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Upcoming Elections Offer Historic Opportunity to Widen Colombia’s Democracy, Special Representative Tells Security Council

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SC/14770

SECURITY COUNCIL
8951ST MEETING (AM)

Several Delegates Emphasize Importance of Realizing Peace Agreement’s Full Promise

Five years after its signing, the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace in Colombia is setting down ever deeper roots, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council today, as he called on the Government, political parties, former combatants and Colombians across the diverse nation to intensify implementation of the landmark accord ahead of congressional elections.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, who is also the Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, said elections, slated for March, will include for the first time representatives from 16 “special transitional electoral districts for peace”, which were established in 2021 and stipulated in the 2016 Agreement to promote participation of historically excluded populations in conflict-affected areas.

He said more than 400 candidates are running to make the voices of regions historically affected by poverty and conflict heard. All of them are recognized as victims of Colombia’s five-decade long conflict, half of them are women and many are indigenous and Afro-Colombians. “This is an historic opportunity, envisioned in the Agreement, that must be protected in order to widen Colombia’s democracy,” he observed.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/1090), he highlighted gains made in the reintegration of 13,000 ex-combatants. While he acknowledged a reduction in the number of killings compared to 2021, he stressed that every effort must be made to enhance their individual security, noting that the actions of illegal armed groups and criminal groups are being felt, particularly in regions given priority for implementation of the Final Agreement. “In today’s Colombia, there can be no justification for violence,” he said.

On that point, Luz Marina Giraldo, former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) combatant, signatory to the Final Agreement and leader in reintegration initiatives, described a general rejection of former combatants, as well as their children, by Colombian society. Stigmatization, polarization and discrimination have prevented the fulfilment of those goals enshrined in the Agreement.

Underlining the repeated use of the words “family” and “security” in that document, she said its territorial focus should allow former combatants, war widows and orphaned children to live safely throughout the country and protect them from discrimination. “Today, I ask this Council, from the bottom of our souls, not to leave us alone,” she said.

In the ensuing debate, delegates praised Colombia for the immense efforts it has made to overcome long-standing wounds and chart a path towards a unified and prosperous future. In that context, Brazil’s delegate said the decision to involve the United Nations in monitoring implementation of the peace accord is a testament to its commitment. Brazil will follow its efforts to guarantee the safety of ex-combatants, strengthen its policies regarding women, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants and ensure the functioning of its transitional justice system.

Several representatives underscored the need to realize the Agreement’s full promise, with Mexico’s delegate stressing that “progress is needed on all points”, notably on security guarantees. India’s delegate similarly said some provisions face impediments. Disputes between illegal armed groups over territorial control, along with activities of illegal trafficking groups remain a concern. “This needs to cease completely,” he said, a point echoed by Ghana’s delegate who pressed dissident groups and illegal armed elements to join the peace process without preconditions.

Picking up that thread, the representative of the United States said his country has designated Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP — comprised heavily of People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) dissidents who have rejected or abandoned the peace process — as terrorist organizations. He also noted that gender provisions are being implemented and financed at a lower rate than other parts of the Agreement, while implementation of rural economic plans and rural security has been slow.

Rounding out the discussion, Emilio José Archila, Presidential Adviser for Stabilization and Consolidation of Colombia, pointed to Ms. Giraldo’s success as representative of the reintegration process. Noting that she was in prison when it began and has since left, he said all those involved in the process are supported by lawyers financed by the Government.

Moreover, he said 70 per cent of the 13,000 former combatants now have economic sustainability. Seventy-seven per cent are in job training programmes and 88 per cent are in the health and pension systems. “There is no other area of Colombia that has those levels of social coverage,” he assured.

Going forward, he said Colombia will continue to comply with what was agreed through its “peace with legality” policy, highlighting President Iván Duque Márquez’s belief in the unique opportunity to resolve difficulties that should have been confronted decades ago. Implementation is planned over 15 years, meaning that the next three Administrations are bound to follow this path. “Colombia placed a bet on peace,” he declared. It is showing the world that conflict can be resolved through political determination, strict planning and a focus on results.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Gabon, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Kenya, China and Norway.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:07 p.m.

