COLOMBIA+20, EL ESPECTADOR, October 12, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
That’s what was indicated by the countries that are part of this international entity during the delivery of a report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement made by the UN’s Verification Mission. This is the first report issued during the Petro administration.
The United Nations Organization Verification Mission in Colombia this Wednesday furnished the UN Security Council its quarterly report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The document covers the period of June 28 to September 26 of 2022. That means that it’s the first report that includes actions taken during the first month of the Gustavo Petro administration. He was inaugurated as President last August 7.
The report was released last October 3 and highlighted the intentions of the Petro administration to confront the violence with processes of dialog with the different armed groups, where there are differing degrees of readiness for the guarantees of security that are written in the Peace Agreement. In turn, the UN emphasized progress in the Integrated System for Peace, where there are specific references to actions like the protocol for the establishment of the Mechanism for Monitoring and Verification of the special sanctions by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which was signed last August.
In spite of that, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Matters reported that during the period of the report more than 8,000 people were confined and more that 13,000 were forcibly displaced. With regard to that problem, the Mission indicates that more than 60% of the victims of displacement and confinement are indigenous and Afro-Colombian people, and it estimates that 30% are children less than 18 years old.
The presentation before the Security Council included Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Special Representative of the UN General Secretariat in Colombia and head of the Verification Mission; Álvaro Leyva, Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Ambassadors from the 15 countries that are members of the Security Council, and Elizabeth Moreno Barco, a social leader from Chocó Department, who also made a presentation.
Foreign Minister Leyva’s Appearance before the UN Security Council
Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Álvaro Leyva, also made a presentation to the Security Council where he defended the idea that Gustavo Petro’s administration is dedicated to recovering the time lost in the implementation of the Peace Agreement during the four years of the Duque administration. “In 65 days we won’t repair a map that never should have been allowed to turn away from the route initially laid out; nevertheless, the march of the relaunching of what was agreed can’t be reversed now.
The Foreign Minister also listed several of the actions that President Petro has already carried out in this area—and that were recognized by the countries that are members of the Security Council—like the advances in agrarian reform and in particular the agreement reached with the National Cattle Ranchers Association (Fedegán). That refers to the pact that was reached last week between the Petro administration and Fedegán to buy three million hectares of land and use it to comply with the first point of the Peace Agreement signed with the now-defunct FARC in 2016.
He also mentioned a meeting with António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, where the Ambassadors of Colombia to the United States, to the Organization of American States (OEA) and to the UN, suggested that the Secretary General call together a world conference of countries where drugs and hallucinogens are consumed. He suggested that it be a gathering with the purpose to “take conscientious and collective measures to overcome a problem that should not result in the death of the weakest in the chain of a dirty business that ends up costing the lives of people in my country, the majority of them innocent: the small campesinos, the Afro-Colombians, and the original people of our nation.”
The countries of the Security Council speak
Ambassadors from the 15 countries that are members of the Security Council talked about the report presented by the UN Verification Mission. One of them was from Norway, a country that was a guarantor in the negotiations with the FARC and now with the ELN. Norway’s representative on the Security Council, Anniken Huitfeldt, the Foreign Minister, reaffirmed Norway’s interest in peace in Colombia. “Norway continues to be fully committed to the peace process in Colombia; we continue to be a guarantor country in the implementation of the 2016 Agreement and they have asked us to continue in the negotiations with the ELN. We are disposed to help in the government’s efforts to promote dialog and disarmament of other armed groups if they request that.”
At the same time, Juan Ramón de la Fuente, Mexico’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organization, referred to the renewal of the dialogs with the ELN guerrillas and the extension to other groups, and he said that it was a fundamental step toward “a sustainable peace”. “We welcome the initiative of ‘total peace’ that is based on the pillars of the right to truth, justice, and reparations,” he stated.
He also referred to the ethnic chapter in the Peace Agreement and he said that it was a fundamental pillar. “México is completely ready to collaborate in this area because of our experience as a multi-ethnic and pluricultural country that recognizes the challenges and remembers the magnitude of the historic debt to the original, indigenous, and Afro-descended people,” he said. Just last week, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, formalized the support of his country to the implementation of the ethnic chapter of the Peace Agreement by signing a protocol with Vice President Francia Marquez.
For his part, James Kariuki, the United Kingdom’s Adjunct Permanent Representative to the UN, made three key points: First, he saluted the “renewed impulse for peace” that exists in Colombia now. “The commitment of the new administration to the implementation of the Peace Agreement was made clear by the attendance of President Petro at the first meeting of the CSIVI and the National Commission for Guarantees of Security.”
In the second place, he urged the new administration to persist in the complete implementation of the Peace Agreement, because there are some points on which he warned, “we continue to be profoundly concerned about the violence against the former combatants and human rights defenders,” although he recognized the rapid action by the administration with the installation of 14 unified command posts in regions affected by the armed conflict.
And in the third place, he praised the willingness of the national administration to confront the multiple conflicts that exist in this country with a multidimensional focus, supporting the renewing of the dialogs with the ELN, a process for which he suggested learning the lessons of the past negotiation with the FARC in Havana.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s First Adjunct Permanent Representative to the UN, also spoke. He praised the “firmness” with which President Petro has adopted the implementation of the Agreement with the FARC, with “a totally different focus from what the previous administration did, when they used pretexts to avoid the full implementation of the Agreement,” he said.
“The current President’s team has the challenge of reaching all of the objectives that have accumulated. We have always said that the realization of a lasting peace would be impossible without the participation of the principal actors, including the ELN, and it’s gratifying that renewing the negotiations will be one of this new administration’s priorities. The meetings with Venezuela and Cuba show an aspiration for putting an end to the hostilities and arriving at conciliation (. . .) The normalization of relations with Venezuela could mean a repair of the migration situation,” said Polyanskiy.
