By: Sarah Kenny Werner, UN Security Council Monitoring Fellow
On Friday 19 July 2019 the United Nations Security Council held two brief sessions on Colombia, followed by closed consultations. The first session summarised the activities and findings of the recent visiting mission, co-led by Peru and the United Kingdom, while the second session centred on a briefing by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, and the Secretary General’s Report (S/2019/530).
CONTEXT: WOMEN CIVIL SOCIETY CALL FOR ACTION
During 12 July 2019 meetings with the Security Council, representatives from two major women’s coalitions in Colombia (Cumbre Nacional de Mujeres y Paz and Género en la Paz (Gpaz), jointly with the Colombian Implementation, Monitoring, Verification and Dispute Resolution Commission of the Final Peace Agreement’s Special Authority on Women, specifically called on the Council to urge the Colombian government to:
(See full statement here.)
KEY TAKE-AWAYS: FIRST SESSION
The objective of the visiting mission, as summarised by Peru, was to secure the commitment of all stakeholders to the peace process and to better understand their aspirations and concerns. Meeting with high-level government officials, members of the FARC political party, women civil society and other social leaders in Bogotá, the Council engaged in a number of roundtable discussions surrounding the need to respond to security threats against social, community and civil society leaders; for concrete action on reforms connected with the peace agreement (including comprehensive rural reform, illicit crop substitution and disbanding of armed groups) and to address concerns regarding the recently established Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).
Responding to calls from civil society leaders to increase their focus on Colombia’s more remote geographic regions, the Council traveled to Caldono and Santa Rosa. In Caldono, the Council met with community leaders who shared concerns regarding the slow pace of transitional justice and crop substitution initiatives, limited channels for democratic participation, worrying national political discourse and growing threats against human rights defenders. Noting that a female community leader was unable to attend a meeting with the Council due to threats made against her the night before, the Council recognised that ongoing violence remains an importunate obstacle to peace. In Santa Rosa, the Council toured reintegration and training areas. The Council was particularly encouraged by the success of economic and agricultural development projects spearheaded by former combatants.
KEY TAKE-AWAYS: SECOND SESSION
The second session on Colombia analysed what action was required and affirmed the need for accelerated action. This included action to implement rural reform, address ongoing violence, and strengthen support for economic initiatives and projects aimed at reintegrating former combatants, all of which were identified as priorities by the women’s movement in Colombia.
The session opened with a briefing from the Special Representative, whose expression of steadfast support for Colombia’s peace agreement was echoed by all Member States. In his remarks, Massieu emphasised the significant progress made while recognising the need to resolve gaps in implementation to ensure progress continues. Massieu applauded all parties’ political will, flexibility and commitment to finding solutions, as exemplified by the creation and implementation of the JEP. Here and across legal frameworks for the peace accord, Massieu cautioned, the “principle of non-retroactivity is crucial for security.” Noting that the “collaborative model of restorative justice is starting to deliver on its promises,” Massieu highlighted the work of the Truth Commission (which held its first event for survivors of sexual violence in conflict on 26 June 2019). Massieu called for an “inclusive” peace, stating that the “participation of women and young people in peace processes… guarantees progress.”
To address security concerns, Massieu echoed the recommendations of the Colombian women’s movement and civil society more broadly, emphasising the need to combat impunity through government investigations, dismantle and disarm criminal organizations (especially through improved action of the National Commission on Security Guarantees), establish an integrated government presence outside the reintegrated territories and collaborate on comprehensive rural reform and illicit crop substitution. Massieu stressed that ensuring safe and peaceful elections in October, in which half of the more than 220 candidates registered are former combatants, will prove a significant step. In closing, Massieu stressed the need for continued and adequate technical and financial support of peace commitments (both domestically and from the international community, including the Security Council). Though his briefing was highly informed by engagement with women’s civil society, aimed to catalyse action on their recommendations, and exemplifies good practice in this regard, there was limited explicit discussion linking support for reforms to strengthening women’s meaningful participation, protection, and rights. Massieu also did not specifically reference the WPS agenda.
