REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL THE UNITED NATIONS VERIFICATION MISSION IN COLOMBIA (S/2018/874)

Monday, December 10, 2018
Countries: 
Colombia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security

Prepared by Eleanor Bennett

Reporting period: 4 June to 1 September 2018

María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN, in the Council Chamber, following the adoption of the resolution.The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2377 (2017), approving the Secretary-General's recommendations regarding the size, operational aspects and mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. (UN Photo/Kim Haughton)

MANDATE

The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2366 (2017), in which the Council requested that the Secretary General report on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia activities every 90 days. The Mission has been called upon to cooperate most closely in carrying out its mandate, in particular with the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defence, the Agency for Reintegration and Normalisation, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Attorney General, National Council for Peace and Reconciliation, National ComMission on Security Guarantees, Civil Society Organisations, the national police and the armed forces. 

GENDER ANALYSIS  

This report is part of a long line of reports of 2018  (S/2018/723), and (S/2018/279), and previous reports in 2017 (S/2017/801),  (S/2017/539), (S/2017/252), and 2016 (S/2016/837), and (S/2016/729). In comparison with previous reports this report takes a somewhat more optimistic tone, as the situation in Colombia has improved in terms of widespread violence decreasing.

The third Secretary-General’s report on this Mission this year contained 12 (9%) out of 82 paragraphs that referenced women. Since the section titled “Cross Cutting Issues” (Para. 52-58) is almost expressly focused on women, this is where the vast majority of the references to women are made. The references within this paragraph to the work of the Vice-President’s, Marta Lucía Ramírez, work with local women’s groups (Para. 52),security concerns for women leaders and human rights defenders (Para. 54) and  the missions work integrating former female FARC-EP combatants (Para. 55). Additionally it outlined support of dialogue and reconciliation between female victims of the conflict (Para. 56) and the Mission’s development of a handbook on gender policy (Para. 57). Overall, the gender references are not supported by comprehensive policy and fail to identify women as a key priority.  

The report’s main focal point is the ongoing support of the peace deal by the Mission. The primary focus of the Secretary-General is outlining the technical work of the Mission in the field, the Mission structure, and the UN’s team in Colombia. Key issues outlined are: concern for ongoing violence particularly relating to human rights defenders, the prioritisation of gender inclusive policy and the inclusion of ethnic minorities in the reconciliation process. Entire sections are dedicated to the protection of children (Paras. 61-63) and the inclusion of youth in the peacebuilding process (Para. 64). The report reiterates the point made previously that the effective response to many of the issues raised requires a comprehensive engagement from national and regional governments.

CURRENT CONTEXT  

Civil conflict in Colombia, has left as many as 220,000 dead, 25,000 disappeared, and over 5.7 million displaced individuals throughout the last half century. The ongoing conflict has been perpetrated by the guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC-EP) right-wing paramilitary groups supporting the government. Continued problems with kidnapping, widespread violence,  and drug trafficking have made access to basic resources for civilians difficult.

In 2016, the Peace Accord was  signed by former President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-EP granted many of the thousands of fighters amnesty, an aspect which infuriated a majority of the civilian population. The deal was rejected via referendum in October of 2016, resulting in re-negotiations and a new deal being signed in November 2016 in Havana Cuba. Similarly, this deal is widely distrusted and disliked, and became a major point of contention in the recent elections, in which no party received a majority.

The latest United Nations Security Council Briefing outlined that the working mechanisms for implementing the peace deal had been effective over the past few weeks, and that the complex reintegration process was successfully underway. With the key issue of the participation of former FARC members in politics, Jean Arnault the Special Representative of the Secretary- General and head of the UN Mission in Colombia briefed the Security Council, and  outlined that this was successfully implemented, since eight out of ten of the guaranteed seats in parliament was filled and active. Mr. Arnault did not mention the continuing dispute over one of these seats remaining unfilled as its holder, Jesus Santrich, a former FARC leader,  is wanted in the USA for drug trafficking charges.  This ongoing disagreement as to the role former FARC leaders and fighters should play within post-conflict Colombia could derail the current peace deal.

PARTICIPATION

The report of the Secretary-General outlines the work of the Mission in supporting dialogue between actors to foster confidence-building and create spaces for exchange of best practices in local peacekeeping. The example referenced was between Narino Department, UN-Women, the Mission and female former FARC-EP members, and female victims of the conflict (Para 56). The Secretary-General stipulates that this initiative will be replicated at other locations to create a network of women working toward reconciliation; however he does not outline where, when or if the same parties would be continuing to support it. 

