Colombian Vice-President Highlights ‘Irreversible Progress’ towards Transitional Justice, Historic Peace Agreement’s Implementation
Encouraged by the recent peaceful presidential elections and the release of the compelling, final report of Colombia’s Truth Commission, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today he is confident that Colombia is moving towards a vibrant, diverse democracy.
“There are good reasons for optimism for peace, and I believe the United Nations and the international community should do all they can to lend support,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.
In presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/513), he said the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace has made a significant contribution to widening and deepening Colombian democracy. More guarantees exist for exercising political opposition and 16 representatives of victims from conflict-affected regions will have their voices heard in Congress, which will include the largest-ever share of women — close to 30 per cent.
He noted that, in recent meetings, President-elect Gustavo Petro has strongly reaffirmed that peace would be a cornerstone of the Government and he was counting on United Nations support. Moreover, Vice-President-elect Francia Marques, the first Afro-Colombian woman to hold this position, has reiterated that peace, with a territorial and ethnic approach, will be a prominent feature of the Government’s agenda.
Yet, serious obstacles exist, including persisting violence against communities, leaders and former combatants in several departments, the Special Representative said. “Their security must be guaranteed. A priority for any peace agreement must be to safeguard the lives of those who laid down their arms in good faith, with the assurance that they would be protected,” he said. Illegal armed actors keep targeting local leaders in conflict-affected areas marked by poverty. The high-level Forum of Ethnic People, created by the peace agreement, has called for dedicated follow-up on these and other ethnic matters by international actors.
Francisco José De Roux Rengifo, President of the Truth Commission, detailing the suffering endured during more than 50 years of war, said that Colombia has demonstrated that those wounded by war can come together to build peace, happiness and “produce a tomorrow where there is hope”. Over the last four years, the Commission has heard from more than 30,000 individuals and bodies and reviewed over 1,000 reports from victimized communities.
He stressed that Colombia’s security apparatus for decades functioned on the premise that security could be “guaranteed by weapons”, resulting in a system set up to protect structures and armed bureaucracy, not human beings. That must change. Urging the international community to give Colombia “nothing for war”, he said that the country wishes to be a “global paradigm of reconciliation” after so much pain and suffering.
Also briefing the Council, Jineth Casso Piamba, Nasa indigenous woman, community leader and human rights defender, said negotiations on the peace agreement served as “an act of rebirth” that let people feel that wounds could be healed as “everyone sat calm around the fire listening to the wise words of their elders”. She called for land‑reform policies and implementation of the accord’s provisions on gender and ethnicity, stressing the State must tackle gender inequality by supporting productive opportunities for women and economically empower them through education.
In the ensuing debate, Council members voiced their respect for the Colombian people’s desire for democracy and the powerful work of the Truth Commission in healing the country, while warning of the serious obstacles to the consolidation of peace. Delegates also stressed the importance of building systems that let women and indigenous groups participate in the peace process.
The representative of Norway, a guarantor country of the peace agreement, said President-elect Petro’s call for national unity is reassuring. She praised the way the top commanders of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC-EP) assumed personal responsibility during public hearings, and pointed to the Truth Commission’s “titanic task” of hearing and documenting thousands of testimonies in its final report. In placing victims at its centre, Colombia’s Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non‑Repetition is perhaps the most sophisticated system of its kind globally, she said, adding that it serves as an inspiration and a model for transitional justice systems elsewhere.
Likewise, Kenya’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said the Colombian peace process has valuable lessons about ending a protracted civil war and embarking on the road to lasting peace and reconciliation. Stressing that the full reintegration of former combatants into society remains key to the peace process’ success, he welcomed progress on territorially focused development programmes, comprehensive rural reform and the consolidation of former territorial areas for training and reintegration. Echoing other speakers, he expressed concern over the persistent violence targeting ex-combatants and conflict-affected communities — including Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, social leaders, women peacebuilders and human rights activists — stressing the need to lend them more support.
Mexico’s delegate, observing that the elections showed the maturity of the country’s institutions, agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that more work is needed to develop an inclusive peace process, with women having a greater say. That requires more investment in training and services, such as childcare, that create the conditions conducive for their active participation in decision-making.
For her part, Marta Lucía Ramírez, Colombia’s Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs, said her country has made “irreversible progress” in transitional justice and the peace agreement’s implementation. “Colombia is nearer to peace today than ever before,” she stressed, showing the world that peace and reconciliation are possible with political will, the determination of an entire nation and the international community’s support.
Noting that, for the second time since the signing of the accord in 2016, Colombia has elected a president through a transparent, free process, she said the Government works to facilitate the reintegration of ex-combatants through investments in socioeconomic projects, housing subsidies, access to education and social and health services. “This model is unprecedented at the global level,” she emphasized, adding that the safety and security of former combatants and their families will remain a priority for the State.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Russian Federation, China, United States, Albania, France, United Arab Emirates, India, Ireland and Brazil.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.