Period: 24 June 2017- 25 September 2017
The report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, pursuant to Resolution 2261 (2016), for the reporting period of 25 March 2017 to 23 June 2017. The Mission is mandated for a period of 12 months, is comprised of unarmed international observers, and is tasked with the monitoring and verification of the ceasefire, laying down of arms, and cessation of hostilities. Though Resolution 2261 (2016) is gender-blind, the Colombian Peace Accords include significant gender perspectives. In instituting the agreement, it is within the purview of the UN Mission in Colombia to ensure the gender-specific provisions of the accords are implemented, including: ensuring Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) initiatives afford priority to rural women and female heads of household; promoting women’s participation in politics; integrating gender perspectives throughout all reintegration efforts; addressing the specific needs of women in monitoring and verification activities; including gender approaches in national plans to eradicate poverty; and making crimes of sexual and gender-based violence ineligible for amnesty in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
The Secretary-General report highlights the commitment to and trust in the process shown by the UN Security Council from the outset (para. 78), as well as an important role that the UN Mission in Colombia played in building peace in Colombia, with a specific attention given to the full operational insertion of a UN peace operation within a tripartite mechanism (para. 79), and engagement with local communities, civil society and other involved actors (para. 81). The report also notes significant progress in the FARC transformation from an armed group into a new political party (para. 1). Legal transformation is also noted, with the establishment of the National Protection Unit, reforms of the National Royalty System and the adoption of the monopoly of force and a number of legislations pending approval (para. 5). The report notes that on 22 September, all activities related to the laying down of arms by FARC-EP have been completed.
Of the 85 paragraphs in the report, 9 (10.59 percent) included references to Women, Peace and Security, with a focus on the implementation of the peace agreement and the involvement of women’s groups in the process. The Secretary-General highlights the establishment of the Special High-level Forum for Women, which will serve as an interlocutor and advisor to the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement to bring the perspectives and contributions of women into the peace implementation process (para. 12). During the reporting period, ongoing dialogue with women representatives from FARC-EP, the Women’s Special High-level Forum that supports the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement and other women’s networks provided important inputs for the planning of the Verification Mission and recommendations on how best to integrate a gender approach in verification tasks (para. 27). Notably, the Secretary-general notes that while female former combatants have participated in the available reintegration programmes, the implementation of those projects does not clearly address the specific situation of women yet (para. 61).
The creation of the Special High-level Forum for Women and its partnership with the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement is a tremendous step forward in the inclusion of women’s needs in the implementation of the peace agreement. Not only does this special entity allow for a cross-cutting approach, including women’s long-term participation, protection and post-conflict recovery, but also for an intersectional approach, representing the LGBTIQ+ community. In this vein, this platform will facilitate women’s groups’ interaction with the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM), including the participation of female FARC-EP in meetings. Women’s inclusion in reporting mechanisms is however not enough. Further efforts regarding women’s political participation in institutions, committees and programs created in the post-agreement scenario are necessary. Until now, women have scarcely been included in these entities, and the parity provisions included in the 2016 peace agreement have not been respected.
The Secretary-General has not reported on the situation around sexual and gender-based violence, briefly noting that all police posts have at least one female officer responsible for gender-related issues and gender-based violence (para. 36). Similarly, protection mechanisms for human rights defenders are not discussed in the report. In light of the increase in murders of human rights defenders and community leaders, including the recent assassination of Luz Jenny Montaño Arboleda in Tumaco, the report would benefit from listing such initiatives. Moreover, the report fails to reflect the experiences of displaced women in Colombia. Violence associated with the conflict has forcibly displaced more than 6.8 million Colombians, generating the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), after Syria. Displaced women in the area have greater odds of being attacked violently or sexually and loopholes in Colombia's criminal code do not adequately defend these women.
