Report of the Secretary-General:
On the Implementation of the United Nations Mission in Colombia
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 24 December 2016 to 24 March 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 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 reported significant progress in the implementation of the mission mandate, including the preservation of the ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and the demobilisation of nearly seven thousand Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) combatants. In December government officials expedited legislative procedures to introduce a Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-repetition, and have further introduced legislation concerning the political reintegration of FARC-EP. The Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement focused its work during the reporting period on adopting relevant peace legislation, implementing crop substitution programmes, and designing development initiatives for rural areas. In addition, the commission established a consultative entity to ensure the representation of civil society, women’s organisations, and ethnic minorities in the implementation of the peace agreement. However implementation lags in areas such as the laying down of arms and reintegration ex-combatants, which continue to experience delays as a result of slow or inconsistent implementation of amnesty provisions in the peace accord. Furthermore, the presence of non-state armed groups pose continued threat, particularly to community leaders and human rights defenders, as do the implications of the oncoming 2018 election cycle.
Of 82 paragraphs in the report, 13 (15.9 percent) included references to Women, Peace, and Security. In comparison, S/2016/1095 concerning developments from 26 September 2016 to 23 December 2016, included 4 references out of a total of 53 paragraphs (7.5 percent). This data represents a 110 percent increase in WPS integration between these two reports. This trend is highly encouraging, however it must be noted that the Secretary-General only reported on half of the gender-specific issues relevant to this mandate. Within the six enumerated gender-specific provisions of the peace agreement, the references above were divided between between political participation, reintegration, and monitoring and verification efforts, placing full emphasis on the WPS pillars of protection and participation. There were no references to DDR, economic development plans, or amnesty and justice for sexual and gender based crimes, which comprise key elements of peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
In accordance with the peace agreement, the report reflects a number of efforts undertaken by the Mission to engage with women and promote gender integration throughout the mandate territory. Along with reported consultations with women’s organisations as part of the monitoring and verification mechanism (MVM) and national meetings engaging women stakeholders, the report offers data regarding the number of women deployed as observers in the Mission. However, little data is present to indicate progress in the broader scope of the agreement’s call to “promote participatory culture” in Colombia, which should include information on mission efforts to fulfill inclusivity within legislative and electoral processes and the preservation and access of political spaces. Furthermore though clear gender integration was present, the report lacked the intersectional scope vital to the Colombian context, offering no reference to the specific needs of rural, afro-Colombian, and other marginalised women who were disproportionately impacted in this conflict.
The Secretary-General reported on incidences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the mandate zone, numerical data on the number of women FARC-EP ex-combatants, and sex-disaggregated data regarding medical services provided by the mission. However there was a key disconnect between recording data and implementing action, as no SGBV protection initiatives or efforts integrate gender specific concerns into civilian protection infrastructures were reflected in the report. This is particularly concerning given the high level of sexual and gender based violence which occurred in this conflict, the gender-impact of rising threats from non-state armed groups, the prevalence of targeted abuses against women’s rights defenders, and the critical risks faced by women ex-combatants returning to their communities.
The issue most relevant to preventing the resurgence of conflict in the peace agreement, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, was only addressed in a gender-blind manner in the report, despite the peace agreement’s directives to prioritise rural women and women heads of household as beneficiaries. Furthermore, while updates were provided on the numbers of ex-combatants registered for reintegration and the status of the laying down of arms, external sources have indicated that that these processes lag far behind the official Mission estimates. Accuracy in reporting regarding efforts to address the root causes of this conflict, as well as the failure to report on the impact of current developments on the lives of women, are therefore highly disquieting.
Though MVM consultations with women’s organisations to measure progress and give voice to gender-specific concerns amidst the implementation of the peace process are vital measures to develop gender-sensitive indicators for stabilisation, they have no influence on the transformation of conflict. The issues most relevant to peacebuilding in the peace agreement, gender approaches in economic development and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, were not addressed by the Secretary-General and it is therefore unclear whether these crucial elements of the mandate are being implemented. Justice for crimes of SGBV is essential for collective healing, as is conducting community engagement to address harmful social and cultural norms preventing peace and women’s empowerment. The second variable is especially relevant considering the role women’s empowerment played in preventing the initial peace agreement to pass referendum in September, and the critical risks faced by women ex-combatants returning to their communities as a result of prevailing violent masculinities.
Reporting should include gender as a crosscutting issue across all sections, including on the way in which a gender perspective is adopted in the mission’s coordination of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) and in the implementation and monitoring of the ceasefire. The Council is encouraged to follow up with particular questions regarding consultations with local women’s groups, in particular in regards to the establishment of a readily accessible protection and reporting mechanism to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the implementation of the ceasefire and final peace agreement, as well as opportunities to report instances of noncompliance
Future reporting must reflect women’s participation in Mission peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts, including through consistent and explicit analysis on the gendered impact of this conflict. Consultations with women’s groups on the role and activities of the mission should be continued regularly moving forward, both at the local level as well as at UN Headquarters, including with Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and rural women’s organizations
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 and perpetrators are identified, arrested, and prosecuted. The mission should provide technical assistance to the government for the effective implementation and maintenance of protection measures, particularly the National Commission on Security Guarantees for women human rights defenders, and expand emergency relocation funds to include family members and dependents of those at risk of violence.
Future reporting must include specific examples of mission efforts to facilitate women’s full participation in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction processes. Peacebuilding efforts undertaken by the Mission must include a gender-lens and address barriers to peace including harmful social norms and practices. Furthermore, the Mission must ensure that justice institutions are accessible and accountable to all survivors of violence in both rural and urban areas, including in the 20 Transitional Local Zones for Normalization (TLZN) and the 8 Transitional Local Points for Normalization (TLPN).