Although Jeffrey De Laurentis, the U.S. Representative for Political Affairs at the UN, supported President Petro’s commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement, and procedures on its key bills in the Congress, he called attention to the critical security situation in the country during the last three months. In particular, he warned of the violence being carried out against the Awá indigenous people in Nariño and Putumayo, as well as the killings of 20 members of the Armed Forces at the hands of the “drug cartels” and “terrorist groups”. He was referring to the attack in Huila that killed seven Police Officers at the beginning of last September, and to others as well.
In the same manner, he condemned the fact that 11 former FARC combatants were killed in July, converting that month into the most violent against that particular population since 2019. He also referred to the 45 murders of human rights defenders that had been recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the last three months “The United States continues to be committed in its support of the Peace Agreement in Colombia, while we maintain our interest in having the drug traffickers face justice and in avoiding impunity in the crimes committed by the armed groups,” said De Laurentis.
When it was his turn, Geng Shuang, China’s representative, said, “We support the efforts of the government to foster reconciliation, dialog, socioeconomic development and being in contact with the actors, in order to address the challenges, and continuing to consolidate the achievements reached up to now with the Peace Agreement. This is a way to resolve the controversies.” He also congratulated the renewal of the talks with the ELN.
At the same time, he asked for a commitment to the protection of the most vulnerable populations, such as “women, children, and Afro-Colombians and to encourage the integration of the former FARC combatants” and “speeding up the accomplishment of important points of the Peace Agreement”. Further, he praised the recovery of relations between Venezuela and Colombia.
The petitions to the U.N. by the leader from Chocó
During her presentation, Elizabeth Moreno Barco, a social leader from Chocó and the legal representative of Acadesan (Community Council General of San Juan), said that she spoke not only for the 72 communities that she represents, but also for “the indigenous, campesino, and Black communities”. She said that they are at the point of “physical and social extinction in Colombia”. Moreno said that that extinction was coming because of two factors: “There are two causes for the violence against the indigenous, campesino, and Black communities: the systematic violence of economic violence, and the abandonment by the government which, in a classist and racist manner, fails to guarantee our human rights and that is destroying one of the most diverse places in the world through illegal and extractivist economies,” she averred.
Moreno also asked that the “legal and illegal armed actors” not make us part of the conflict and that they “respect our decision to be neutral”. She also stated, “We are in favor of the communities, of the dialogs, and the negotiations to end the violence in the countryside.”
Moreno also referred to two photographs that were hung behind the site from where she was speaking. They showed two children who had been victims of the armed conflict. “I came with two photographs: the first is of Valeria Murillo, a little girl, ten years old, killed in January 2022 during the incursion of an illegal actor to her neighborhood. Vanessa dreamed of being a teacher, but now she can’t do that. The other is of Yuber Moreno, a child recruited when he was 12 years old by another armed actor. At 13, he was killed in a bombardment in September 2021, in which three other adolescents were killed,” she said.
She also mentioned the violence against women. “We have been sexually violated, but we are mothers of the victims and also of the killers. She urged that the experiences of all of the communities be kept in mind. “We want to tell the whole world that our ancestral wisdom should be included in the dialogs, in the realization of the peace we long for. Now we want to tell the whole world that our wisdom as ancestral peoples is indispensable to conserve the environment in the territories. The ethnic peoples ought to be free to develop our projects for collective living,” said Moreno, who highlighted the arrival of Francia Márquez as Vice President of Colombia.
Finally, she stated that the only desire of the communities is to go back to their land. “We want to go back to the countryside where we were happy, taking care of our animals, of our plants, we want to plant food and the seeds of peace. We want to enjoy the pleasure of walking in the woods, on the beaches. We want to live freely on our plots of land. But while we work to realize this dream, we ask the international community to reinforce the UN missions and other humanitarian activities out in the country where we are most threatened by the armed conflict.”
The presentation by Ruiz Massieu
The chief of the U.N. Verification Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, noted the fact that for the first time, he was sharing the presentation of his report to the Security Council with the Foreign Minister of Colombia’s new administration, Álvaro Leyva, who, he assured, “had dedicated a good part of his life to the search for peace in Colombia.”
During his presentation, Ruiz Massieu forcefully acclaimed several of the first actions taken by the Petro administration in its “bold projection of total peace” which “is anchored to the complete implementation of the Peace Agreement.” “We are thrilled that the focus of the new administration prioritizes dialog as the most important resource for resolving the social conflict and the armed conflict, and centers its security strategies on the protection of the vulnerable communities,” said the chief of the Mission. Because of that, he urged the armed groups in the regions of Colombia to demonstrate their willingness to have peace and to respond to President Petro’s call for ceasefire.
He referred specifically to the agreement signed between the national government and Fedegán for the purchase of three million hectares of land, and he stated that “the implementation of that agreement will provide unprecedented momentum for rural reform.” In the same way, he praised the fact that a couple of weeks ago the two principal agencies for monitoring what was agreed on in Havana were re-started. They are the Commission for Monitoring, Promotion, and Verification (CSIVI), and the National Commission for Guarantees of Security; both are headed by President Petro.
However, he called on the government to designate the officials that would lead several agencies that are key to the implementation of the Agreement, especially the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) and the delegates to the National Reincorporation Council (CNR), where the Commons Party is also a member.
Ruiz Massieu made special mention of the renewal of dialogs between the Colombian government and the ELN, expressing his support for those negotiations: “With the will of both parties, the support of Colombian society, and the international community, it will be possible to end a conflict that has lasted for decades, the resolution of which is fundamental to broadening the reach for peace in the country.”