Vice-President Calls on Global Community to Shoulder Shared Responsibility in Combating Drug Trafficking
The imminent fifth anniversary of the historic peace accord between Colombia and former opposition armed groups offers an opportunity to acknowledge its successes and commit to overcoming challenges that stand in the way of realizing its transformative potential, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/824). He described “unquestionable advances” made over the first third of the agreement’s 15-year time frame, including in reconciliation efforts and in the creation of transitional electoral districts to ensure the democratic representation of people from the most conflict-affected areas. However, he cautioned the Council that if all elements of the accord are not fully implemented, eradicating the factors that led to the protracted conflict will remain impossible.
As an illustration of the formidable challenges that remain to be addressed, he detailed his observations from a recent visit to Meta, a former stronghold of members of the former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) group which is now home to more than 1 out of 10 of its former members. He noted that former combatants were engaged in activities such as growing coffee and avocado, which testified to their desire to be active members of the community and participate in local politics and decision-making, just as the agreement envisaged.
Even so, he said, roadblocks in accessing land, housing and sustainable income stand in the way of safe and lasting reintegration. He quoted a female leader from the department who told him: “So many efforts and so many investments are now in jeopardy.” Unless decisive actions are taken to address remaining challenges, former combatants will continue to be forced to relocate in search of better opportunities and to preserve their lives.
The Council also heard the perspectives of two women leaders, who provided a vivid account of the grave dangers that women and marginalized groups in Colombia continue to face. Bibiana Peñaranda, coordinator of the civil society organization Butterflies with New Wings, pointed out that a lack of security for signatories to the peace accord and social leaders has left them vulnerable to threats.
In a similar vein, Daniela Soto, a youth leader from the Nasa indigenous community in Cauca, painted a grim picture of the violence wreaked by armed groups, which conscript young children into drug trafficking and force women into sexual enslavement. Noting that nine indigenous women were killed in 2021 while defending their land in Cauca, she recounted an attempt made on her life earlier in 2021 in the presence of law enforcement, when she was exercising her right to peaceful protest.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members commended progress made in transitional justice efforts, which centred victims and have helped Colombia along the path towards truth, justice and reconciliation. However, many also expressed concern about the unabating violence — including fatal attacks on former combatants and human rights defenders — and the dire security situation, due to the spread of illegal armed groups. Many speakers emphasized the need to dismantle those groups and ensure elections can be safely held as planned in 2022.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, echoed other Council members’ calls to enhance security in marginalized and conflict-affected areas. She commended progress made by Colombia’s Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-Repetition, noting that “accepting transgressions is essential for forgiveness” and helps ease the reintegration of former combatants into society. However, she pointed out that more needs to be done to ensure former combatants access to land and housing, particularly when they reside in urban areas, outside the country’s official Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration.
The representative of the Russian Federation observed that the most problematic areas, which experienced high levels of crime and violence, are those where the Government is weakly represented. “This power and rule-of-law vacuum is being filled by various illegal armed groups,” he said, adding that the full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement is impossible without addressing drug trafficking, the source of violence in the country. Sustainable reconciliation cannot be brought about without involving all actors, he noted.
Meanwhile, the representative of Norway expressed concern over the high ongoing levels of violence, leading to the killing of a staggering number of human rights defenders, social leaders and former FARC-EP combatants, which poses the biggest threat to the peace agreement. Ahead of the elections scheduled for 2022, she called for strengthened efforts to avoid political violence, including against candidates for the 16 special seats in conflict-affected areas, who face heightened risks.
Mexico’s delegate underscored the need for all indigenous and Afro-descendant women to be present in decision-making processes. In that regard, he commended the Comprehensive Programme of Guarantees for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, which he called a crucial pillar for peacebuilding, and expressed appreciation for ongoing training activities for 7,000 members of 300 municipal peace councils.
Also addressing the Council was Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, who said drug trafficking remains a challenge despite many measures taken to implement the peace agreement, including the establishment of crop-substitution programmes. While emphasizing that the agreement was designed to occur over a 15-year period, she called on the international community to shoulder its shared responsibility to combat drug trafficking, noting that groups engaged in that heinous trade are attacking civilians and killing social leaders. Despite the formidable cost of implementing the agreement, which few countries would be able to afford, Colombia has spent as much as $8.4 billion over the past three years, including $263 million, which it provided for victims and the reintegration of former combatants.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, India, Estonia, Viet Nam, United States, Ireland, China and France.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:08 p.m.