Briefings

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, said the fifth anniversary of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace provided an opportunity to celebrate its achievements, acknowledge challenges and recommit to its comprehensive implementation. The Secretary-General’s visit likewise reaffirmed the United Nations commitment to the success of the peace process. “It is important to carry this momentum forward into a key year that holds new opportunities to consolidate peace,” he said, noting that Colombians will cast their votes in March for a Congress that will for the first time include representatives from the 16 special transitional electoral districts for peace. More than 400 candidates are running to make the voices of regions historically affected by poverty and conflict heard — all of them are recognized as victims of the conflict, half of them are women, and many are indigenous and Afro-Colombians.

“This is an historic opportunity, envisioned in the Agreement, that must be protected in order to widen Colombia’s democracy,” he observed. While political parties and organizations advance their campaigns, authorities are taking steps to ensure peaceful and participatory elections. In late December 2021, the Government announced its strategies to ensure the security of the more than 2,800 candidates, as well as the general conditions for Colombians to participate in the polls. Enhanced implementation of the Final Agreement’s security guarantees provisions critical for these elections, especially in regions prioritized for implementation which, regrettably, continue to be hit by violence.

For example, he said the Comprehensive Security System for the Exercise of Politics should be put into action, to protect parties and movements across the spectrum. Ensuring security and protection for all candidates is essential. “We trust that all political actors will conduct their campaigns in an environment of respect,” he said, inviting them again to engage in efforts to promote non-violence and non-stigmatization in the electoral process. He went on to report that the National Council for Peace — comprised of Government and State institutions, as well as civil society representatives — launched the policy on reconciliation, coexistence and non-stigmatization provided for in the Agreement, which he trusted would be adopted and implemented swiftly. On political reintegration, which is at the core of the peace process, he said that as voters, party members, local office holders or members of Congress and men and women who laid down their arms are now participants of Colombian democracy. He called on authorities to ensure their political rights and their protection, especially in the light of persisting insecurity and stigmatization.

He said the reintegration of the more than 13,000 accredited former combatants has advanced over the past five years. With support from the private sector and the international community, Government entities have played a major role through the provision of financial and technical assistance for productive initiatives. For former combatants settled in both the original and the new reintegration areas, access to land and housing must be accelerated so that their efforts can prosper, including their joint work with host communities, which is important for long-term reconciliation. While he acknowledged a reduction in the number of killings compared to the previous year, he stressed that every death is a “blow to peace” and efforts must be made to enhance their individual security, as well as to secure conflict affected areas, where illegal armed actors are taking advantage of the State’s limited presence.

He cited the recent transfer of La Macarena — the former territorial area for training and reintegration, due to the deplorable actions of illegal armed actors — as a case in point, noting that initiatives carried out by former combatants and host communities are being targeted by illegal armed actors who view the Agreement’s implementation as a threat to their illicit interests. The goal must be to prevent the need for anyone to relocate due to violence. Nevertheless, joint efforts by the Government, former combatants, local authorities, State entities and the international community were instrumental in allowing former combatants from La Macarena to finally move without more severe consequences. He called for greater support for the surviving families of the hundreds of former combatants killed.

To be sure, he said the actions of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations are being felt, particularly in regions given priority for implementation of the Final Agreement. Conditions in Arauca recently worsened due to actions by the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident groups of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) — offering more evidence of the need to enhance the State’s presence and to implement a policy for the disbanding of illegal groups. He condemned a car bomb in Arauca and an attack on a military patrol in another area that occurred within the last day, stressing that “in today’s Colombia, there can be no justification for violence”.

Turning to the transitional justice system created by the Final Agreement, he said the Unit for the Search for Persons deemed Missing is advancing the “overwhelming” task of finding thousands of persons disappeared during the conflict — thanks mainly to information provided by actors who participated in the conflict. The Truth Commission meanwhile is preparing to deliver its final report, which Colombian society can use to collectively reflect on its past. In turn, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace is similarly working, with a view to ensuring that victims’ rights are upheld through the contributions of those who participated in the conflict. Expected to issue its first sentences later in 2022, the Mission is preparing its verification of restorative sentences, in line with the mandate entrusted by the Security Council.

“Five years into its implementation, the peace agreement is setting down ever deeper roots,” he assured. The period ahead will be crucial for the parties and Colombian society to redouble efforts, in pursuit of this road map for healing the wounds of conflict and overcoming its causes.

