“Colombia is at a critical juncture, a crossroads at which the decisive will of parties and the support of the international community can come together to buttress embryonic peace processes,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu, presenting his latest report.
It shows that progress is being made across several sections of the 2016 Peace Agreement signed by the Government and the FARC-EP militia group that ended five decades of civil strife.
He especially highlighted the peace-related provisions under the National Development Plan adopted in May, legislation on rural reform, and allocation of funding to implement the accord.
Other steps forward included the establishment of the Ministry of Equality, and action towards improving the situation of indigenous people, Afro-Colombian communities and other vulnerable groups.
“The central importance of victims is a promise made by the Agreement and a fundamental principle is of its implementation,” he recalled.
“Victims must be given pride of place, while the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) continues to make progress in its various cases including through new indictments.”
Mr. Ruiz reported that regrettably, violence continues to hinder the full implementation of the peace deal. He expressed hope that a newly adopted security and defense policy will deliver results and approve the situation in affected regions.
“As implementation of rural reform advances, we see an increase in violence against peasant leaders and land claimants and obstacles against government officials working on land reform,” he said.
Persistent violence against former combatants is another concern, he added, noting that five have been killed in recent weeks.
“Much more must be done to protect those who exercise leadership and stand up for the rights of entire communities, as well as those who laid down their arms in good faith under the Peace Agreement,” Mr. Ruiz told ambassadors.
He also reiterated UN condemnation for the armed attack last week against members of the Catholic Church in Caldona.
Colombia will hold local elections in October and the UN envoy appealed for “illegal armed actors” to respect the rights of both citizens and candidates. He urged the authorities to ensure the safety of the vote and the full participation of women.
Mr. Ruiz also noted the momentum in the Government’s efforts towards dialogue with various armed groups. A third cycle of negotiations with the ELN group, held in Cuba, has yielded encouraging results.
“Last week, we saw the entry into force of the cessation of offensive action between the parties. That was one step towards the full entry into force of the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire on 3 August,” he said.
The coming days should also see the start of a national committee that will encourage the broad involvement of all sectors of society in the peace process.
Other welcome news has been the efforts towards dialogue with another group known as ‘Estado Mayor Central FARC’.
“I hope that the confidence building between the parties will continue and that soon we will see positive developments regarding the formal commencement of negotiations and a renewed national ceasefire,” he said.