productive projects and other forms of income generation continues to be a challenge. Briefing the Council on 26 July, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, stressed that in addition to supporting institutions in curbing violence, the central challenge for peace consolidation remains the combination of poverty, violence and illicit economic activities affecting inhabitants of the former conflict zone. He called for a tightly coordinated and well-resourced effort to bring opportunities to areas that have long been prey to violence and state neglect.

Even though the administration of President Santos conducted talks in Cuba with a still-active guerrilla group known as Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) until the end of his term, no bilateral ceasefire agreement was reached. During the campaign, Duque expressed the need for preconditions for the government to remain at the negotiating table with the ELN. Given the role that the UN Verification Mission played with the Catholic church in monitoring and verifying an earlier bilateral ceasefire with the ELN, Council members are expected to follow any future negotiations closely. The ELN has continued to carry out attacks, and in early August kidnapped nine people in the regions of Chocó and Arauca.

Key Issues and Options

An important issue is ensuring that the peace agreement is implemented in its entirety despite the change in government. When Council members visited Colombia in May 2017, they expressed unanimous support for the agreement and during meetings with representatives of the main political parties stressed the need to secure its irreversibility.  Appreciating the vital role of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia in contributing to the momentum for implementing the agreement, the Council is likely to renew the mission’s mandate for another year.

The government’s ability to develop a well-resourced strategy for reintegrating former FARC-EP members into society and to provide safety and security in areas previously occupied by the FARC-EP remain critical issues in the successful implementation of the agreement. Council members could encourage high-level contacts between representatives of the government and the FARC to discuss how the commitments made in the agreement are to be carried out in this new phase.

Council Dynamics

Council members are unified in their support for the peace process in Colombia. Several members have viewed engagement in Colombia as a rare bright spot for the Council as it struggles to play an effective role in several other conflict situations. However, some members have expressed concerns about the future of the agreement under the new administration.

The current political context may mean a significant change in the role the two successive UN missions have played since the government of Colombia requested the Council’s involvement in January 2016. The present mission, with the Council’s close attention and support, could be in a position to use its leverage to sustain key provisions of the agreement at a moment of uncertainty in order to reassure Colombians about the irreversibility of the process. During a visit to New York on 23 August, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo expressed support for the renewal of the mission’s mandate.

The UK is the penholder on Colombia.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COLOMBIA

Security Council Resolutions
5 October 2017 S/RES/2381 This was a resolution expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
10 July 2017 S/RES/2366 This was the resolution establishing the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, a successor mission to the UN Mission in Colombia.
Secretary-General's Report
20 July 2018 S/2018/723 This was the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
Security Council Meeting Record
26 July 2018 S/PV.8319 The Council was briefed by Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia
Security Council Press Statement
27 July 2018 SC/13438 This was press statement reaffirming the Council’s commitment to continuing to work with Colombia as it implements the peace agreement in order to secure a lasting peace in the months and years ahead.

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