LUZ MARINA GIRALDO, Former FARC-EP combatant, signatory to the Final Agreement and leader in reintegration initiatives, briefed the Council via video teleconference, expressing her wish that her voice will represent the many other signatories and their families who continue to suffer violence in Colombia. She also represents the children who lost their parents for being social leaders and the former combatants who believed in Colombia’s peace process but instead found themselves part of a “forever war”. When those fighters were waging war, they carried on their backs the desires for equality and the protection of pluralism in Colombia. “Today as we weave peace, we carry on our backs the historical responsibility of generating reconciliation, coexistence and tolerance,” she said.

However, she said, harsh reality reveals a general rejection of former combatants, as well as their children, by Colombian society. Stigmatization, polarization and social discrimination have prevented the fulfilment of those goals enshrined in the Final Agreement. Underlining the repeated use of the words “family” and “security” in that document, she said the Agreement’s territorial focus should allow former combatants, war widows and orphaned children to live safely throughout the country and protect them from discrimination. Also calling for a stronger gender focus in the country’s reintegration efforts, she stressed that the concept of family “must not remain a dead letter” in the Agreement’s more than 300 pages.

Quoting her late husband, who lost his life in Colombia’s civil struggle, she declared: “I have suffered war, I have dreamed of peace, and I have grown in hope and love.” Both she and her husband signed onto the Final Agreement in the hope of seeing Colombia become a territory without war. Emphasizing that those dreams also included the hope of reunifying their family, reuniting with their children and living without the anguish of combat, bombing, hatred and persecution, she stressed that those goals have not yet been achieved. “Today, I ask this Council, from the bottom of our souls, not to leave us alone,” she said.

Statements

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), underscoring the need to realize the Agreement’s full promise, said the transitional justice system is vital to this process, and that 2022 will be a crucial year for its three components to deliver on their mandates. The Truth Commission’s final report, and the first sentences to be handed down by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace will also mark milestones. He expressed concern over increased threats by illegal armed groups, which have led to the relocation of former combatants and their families from former Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration, as well as killings targeting social and environmental leaders, human rights defenders, women leaders and those from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. He urged the Government to increase protection and security, to improve the State’s presence in conflict-affected areas and to strengthen the institutions that investigate and prosecute criminal actors. More broadly, he called on all political stakeholders to ensure the elections will be peaceful and inclusive. The parties to the Agreement have shown what can be achieved through constructive dialogue and cooperation. “We cannot take for granted the gains achieved,” he said. They must be protected and advanced.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said her country stands with Colombia’s institutions as they deepen their work on truth, justice and reconciliation in a manner that centres victims and survivors. She underscored the importance of the ongoing implementation of the peace accord being recognized as a non-negotiable, non-partisan, common value. She called for a priority focus on its comprehensive implementation, including through the adoption of urgent legislation in its support. “There is no time to lose,” she stressed. The creation of the transitional electoral districts for peace is an important moment, as well as a truly powerful expression of self-determination for victims and survivors, and she welcomed the Government’s support to these new districts. She recommended that the Government convene the high-level mechanism to help ensure the smooth functioning of the elections and the safety of all participants. She expressed concern over threats and intimidation by those who profit from insecurity, condemning in the strongest terms the recent attacks on Colombian security forces by illegal armed groups.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), recalling that the world recently marked the fifth anniversary of Colombia’s historic Agreement, described the peace process as a model for humanity. With elections on the horizon and the risk that tensions will increase, she urged the Government to ensure a safe and inclusive environment. She also welcomed progress achieved by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and — expressing concern about the continued violence being committed against civil society leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants — called on the Government to step up its protections and implement its policy of dismantling armed groups. The chapters of the Final Agreement addressing the fate of women must become more central to the country’s dialogue process, she added.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said that, five years after the signing of the Final Agreement, dialogue between the parties remains the basis for its implementation. The year 2022 marks a milestone in the implementation of the Agreement with the organization of elections in March and then in May. Encouraging actions being taken on the ground to enhance the participation of all minority groups, women and youth — as well as the formation of temporary special tribunals to support the election — he went on to praise the agreement recently signed between the Colombian presidency and the International Criminal Court and called for additional reforms in the area of access to land. The security of former combatants must be urgently strengthened in order to avoid the effects of insecurity, which could include mass displacement, he added, calling for a range of policy reforms to support that goal.