Taking the floor, Member States applauded the Colombia peace process as a “success story” (Indonesia), “source of inspiration” (Dominican Republic), “positive example” of Council work and “bright spot” on the Council agenda (United Kingdom). All assembled Member States welcomed the willingness of all parties to work together, despite acknowledged difficulties, and encouraged further action. The UK, for example, called for the Colombian government to “give full political and financial support to commitments for peace.” Russia also recognised civil society’s concerns surrounding the Colombian government’s “insufficient financing” of peace commitments.
Increased attention was given to addressing issues of violence. At the 12 April 2019 Security Council briefing, a majority of Member States underlined concerns surrounding violence. However, at the 19 July 2019 session, every Member States raised these concerns. This illustrates the Council’s consensus on the need for the Colombian government to increase actions to address violence. To combat violence at a systemic level, all Member States expressed support for the renewal of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate, up for renewal in September 2019. At the national level, all Member States supported rural reform and illicit crop substitution, although continued challenges exist around disagreements around voluntary versus forced substitution. When discussing disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), all Member States highlighted the success of economic initiatives aimed at rehabilitating former combatants and stressed their concerns regarding the absence of the state in isolated geographic regions. A number of Member States including France, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Belgium, Poland and Colombia, emphasised the need for increased security measures for targeted groups surrounding the upcoming regional and local elections.
Overall, there was strong support by the Security Council surrounding the need to take action on key issues raised by civil society in the Colombia visiting mission. This represents a positive step forward.
However, despite galvanization on key priority issues, the Security Council demonstrated limited recognition of the impacts of action of these reforms women and marginalised groups (including Afro-descendant, Indigenous and rural women) and limited understanding as to why such action is critical to promoting women’s participation, protection, and rights for peace. Only Germany, Peru, Poland, Indonesia and South Africa referred to the need for and role of women’s participation in securing a sustainable peace. Germany and Poland were unique in specifically referencing female former combatants. France and Belgium recognised women solely in connection with a need for protection. Kuwait acknowledged the role of women in “implementing peace.”
As Rosa Emilia Salamanca affirmed in her statement to the Council at the 12 April 2019 briefing, an “integrated” and “comprehensive” approach which includes a strong “gender focus” is critical for peace in Colombia. Such an approach must include “measures to tackle barriers to women’s participation” and be supported by sufficient and “people-centered” investment. Member States must act on women civil society recomendations, but also continue to highlight the situation of women and marginalised groups, address gendered discrimination and power during discussions at the Council and follow-up on progress to ensure effective and sustainable action on gender equality and peace.
As articulated in LIMPAL Colombia’s recent publication “Lucha Por Una Reincorporación Con Dignidad Para Las Mujeres: Informe De Seguimiento A La R1325,” the WPS agenda must be embedded within the conceptualization, design and implementation of the peace process to achieve sustainable peace in Colombia. At the 19 July 2019 briefing, it was clear that the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the visiting mission to Colombia aimed to ensure women’s inclusion in all stages of the peace process and address their concerns.
The Security Council should continue to support the transition process through support for the UN Verification Mechanism in Colombia. They should also push the Colombian government to ensure participation, protection, rights, and collective security of women, by strengthening the Integral System, addressing attacks on human rights defenders, and funding and implementing key commitments, such as the Ethnic Chapter, Comprehensive Security System for the Exercise of Politics (SISEP), the National Commission for Security Guarantees (CNGS), National Protection Unit (UNP), and Special High-Level Body for Ethnic Peoples.
Going forward, Member States must increase pressure on the Colombian government to comply with and accelerate implementation of the Peace Agreement with particular attention on its gender provisions. The Security Council should support renewal of the mandate of the UN Verification Mission (for which there is a good deal of support). They must also dramatically increase attention to the plight of women human rights defenders and peacebuilders in discussion and action. Finally, building on the substantial engagement with civil society during the 11-14 July 2019 visiting mission to Colombia, Member States must continue to build and sustain partnerships with local women leaders by following up with inquiry as to implementation of commitments on gender equality and peace in Colombia.