Colombia - Security Council, 9015th Meeting
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Recent elections in Colombia saw most women voted into office, Special Representative tells Security Council, highlighting value of peace.
President Cites Reintegration of Former Combatants, Reparations Law for Victims among Gains, Calls on Armed Groups to End Violence Colombia's current election cycle is a testament to the progress made in the implementation of its landmark 2016 peace agreement, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today, even as he underscored the serious challenges remaining on the path ahead. Presenting the Secretary-General's report (document S/2022/267), Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative and the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, stressed that not only were the congressional elections — held 12 March — "mostly free" of violence due to the disbanding of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People's Army (FARC-EP), but women were voted into office at a rate not seen before. In addition, he said 16 special transitional electoral districts for peace were established, fulfilling a requirement under the accord, known formally as the Final Agreement to End the Armed Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace.  "Colombia's democracy will no doubt be enriched by the increased voice of victims in Congress," he said.  However, he cautioned against continued violence among armed groups, stressing that in 2022 alone, the department of Arauca has seen the killing of over 100 people and the forcible displacement of thousands.  He drew attention to the disproportionate number of indigenous and Afro-Colombian community members killed or displaced. He went on to highlight the importance of remembering the many voices of the past in order to envision a new future.  The Truth Commission would release its final report in June, releasing the testimony of thousands of victims.  "Peace in Colombia is invaluable," he said.  "We must continue building it." Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia, highlighted the progress made by his Government in the areas of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  His country "embraces the substantive principles of peace" and continues to implement the peace agreement, even as it faces the challenges posed by armed groups, including those linked to drug trafficking, he said. In particular, he pointed to progress made in the areas of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition.  Those who committed crimes against humanity must be held to account, he said, noting that his Government also promoted the extension of a law on reparations for victims.  In the meantime, the lives of former combatants must be protected.  Over 12,800 of them are currently part of a social reintegration process that includes various livelihoods projects, which promote progressive land tenure, and housing and property rights.  A rural development programme, meanwhile, includes illicit crop substitution and demining initiatives. In the ensuing debate, delegates commended Colombia for the gains made in several areas, with Brazil's representative underscoring that the Council's success is reflected in that of the country.  "If the Council is important to Colombia, so too is Colombia important to the Council," he emphasized.  He described Colombia as a success story in which the Verification Mission has played a key role in helping to improve the lives of a nation's people. In a similar vein, France's delegate said that "in a world shaken by conflict", Colombia's historic 2016 peace accord can be held up as a beacon for the global community.  She also recognized that challenges persist and that peacebuilding efforts must always acknowledge any obstacles on the road, such as the need to address gaping socioeconomic inequalities. Kenya's representative, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said Colombia is "a testament to inspired leadership in seeking and maintaining peace".  In the past, it was more commonly known for its civil war and drug cartels, he said, praising the Government for the recent arrest of "Otoniel", a notorious drug lord, which could aid in the breakup of similar criminal networks. The United Arab Emirates' delegate sounded a note of caution for the incoming Administration, which will face great responsibilities and challenges, including the continued implementation of the Final Agreement. Mexico's delegate highlighted the importance of the legislative elections — and creation of the 16 new electoral constituencies — as a milestone on the road to lasting peace.  Even so, there is room for improvement in women's participation, especially among those from indigenous communities and of Afro-Colombian descent. Echoing those sentiments, the United States delegate expressed concern that the peace agreement's gender provisions are being achieved at a slower rate than its other elements.  On a brighter note, there has been an increase in participation by indigenous and Afro-Colombian candidates, he said. Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, Albania, Ireland, India, Norway and China. Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for South and Central Asia, North Africa, the United Nations and the Commonwealth for the United Kingdom also spoke. The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.