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) commended Colombians for their “remarkable” job of healing wounds and cementing a path for peace and prosperity that unifies the country. The decision to involve the United Nations in monitoring implementation of the Final Agreement is a testament to this commitment. On the Council’s side, strict adherence to the mandate is necessary to foster trust between the international community and parties in Colombia. Noting that the 15-member organ has played an important role in increasing confidence that peace is possible and will be duly implemented, he said “this exemplary case should be seen as providing the Council with tools and principles that may have recourse to its future work.” Among the lessons learned is that the Council can be a catalyst to bring parties to the table, and that without the due ownership of the conflict parties, there are fewer chances of enduring peace. He expressed confidence that the Agreement has instilled institutional stability and that, therefore, its implementation will remain a priority for the incoming Administration. “Colombia is on the right path,” he said, having already shown its political will to increase the State’s presence where needed. He also noted that Colombia and the International Criminal Court signed a cooperation agreement defining mutual responsibilities related to transitional justice, the first of its kind between the Court and a State party, adding that Brazil will be following Colombian efforts to guarantee the safety of ex-combatants, strengthen its policies regarding women, indigenous populations and Afro-descendants and the functioning of the transitional justice system.

T.S. TIRUMURTI(India) described progress in implementing the Final Agreement as “reassuring”, noting that the law creating 16 electoral districts offers a solid opportunity for historically excluded populations to participate. Political alliances have included implementation of the peace accord in policy agendas and policy platforms, and there has been renewed activism within the legislature. Further, the first indictments by Special Jurisdiction for Peace, along with the enactment of protection measures, reflect progress in the area of transitional justice, and he expressed hope that it translates to greater gains within the peace process. Welcoming the Government’s commitment to give effect to the Agreement’s provisions, he nonetheless pointed out that some provisions face impediments. Disputes between illegal armed groups over territorial control, along with activities of illegal trafficking groups remain a concern, notably in areas affected by the conflict. “This needs to cease completely,” he said, noting that Colombia is an important bilateral partner for India. His country will continue to stand in solidarity with Colombia, he said, noting that the international community must likewise continue its support to the people and Government on their journey to consolidate and sustain peace.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said the valuable lessons learned over the past five years in Colombia should reinforce the Council’s conviction that peacebuilding, peace consolidation and genuine reconciliation can be achieved in incremental steps and with determined efforts. “There are no magic wands,” he stressed, outlining the active engagement by all Colombian parties and stakeholders. In the months ahead, the Council’s support will be vital in addressing lingering challenges and risks to the fragile peace process. Echoing calls to prioritize the Agreement’s gender provisions, he said the economic and social reintegration of indigenous and Afro-Colombian former combatants must be accelerated. As there is no alternative to a complete cessation of hostilities, he strongly called upon all dissident groups and other illegal armed groups to abandon their armed struggle and embrace dialogue by joining the peace process without preconditions.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY(Russian Federation) recalled that Colombia’s milestone Agreement ensured that the peace process had the support of the international community, the United Nations and the Security Council. While much has been achieved since its signing, “the bulk of the work for its implementation still lies ahead”. Underlining the need to tackle what the Secretary-General has termed “deep-rooted factors that cause divisions in society”, he expressed regret over the lack of information in his latest report on progress registered between the Government and ELN. Normalized relations with neighbouring Venezuela are also needed and could help ease crime in Colombia as well as other tensions in the region. He went on to warn against any attempts to replace elements of the Agreement with unilateral provisions not agreed by all signatories, which could further escalate tensions and lead to backsliding.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), emphasizing her country’s full support for the Government and people of Colombia, as well as the United Nations Verification Mission, said it is essential to create the necessary conditions to guarantee that the upcoming elections are peaceful, safe and inclusive. Commending the Government’s steps to develop a range of prevention and protection strategies to that end, she added that such strategies must also continue to guarantee the inclusion and participation of women and youth. Underlining the need to improve protections for women, especially women former combatants, she went on to call for more efforts to address persistent threats and violence against community leaders, former People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) members and political parties, as well as broad international support to Colombia in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that the peace accord outlines a path for addressing the causes of the conflict, healing wounds and preventing future atrocities, said redoubled efforts are needed to counter violence against communities and individuals participating in the transitional justice process. State authority must be fully restored and strengthened where it is challenged by FARC-EP dissident groups. More also must be done to break any links between illegal armed groups and criminal organizations for social, territorial and strategic control, which aggravates violence against civilians. He pressed authorities to continue making full use of their institutional toolbox of constructive dialogue with various parties so as to sustain progress. Highlighting the importance and role of females in peacebuilding, he said the fact that 64 per cent of women former combatants participate in productive projects is a testimony of gender-based focus in the implementation of the Agreement.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report, adding her voice to the call that authorities spare no effort to fully implement the Final Agreement. “Progress is needed on all points,” she said, notably on security guarantees, as violence is a major challenge, particularly so ahead of the elections. The security of participants must be a priority, especially in the 16 transitional peace districts. Victims of displacement also need attention, and she expressed concern about the 25,000 children in this situation. The Verification Mission must improve its coordination with other bodies, particularly in the area of gender, and respond to the specific needs of indigenous, child and Afro-indigenous populations. She stressed importance of a comprehensive system for truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition, reiterating that Colombia’s transitional justice system should be an example for other processes around the world. While the acknowledgement of responsibility and corresponding penalties are painful, they are necessary for building the future to which all Colombians aspire, she assured, calling for strengthened implementation of the Agreement.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) declared: “Colombia has given itself one of the most comprehensive and bold peace agreements since the founding of the United Nations.” Congratulating the country’s leaders for their innovation and its people for their patience and resilience, he said during its tenure on the Council Kenya has called for the implementation of the Final Agreement’s ethnic chapter in view of the centuries of suffering endured by African peoples who were ripped from their villages and loaded into slave ships to cross the Atlantic. “The African Union has proclaimed the descendants of Africa, wherever they may be, to be the sixth region of our continent,” he said, noting that they continue to suffer marginalization, impoverishment and mistreatment in the Americas. In contrast to many other countries, Colombia has taken bold steps in the direction of fairness, equality and justice, as reflected in the ethnic chapter. Describing it as disheartening that the chapter’s implementation remains disproportionately slow, he urged the Government to prioritize its implementation and to spare no effort in addressing the historical injustices suffered by those communities.

