Thank you, Mr President, and many thanks to the Special Representative for his briefing and for his summary of the key priorities for 2021. The United Kingdom very much supports these recommendations. As has been noted, we are approaching a milestone: the fifth anniversary this year of the Peace Agreement.
And I think, Mr President, that Colombia has a huge amount to be proud of and to celebrate in what has been achieved up to now. We cannot lose sight, though, of the significant challenges to peace that remain. And the Council saw both the achievements and the challenges during our visit in 2019.
Minister Blum, I’d like to also welcome you to the Council today, and I’d like to thank you and President Duque for the letter the Council received requesting the Verification Mission’s mandate be expanded to include verifying compliance with the sentences issued by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. We welcome this request and I know that Council members will give it due attention. And I will say more about this during our consultations.
Mr President, the JEP’s first sentences later this year will mark an important waypoint in Colombia’s reconciliation process and in securing justice for victims. As we’ve noted before, it’s extremely pleasing that the three components of the transitional justice system have continued to make progress despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. We encourage all parties to fulfil their responsibility to the victims of the conflict by acknowledging their role, and ensuring as full a picture of the truth as possible, to pave the way for reconciliation and sustainable peace.
However, reconciliation, Mr President, will be much harder for those communities that continue to be affected by insecurity, and those social leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants who face serious threats and deadly violence from armed groups every day. As both the minga and the ‘Pilgrimage’ show, there is rising frustration across Colombia at the risk this instability poses to peace and security. The UK welcomes the Colombian government’s willingness to engage with those airing these frustrations, and hopes the commitments made will be implemented as soon as possible.
Sufficient resources must be allocated urgently to guarantee that social leaders and former combatants receive the necessary protection when they request it, and to ensure that women, indigenous and LGBTI community members in particular are not overlooked. A backlog of over one thousand protection requests is concerning.
In addition, those who endanger Colombia’s peace, both by arranging and carrying out these attacks, must be brought to justice as swiftly as possible to deter others. The Special Investigations Unit is to be commended for its work and for the convictions it has secured so far, but greater cooperation from security forces and improved judicial capacity in the rural areas where this violence is concentrated will be essential for the success of many investigations.
As we have highlighted before, Colombia needs a realistic long-term plan to dismantle these armed groups and criminal organisations and bring state services, security and justice to all citizens, or a lasting peace will remain out of reach in the areas where this violence is concentrated. It’s extremely encouraging that the National Commission on Security Guarantees continues to meet, but it is now time for serious action.
We were encouraged by the positive developments in the Secretary-General’s report on reintegration, and in particular the Government’s commitment to accelerate the purchase of land for former FARC-EP combatants. Despite security challenges and the obstacles posed by COVID-19, the UK hopes these measures will continue to be prioritised as these thousands of Colombians seek to build a life away from conflict.
Mr President, all parties to this Agreement have shown what can be achieved through constructive dialogue and cooperation. As COVID-19 continues to leave its mark around the world, a lasting and comprehensive peace will be vital not just for the safety and security of Colombians but for Colombia’s own aim to ‘build back better’ from this devastating pandemic. Colombia has been an example on this Council’s agenda, and I want to say to the Minister that you can continue to count on the UK’s support.
Thank you very much, Mr President.
Source: www.gov.uk (Photo credit: www.gov.co.uk)