Regarding women’s meaningful participation the report outlines the opening of an education facility that teaches the exercise of citizenship, political participation and reintegration of female former combatants lead by La Kolectiva’s, FARC-EP and UN-Women (Para 55).  The report outlines that the initiative is under implementation in seven territorial areas for training reintegration in the Departments of Antioquia and Cauca . The program  provides education on women’s rights and gender equality (Para 55). Despite the above examples, the report does out outline the amount of women participating in this initiative, nor any effects that it might have had, or if there are plans for expansion.

In relation to the participation of grassroots or local women’s organisations, the Secretary-General outlines that the Mission has developed a ‘guidance handbook on gender-sensitive verification’ for staff, and adopted a Mission-wide gender directive that strengthens dialogue with women’s organisations on local and national levels (Para 57). Unfortunately, this handbook is not available to the public, nor is the gender directive. Furthermore, the report does out name any specific groups on local or national  levels that the Mission has worked with.

PROTECTION

The report briefly outlines the work of the Tripartite Security and Protection Mechanism’s operations within the transition period and as a monitoring and protection mechanism for female former FARC-EP members. The Secretary-General states that the TRPM has effectively integrated gender focal points for FARC-EP, the Police Unit it is affiliated with and the Mission (Para 39). The report states that this plays a significant role in enhancing understanding and ensuring adequate institutional responses to local security challenges. does not outline what these challenges are specifically, nor does it site any examples of when this program has solved or ammended a security issue.  The gender focal points themselves are not outlined, nor widely available, so it is difficult to ascertain independently as to what gendered policy they were implementing and how effective it has been.

On the issue of day-care facilities for children of former FARC-EP members living in territorial areas or training for reintegration, the report states that there ‘was no progress’ (Para 62). The report also outlines that the ongoing problems relating to preventive health and education are  significant challenges for the government; it does not outline the ongoing issues women in Colombia face with healthcare, a issue particularly contentious for displaced women. The report also outlines the growing number of cases of FARC-EP members, mostly women, seeking legal guardianship of their children, and that a special protocol may be required in the light of the implications for their reintegration (Para 62). It does not, however, outline any specifics for this protocol.

PREVENTION

The report also outlines that during the reporting period there were 13 early warnings issued by the Office of the Ombudsman in 16 municipalities, and that all of these warnings were related  to women, ethnic groups, and children (Para 51). The report goes on to outline that these warnings caused outcry among many social groups who made demands to the government to have more effective measures for stabilization and territorial security (Para 51). Further, the report outlines the  effective implementation of the recently launched Comprehensive Security Programme for Women Human Rights Defenders, and how it offers an opportunity to address the differentiated risks and the responses that women require (Para 54). The Secretary-General further outlines that the national police are continuing their efforts in seven regions to improve their ability to respond to gender-based violence through improved training and coordination with local authorities (Para 54). The report does not outline any more detail so it is not clear as to how wide reaching or effective this program has been; for example, there are no mentions of numbers of police officers involved in the program, how many or which local authorities were involved cases of gender-based violence reported or brought to trial. This lack of detail means it is difficult to ascertain the size, let alone the effectiveness of the program.

In relation to protection mechanisms for women leaders and human rights defenders, the report states that the issue is still of concern (Para 54). The report outlines that the Mission consulted with representatives of the Government to explore specific actions to take forward the pact for life and the protection of social leaders and human rights defenders (Para 71). OHCHR and the Mission co-organised a meeting with representatives of human rights platforms to strengthen joint coordination and cooperation on a shared peace and human rights agenda (Para 71).

The Secretary-General also outlines the work of the Peacebuilding Fund to finance activities in more than 135 municipalities since late 2017, including support to local justice mechanisms, humanitarian demining and mine action, community infrastructure and community-based measures to reduce violence against women and children (Para 71). There are 1,122 municipalities in Colombia, so more than 135 is a little more than 10%. The report lacks in detail as to how many people have been involved in this so it is difficult to understand the effects of the program.

RELIEF AND RECOVERY

The report also outlines in general terms the Misson’s efforts to swift income-generating activities, detailing 47 microenterprises by former FARC-EP members in 25 territorial areas for training and reintegration; it also states that nine of these projects are led by women and that all projects took gender into consideration (Para 28). There are no steps outlined within the report as to how to amend the issue that the projects led by women are a distinct minority.