GENG SHUANG (China), welcoming positive strides achieved in Colombia’s peace process, advocated for preparations for the orderly and smooth conduct of elections in the coming months. He expressed his hope that those votes will consolidate peace gains, comprehensively move the process forward and address such lingering challenges as the continued clashes between armed groups that threated lives and disrupt the peace process. Welcoming the deployment of additional security forces and the cracking down on illegal armed groups and organized criminal activities, he also praised the Government’s efforts to reintegrate former combatants and expressed his hope that more progress will be made on rural reforms, combating COVID-19 and crop substitution programmes. Meanwhile, Colombia’s people require robust support from the United Nations and the international community, he said, pledging China’s unwavering support.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said Colombia has made progress in its efforts to implement the peace accord: 16 seats for victims of the conflict have been established in the House of Representatives, and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace issued indictments against FARC and Colombia’s military officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Over 13,000 former FARC combatants remain committed to peace, complemented by Government provision of economic and social benefits, as the majority of these ex-combatants are able to access Government and financial services. Ninety-nine per cent are enrolled in the health-care system; 95 per cent have bank accounts and over 30 per cent have enrolled in education or vocational training. The International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor closed its preliminary examination into Colombia. As it had been opened since 2004, these actions “demonstrate greater confidence in Colombia’s transitional justice institutions”.

He said that the United States announced on 30 November the lifting of its terrorist designation of FARC, but it remains vigilant against those threatening Colombia’s peace. As such, it has designated Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP — comprised heavily of FARC dissidents who have rejected or abandoned the peace process — as terrorist organizations. Citing areas for improvement, he said gender provisions are being implemented and financed at a lower rate than other parts of the Final Agreement. Ethnic communities face deteriorating security conditions, and the implementation of rural economic plans and rural security has been slow. While the United States understands that the full implementation of economic plans will take years and sustained investment, inadequate security and judicial protections have threatened land reforms, voluntary cocoa substitution and landmine clearing. “These efforts are vital to the long-term success of the peace accord,” he stressed, encouraging the full use of various forums, including the Commission for Monitoring and Verification, as well as gender and ethnic forums.

MONA JUUL (Norway), Council President for January, spoke in her national capacity, noting strides already achieved and encouraging the parties in Colombia to step up efforts to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation. Voicing concern over high levels of violence suffered by ethnic communities, human rights defenders, social leaders and former FARC combatants, she strongly condemned the recent killings of the human rights defenders Luz Marina Arteaga and 14-year-old Breiner David Cucuñame. “While the number of ex-combatants killed has reduced compared to the previous reporting period, no effort must be spared to sustain and reinforce this trend,” she stressed, adding that violence undermines people’s faith in the Agreement. Also expressing concern about the security situation of the upcoming elections and about the safety of the candidates running for 16 seats allocated to victims of violence, she went on to encourage the parties to make more effective use of the National Commission for Reincorporation to reach agreement on such key issues as access to land and adequate housing.

