COLOMBIA+20, EL ESPECTADOR, January 6, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

For the first time in these reports, progress is reported on the first point of the Final Agreement. The trimester report by the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations highlights advances in the consolidation of peace during the Petro administration.

“In its first four months, the Gustavo Petro administration has taken important steps to halt the violence and consolidate the peace.” This sentence comes from the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations, which published the trimester report of the Colombia Verification Mission on Friday, December 6. The Verification Mission monitors the re-incorporation of the former combatants of the now-defunct FARC after the Peace Agreement.

There are several positive aspects that the report points out. The first is the fact that the President has re-activated two key arrangements for the implementation of the Final Agreement that have not held periodical meetings during the preceding administration of Iván Duque: The Commission for the Monitoring, Stimulus, and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement (CSIVI in Spanish), and the National Commission for Security Guarantees. It also highlighted the administration’s announcement that it would promote the implementation of what was agreed by creating a new unit in the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, and that the unit would be managed by Gloria Cuartas.

The U. N. Secretary General confirmed his approbation of the renewal of the dialogs with the ELN, which had finished their first cycle last December 12 in Caracas, Venezuela, and also of the exploratory conversations that the High Commissioner for Peace had carried through with a dozen armed groups that had expressed their interest in taking part in efforts to put an end to the violence. And it mentions the passage of the Public Order Statute that allows the administration to advance those contacts, besides establishing disarmed zones for transition to legality, to appoint regional peace commissioners, and possibly implementing partial agreements while the negotiations are going forward.

“I’m pleased that the integrated implementation of the Final Agreement is in the center of their efforts. A clear reflection of that are the recent and bold actions of the administration to strengthen the implementation of the points in the Agreement that have the most potential to transform, in a positive way, the reality in regions that have endured the harshness of the conflict for decades,” says Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

For the first time in these quarterly reports, the U. N. Mission salutes the progress of the Colombian government in the implementation of the first point in the Agreement, integrated rural reform. “The administration raised the allocation in the 2023 agricultural sector budget by more than 62%. It’s now established at some 860 million dollars. It’s also worth noting that the administration and the Colombian Federation of Ranchers recently signed an unprecedented agreement for the purchase of 3 million hectares that will be distributed to landless campesinos through the Land Fund stipulated in point 1 of the Final Agreement.”

“I’m encouraged by the way the administration is reaching out to the rural populations and by the agreement that they reached with the Colombian Federation of Ranchers for the purchase of land destined for the integrated rural reform. It’s a clear demonstration of the way that all sectors of Colombian society can and must contribute significantly to the implementation of the Final Accord,” states one of the Secretary General’s paragraphs.

In its previous reports, the Verification Mission reported that point 1 of the Agreement was the one that had showed the most foot-dragging in its implementation. That’s why two more aspects are stressed in this report. The first is the conducting of the first National Campesino Convention, where President Petro re-affirmed his commitment to close the gap between urban Colombia and rural Colombia. The second was the fact that 94,246 hectares have been added to the Land Fund and that 800,600 hectares have been formally titled.

The assessment of re-incorporation shows important achievements, such as that 75% of re-incorporated former combatants are currently participating in some productive project (This percentage is greater among women, with 84%.), and the fact that 3,545 former combatants participated in and graduated from the program entitled “I’m plowing education”.

The report highlights the progress of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in its resolutions formalizing the special sanctions for those convicted in the Special Jurisdiction. The U.N. considers this “a proof that it is working decisively to do justice for the awful crimes committed during the conflict”.

In addition, it emphasizes that in 2022 the arrival of the 16 Representatives in the Chamber was formalized as part of the Special Transitory Constituencies for Peace, known as the “peace seats”.  They are a product of the Final Agreement, and their purpose is to give the regions most affected by the war a voice in the Congress. The report even mentions that these Members of Congress have taken part in drafting 28 bills, most of which are related to the implementation of the Final Agreement. The Members in the “peace seats” have worked closely with the Peace Caucus.

But the report stresses that there are still some failures in the guarantees of security, as the accumulation of former combatants murdered since the signing of the Peace Agreement in November 2016 has now risen to 355. However, the statistics show a tendency to decrease, as since 2019, when there was a peak of 78 victims, the number has fallen every year.  The year 2022 had the second fewest murders of former combatants since the signing of the peace, with 50 victims recorded up to December 25.

Another negative point is the violence against social leaders, rural communities, and defenders of human rights, which is unyielding in this country. According to the report, 244 of those murders were committed in 2022, and the Office was able to verify 101 of those. There were also at least 127 massacres and 78,154 people were displaced, with the Departments of Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo and Arauca most affected by the violence.

“The Integrated National Program of Substitution of Crops for Illegal Use (PNIS in Spanish) continues to be an important instrument for the alleviation of those effects, but its potential is not yet being fully utilized,” reports the U.N. Secretary General in no uncertain terms, emphasizing that this continues to be an unresolved issue. And he calls attention to the failure because the illegal economies continue to be one of the principal causes of the persistence of violence in the regions affected by the conflict. He also notes that the most recent study by the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime (UNODC in Spanish) reveals record levels of cultivation of coca, and that it increased by 43% in 2021, to 204,000 hectares.

On this point, the report collects the recommendations from the communities on “adjusting the PNIS to the varying contexts in which it’s being implemented, improving inter-institutional coordination, and strengthening community participation so as to encourage confidence and legitimacy.”

In the final part of the report, the U.N. Secretary-General reiterated his support for the peace process between the government and the ELN through his Special Representative, and he assures that, “I will keep the Security Council up to date on relevant developments as these important conversations progress.”

“In spite of the advances,” the Secretary points out, “the violence described in this current report continues to be, without any doubt, the greatest threat to the consolidation of peace in Colombia.” “The peace process in Colombia is now in a new and dynamic phase, which merits firm international support,” and the report concludes, “it is an honor for the United Nations to continue working together with Colombians in this encouraging moment of opportunity for the consolidation of Peace.

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