Despite positioning the disarmament process in Colombia as a success, the perspective of several organisations on the ground contradicts the essence of this report - they report that parties have actually been at pains to comply with the peace agreement’s disarmament timeline. Emerging armed groups and the ongoing access to arms by other existing armed groups are of particular concern, as it could re-ignite the conflict. The issue most relevant to preventing the resurgence of conflict in the peace agreement, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), was only addressed in a gender-blind manner in the report. External reports also indicate that approximately one-third of FARC cadres arriving at demobilisation zones are women, which is a hopeful sign that women understand the value of DDR and are willing to support it. However, while the mission’s mandate focuses on the monitoring of disarmament efforts in Colombia, the Secretary-General fails to report on such developments in a gender-inclusive manner. This entails a missed opportunity to ensure a feminist, pacifist, and anti-militarist perspective is integrated into the DDR programme in Colombia. Moreover, a focus on women combatants’ reinstallation is necessary as failure to effectively demobilise women in armed groups can result in a continuous cycle of grievance and hostility toward the peace process. Accuracy in reporting regarding demobilisation efforts, and the lack of a gender dimension in the DDR process in the Secretary General’s reports on Colombia are therefore highly disquieting, as DDR is critical for gender equality and sustainable peace in the post-conflict Colombia
Relief and Recovery
Slow progress in Transitional Justice efforts and the lack of fair prosecution of incidents of SGBV transitional zones are not addressed in the report. The Colombian government has not yet rolled out substantial programs to reintegrate the demobilised guerrillas back into civilian life, one of the most urgent commitments of the accords. Any successful peace process must offer gender-sensitive services—educational opportunities, job training and employment services, productive projects, land titling, and psychosocial support—to reintegrate female ex-combatants, especially in rural areas. Otherwise, the likelihood of ex-combatants rejoining insurgent groups or criminal gangs escalates.
Future reporting must reflect women’s participation in the Mission’s peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts, including through consistent and explicit analysis on the gendered impact of this conflict on women. The Secretary-General must advocate for the inclusion of gender perspectives in security and reintegration initiatives and strengthen spaces for active women’s participation with the aim of avoiding current centralisation. Indeed, consultations with women's group are crucial to identifying the possible situation of gender-based violence, protection mechanisms but also avenues for women’s increased post-conflict participation. They should be continued regularly moving forward, including with Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and rural women’s organisations.
It is imperative that human rights violations, including SGBV, continue to be monitored, through consultation with civil society, including women leaders and, human rights defenders during field visits. Moreover, discussions should reflect the complexity of the current situation with regards to the increase of death threats against, and killings of human rights defenders, social leaders, including Afro-descendant and Indigenous community leaders in areas recently vacated by FARC-EP and areas surrounding the UN Mission. As conveyed by civil society organisations (CSOs), there remains an urgent need to maintain the presence of UN humanitarian agencies to monitor and report human rights violations during the implementation phase of the peace agreement.
The Mission must monitor all stages of the transfer of arms, including the identification of those who participate in the arms trade; establish a transparent, complete, and current arms register; and encourage spaces for effective participation of women in forums for safety, legal measures, and disarmament plans. As suggested by WILPF Colombia, an increased focus on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence should be included in the DDR monitoring and verification mechanisms led by the UN Political Mission. Future reports must also acknowledge and support grassroots efforts in Colombia which help demobilised women reintegrate society and empower them economically. Some organisations teach demobilised women to remove landmines from conflict-affected areas and to acquire skills in software and information technology. Other initiatives, including Women Coffee Farmers Build Peace, empower women working in coffee line production in three different regions of Colombia. These programmes open pathways and widens women’s participation in sectors that have been mainly dominated by men. Such programmes must be supported financially by the UN Political mission and its partners, and expanded throughout the country. Following the successful example of Liberia, creating microfinance programmes aimed specifically at female ex-combatants can also be considered in Colombia.
Relief and Recovery/ Implementation
Furthermore, the Mission must ensure that justice institutions are accessible and accountable to all survivors of violence in both rural and urban areas. The mission must also address the risk of an increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in transitional zones and ensure that all cases are adequately investigated and if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials, as it is essential for the successful implementation of personal and collective measures. In light of the continuing harassment and killings of human rights defenders (HRDs), the Secretary-General should call upon the Colombian government to properly investigate killings without further delay and to hold perpetrators fully accountable. Finally, the Colombian government also needs to greatly step up its efforts to extend basic services to these neglected areas of the countryside and fully involve women farmers in rural communities in planning and implementing sustainable development activities if this is to succeed.