EMILIO JOSÉ ARCHILA, Presidential Adviser for Stabilization and Consolidation of Colombia, pointed to Ms. Giraldo’s success as representative of the reintegration process. Noting that she was in prison when it began and has since left, he said all those involved in the process are supported by lawyers financed by the Government. Ms. Giraldo is now a candidate for leadership in her municipality and the Government has supported her so she can raise her two children. “She has had full economic support from the Government,” he assured.

In addition, he said she has led three productive projects and is part of the pension system, along with more than 3,000 former combatants. She also receives housing support, which was not provided for in the Final Agreement or in any legislation, and has benefitted from guarantees for education. Like more than half of former combatants, she attended university and has benefited from the Government’s protection efforts. While the death of her husband should not have happened, 70 decisions have led to the imprisonment of the perpetrators. Recounting progress in 2021 — a “year of definitions” — he said the Council renewed and extended the Mission’s mandate to cover the monitoring of sanctions issued by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

During his visit, the Secretary-General was able to witness Colombia’s progress in implementing all aspects of its “peace with legality” policy, he said, with the Constitutional Courts ensuring its implementation. He also pointed to legal and political guarantees for victims and the work of reintegration, economic sustainability, housing and crop substitution — all part of an approach to development with a territorial focus. Noting that the appropriation of land has advanced in an unprecedented fashion, he said 50,000 titles will be formalized, equivalent to the last 16 years of efforts, all with a gender and ethnic focus. Having visited former Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration, the Secretary-General also saw how Colombia is complying with the guarantees for integration, thanks to the Government’s steering.

Going forward, he said Colombia will continue to comply with what was agreed through its “peace with legality” policy, highlighting President Iván Duque Márquez’s belief in the unique opportunity to resolve difficulties that should have been confronted decades ago, with or without an agreement. Implementation is planned over 15 years, meaning that the next three Administrations are bound to follow this path. For its part, the current Administration has established a base from which to grow, he said, noting that during his visit, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor acknowledged the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the entire justice system, with transparency.

Turning to various sources of violence, he said the Agreement did not guarantee that all trafficking routes were identified or that cartels operating in Colombia and elsewhere before the signing of the accord ceased operations. Illegal groups that have always fed on the drug business and illegal economies were responsible for the killing of social leaders. “We have been working on these realities,” he acknowledged, pointing to Arauca is an example, where ELN members are launching attacks in a department of seven municipalities. The Government has invested $450 million, with the four municipalities having received $25 million — an amount that they would have made over 100 years on their own, without implementation of the peace accord.

In the area of reintegration, he spotlighted Colombia’s reintegration of over 13,000 former combatants who were demobilized and are now being supported. Seventy per cent of them now have economic sustainability, he said, noting that projects depend on legal ownership of the land. The Government has incorporated the required technical assistance, totalling $20 million. Almost 4,000 projects have been strengthened. Sixty per cent of recipients have had access to education; 77 per cent are participating in job training, and 88 per cent are in the health and pension systems and have psychosocial assistance. “There is no other area of Colombia that has those levels of social coverage,” he asserted. Moreover, the Government has entered into a voluntary commitment to housing this population, making credits and subsidies available. It has invested $2.2 million in housing, to the benefit of 1,800 people.

Noting that those Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration that could not continue for security reasons were relocated, he said all State entities participated in the transfer and considered the safety and physical health of those involved. “These relocation cases, in our view, are successful,” he said. On the political front, he said members of Congress belonging to the Comunes Party — formerly the FARC Party — have tabled various bills, and local elections have been held in the most peaceful manner in 70 years. Thanks to special protection provided to Comunes Party members, none were injured or forced to withdraw. “The safety of former combatants and their families has always been a priority,” he said, underscoring the aim to achieve zero threats and zero deaths, with a priority focus on victims — the cornerstone of the “peace with legality” policy. Finally, on the women, peace and security agenda, he said that out of the 3,265 women included in the reintegration process, 80 per cent are now engaged in productive projects. The Government also established a budget earmark for peace and gender, going beyond what was provided for in the Final Agreement. “Colombia placed a bet on peace” showing the world that conflict can be resolved through political determination, strict planning and a focus on results, he said, requesting the Council’s continued support.

For information media. Not an official record.