The Secretary-General’s report also outlines the work of the World Food Programme, the International Organization for Migration, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and UN-Women providing technical assistance across nine territorial areas for training and reintegration, where collective projects have been approved, including ensuring a gender equality approach (Para 70). This project is funded by the aforementioned groups with $9 million, the work focuses on prioritising socio-economic reintegration interventions though micro-level income-generating reintegration projects for former FARC-EP members in the territorial areas for training and reintegration and new settlements (Para 70).

The report does not note if any of these micro-financing projects have targeted women, or been given the priority of promoting gender equality; instead, it refers to the project under the vague term of having a ‘gender equality approach’. While micro financing is generally thought to be a useful tool for empowering women and promoting gender equality,  this theory has received criticism recently.

In his report, the Secretary-General outlines the encouragement of Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez to maintain regular dialogue with women’s groups, and encourage economic empowerment of women and efforts to eliminate sexual violence (Para 52). Unfortunately, the report does not detail any specific group with which the Vice-President has worked previously, is currently working with, or  desires to work with in the future; nor are any programs outlined that would promote the aforementioned economic empowerment. The report also mentions the Special High-Level Forum on Women, which was established under the Peace Agreement, and that it is working to strengthen its monitoring capacities (Para 52). The Secretary-General states that the gender mainstreaming has been challenging, particularly in regards to security guarantees and reintegration, and that this can only be addressed with greater prioritisation of resources (Para 58).  The Secretary-General states that the gender mainstreaming has been challenging, particularly in regards to security guarantees and reintegration, and that this can only be overcome with greater prioritisation of resources (Para 58). The report outlines in vague terms that the gender technical working group fo the National Reintegration Council strove to promote gender-sensitive reitnergaraon for female former FARC-EP members, and that progress had been made in prioritising women-led productive projects (Para 52). There is no further detail which makes evaluation of the program impossible.

RECOMMENDATIONS 

PARTICIPATION

In future reports, the Secretary-General must advocate for more comprehensive inclusion of women, through gender mainstreaming and strengthening  gender perspectives in both security and reintegration initiatives. The importance of ensuring women’s equal access to all political, economic and social spaces cannot be ignored - this is of particularly significance in relation to the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement. It is also vital that the participation of women in all decision-making levels, be they national, regional or international be prioritised as his is necessary to peaceful reconciliation.  The Mission also ought to take more comprehensive measures to ensure the reintegration of ex-combatants to society as this too is necessary to peace and development. The Mission should work in consultation with local groups, particularly those working for and with  Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and rural women. 

PROTECTION  

Given the ongoing rates of violence against women in Colombia, and particular violence committed against ex-combatants and women’s rights advocates, the report leaves considerable room for improvement. There have been numerous documented reports of the targeting of women’s rights advocates in Colombia.  The Secretary-General must do more than outline this as a issue of concern, and must advocate for a comprehensive response to this issue. The Mission should also endeavour to protect LGBTI persons.

PREVENTION  

The Mission must review, update and strengthen arms control regulations and permits  as part of its support for human rights. This is of particular importance in relation to femicides and other forms of gender-based violence. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) should be ratified and implemented without delay. Further, as suggested by La Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad (WILPF Colombia, LIMPAL for its acronym in Spanish), 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. In the future the Secretary-General must advocate for increased and meaningful engagement by the Mission with grassroots and civil societies, like LIMPAL.

RELIEF AND RECOVERY

The preventative responses outlined by this report are overall lacking, particularly in relation to SGBV, an ongoing issue in Colombia. In order for these crimes to be prevented, perpetrators must be brought to trial. Not only is this is morally correct, but it is necessary for peaceful reconciliation and of vital importance to ensure the legitimacy of the Colombian government. It is therefore within the Mission’s interests to help support legal repercussions for these crimes. In instances where prosecution is challenging,  mechanisms to ensure a gender-sensitive analysis and monitoring should be put in place to document and collect evidence for future use and locating displaced victims should be a priority.

Land distribution has  plagued peaceful reconciliation in Colombia for decades. he Mission should support the peaceful redistribution of lands more comprehensively as without a comprehensive response all peace efforts are severely compromised. Though it is not appropriate that the Mission lead in the redistribution efforts, it is important that it help support and legitimise negotiations on this issue and that it advocates for this issue to be resolved. Peace processes that do not include solutions on this issue, and comprehensive support for said resolution will be ineffective.

Additionally, the Mission should aim to create groundwork for Colombia to create National Action Plans on UNSCR 1325- in consultation with women’s organisations and with a definitive timeline, budget and priorities. It is not enough that this be advocated for, and be verbally supported, it must have a definite and comprehensive plan of action that is actively monitored.

Document PDF: 

Report of the Secretary-General the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (S/2018/874)