By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK (IDN) – The Security Council has greeted the handover of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army’s (FARC-EP) remaining weapons to a United Nations-backed team as a “true example” of courage and commitment to peace, and pledged to support Colombia as it transitions out of its five-decades-long civil conflict.
Briefing the Council on those recent developments, Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, said on June 30 that, with the June 27 handover of its remaining weapons, the FARC‑EP had officially met its obligations under the May 29 road map.
At a ‘Farewell to Arms, Farewell to War’ ceremony that day, FARC-EP head Timoleon Jimenez had announced that Colombia’s 53-year-old armed insurgency was formally over. President Juan Miguel Santos Calderón had also voiced his own commitment to implement the Peace Agreement “to the last comma”.
Citing a number of recorded failures to observe the 2016 ceasefire agreement, the Special Representative nevertheless said none of those incidents revealed a pattern of deliberate violation or the involvement of high-level decision makers on either side.
Going forward, it would be important that the Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism – consisting of the Government of Colombia, the FARC-EP and the United Nations Mission in Colombia – continue to operate for some time after the current “transition zones” closed on August 1.
He said that the Mechanism had been an effective tool to maintain and strengthen confidence between the parties. Its presence at the local level, he added, would help ensure that any incidents could be dealt with cooperatively.
With the storing of individual weapons in UN containers, he said the Mission and FARC-EP, with the support of the armed forces and police, could now devote their full attention to the disposal of hundreds of arms caches, the collection of weapons and the destruction of explosives and unstable armaments.
To date, 81 arms caches had been visited and a large amount of explosives destroyed. Plans were under way with the FARC-EP and the Government to extract another 380 in the coming weeks with more to follow. Arnault expressed confidence that if not all, at least a high percentage of the caches would be dealt with by September 1, at which time the Mission’s verification of the caches would end and the responsibility would switch to the Government.
“There is clearly no motive to pause, no room for complacency,” the UN Special Representative stressed. He noted that the first and most urgent challenge was the reintegration of the 10,000 FARC-EP combatants and militias, among whom a deep sense of uncertainty prevailed regarding their physical security and socioeconomic future. The challenges included a pattern of violence against social leaders. At the same time, the peace process must also respond to the needs and expectation of the more vulnerable sectors of society.
As with the first UN mission in Colombia, he said, the second mission requested by the Government would focus on fostering cooperation and building confidence, as well as matters relating to verification. Across political divides, and the current polarization notwithstanding, the Council remained a highly significant factor of confidence in the midst of misgivings and uncertainties, he added.
Commenting the welcome development, Security Council member unanimously praised the courage of the Colombian people and their commitment to the peace process. Many also voiced strong support for the prompt establishment of a second United Nations mission while others expressed concern about reports of attacks against FARC-EP members, political dissidents, human rights defenders, local leaders and their families.
Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), Uruguay’s Permanent Representative to the UN, recalled his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs recent visit to the United Nations Mission in Colombia and the Tripartite Mechanism. Uruguay, he added, had pledged the country’s full support to the peace process, adding that the progress made demonstrated the firm commitment of the parties. While understandable concerns in fully implementing the peace agreement remained, the country’s request for the United Nations to establish a second political mission in Colombia before July 10 was merited. “Colombians are giving the world a true example” that it was worthwhile to risk everything for the sake of peace, he said.
Olof Skoog, Sweden’s Permanent Representative to the UN, agreed that “peace is never easy”, but required much courage and endurance, and stressed that “in Colombia we have seen both”. The United Nations Mission in Colombia had played an important role in supporting the peace process. The establishment of a second political mission would help the parties in building trust and overcoming challenges for the next stage.
The mission, he said, should also be tailored to the next stage of the peace process and enjoy a sufficient presence locally and regionally. The goodwill and generosity of spirit of Colombia’s partners would be essential towards that end, he added. Besides, the focus must also be on the reintegration and rehabilitation of children separated from the ranks of FARC-EP.
Kairat Umarov, Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, noted that the United Nations presence in Colombia had benefited all sides, but voiced concern about attacks on FARC-EP members and others. He also expressed concern about the activities of such armed groups as the National Liberation Army.
Underscoring the need to support the Government in dealing with those challenges, he urged the international community to mobilize the necessary resources and joined other speakers in fully endorsing the establishment of a second United Nations mission in Colombia. “We cannot lose this momentum,” he stressed.
Bolivia’s Permanent Representative Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz, the Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, echoing the need to maintain the positive attitude “now that we are entering a more difficult part of the process”. Stressing that the security of FARC-EP members must be ensured, he said.
The recent killings of community leaders, dissidents, human rights defenders and their families showed how difficult the process would be. He went on to welcome efforts to address such critical issues as improving living conditions in Colombia’s rural areas and reforming land tenure and title rights. He voiced the hope that the international community would provide support to those and other important activities.
“We are on a path to build a stable and lasting peace on which we will move forward in firm steps.” Colombia’s representative, María Emma Mejía Vélez, said,adding that a future positive for all Colombians lay ahead. The strong support of the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, was invaluable in that endeavour. She expressed gratitude for recent visits to Colombia, which she said helped bring all stakeholders together, as well as for the assistance that led to the collection of weapons.
The success of the peace process, she continued, was shown by continued compliance with the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, the adoption of necessary reforms for the implementation of the agreements and related activities. In spite of all challenges, the parties had fully complied with their obligations.
A more inclusive Colombia with sustainable peace was the goal. Political will and the support of the international community was particularly important in the first years of the agreement, which were by nature the most difficult. She expressed hope that both would continue. [IDN-InDepthNews – 1 July 2017]
Photo: President Juan Manuel Santos; Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jean Arnault; and head of the FARC-EP Secretariat Timoleon Jimenez at a ceremony for the final laying down of weapons in Colombia. Photo: UN Mission in Colombia
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