Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in Colombia


We thank Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu for his presentation of the Secretary-General's report on the situation in the country and sharing his assessments.

We welcome President of Colombia Iván Duque to this meeting. By all means, your participation today is a watershed moment that is reflexively perceived as sum-up of the work of your Administration in contributing to the peace process.

Mr.President, we are sure that today’s speakers will address lots of kind words to you while trying to skirt contentious issues which the recent UNSG report contains plenty of. But in Russia, if you are friends with someone, you should tell them the truth. That is why we will not try to pretend we are not concerned over the future of Colombia’s peace process.

Colombia is not an ordinary country on UNSC agenda. Back in the day, the Council became a guarantor of peace in your country. By doing so, it in fact put its own reputation at stake. That is why we follow the developments with increased attention. Frankly speaking, we had more and more reasons to worry with every passing year.

Colombia does have certain accomplishments in implementing the Final Peace Agreement. But we would like to focus on problems related to the implementation of the agreement. Let me start by saying that the Administration under your lead consistently avoids mentioning the Final Peace Agreement (FPA). Instead, you prefer referring to the program of “legitimacy-based peace”. This kind of substitution of notions is very painful to all of us, because the Security Council never endorsed this program, and the other party under the FPA, whom you today called “former combatants” did not agree on it.

The very use of this term signifies that unfortunately your country has not approached true national reconciliation. By the same token, Colombian society has not undergone a deep transformation as envisaged by the FPA. It has been 8 years since the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, and the fact that you still have such a situation threatens to undermine the very basics of the peace process, and invalidate everything that the people of Colombia have been working hard to achieve.

Our assessments are not based on our subjective perception, Mr.President. The recent Secretary-General’s report gives quite a few reasons to draw those unpromising conclusions. Concern over the progress of Colombian post-conflict recovery is a red line running through the entire report.

The main problem is the persisting inability of the authorities to ensure safety of peace process participants and public leaders. The tasks related to overcoming the vacuum of state power in remote regions of the country have not been solved; comprehensive agricultural reform and crop substitution programs have not been implemented.

It is obvious that decrease of violence and safety of peace process participants are factors that are key to achieving a lasting peace. However there are significant gaps in these precise aspects. As a matter of fact, Colombia is seeing an armed confrontation, forceful repartitioning of areas of criminal influence, struggle for control of drug trafficking, and shooting-down of peace process participants.

Security situation has deteriorated to a point where the Constitutional Court had to declare an “unconstitutional state of affairs” and task the government to take urgent measures in order to improve the situation. And there are things to be improved. What’s more, they need to be improved urgently. 315 peace process participants have been killed since the signing of the FPA. Over the past year alone, the frequency of armed violence increased six-fold.

According to UN OCHA, more than 274,000 Colombians encountered either manifestations or consequences of armed violence in the first two months of this year. Local NGOs share their data: since the year started, there have been 31 mass punishments, murders of 13 FPA signatories and 50 civil activists.

The ICRC is also ringing the alarm. On 23 March, the Red Cross published country-specific report titled “2022 humanitarian challenges”. The document says that Colombia is having 6 armed conflicts (implying various rebel gangs that are opposed to governmental troops) and that once every two days a person goes missing. Almost 53,000 people in Colombia are internally displaced. In 2021, the number of IDPs grew by 120% as compared to 2020.

Progress of agricultural reform instills little optimism. Out of 3 million hectares, initially allocated to peace programs, only two thirds have been added to the land registry, and only 16 % have been actually transferred.

Against this backdrop, we regret that representatives of Colombian civil society this time had no opportunity to speak to the Security Council and share their assessments of the work of the government. However it is reassuring that NGOs can at least send us letters, thus finding a way to keep the Council posted on the issue.

These letters say that the past 4 years either have made no difference for the peace process or brought down the security situation to a level, that used to be characteristic of the period when the Final Peace Agreement was signed.

Public organizations agree that “legitimacy-based peace” does not implement the obligations under the FPA. This sad assessment confirms overall their concern that crisis in Colombia might escalate. It does not signify any prospects for stabilization, to say nothing of progressive development. Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless all major political actors and sides, including “National Liberation Army”, become fully involved. Regardless of how acute the existing contradictions may be, mutual understanding can be reached through a dialogue that is free from any preconditions. Therefore unilateral ceasefires, i.a. for the duration of electoral processes, definitely play a positive role.

To be frank, we noticed that SG’s report also attempted to put some gloss on the situation. Thus, the convening of the second parliamentary elections since the signing of the FPA and election of 16 additional MPs is presented as a “significant accomplishment” and a “historic chance”. We believe this is an overstatement, because parliamentary elections are a natural democratic process. As stipulated in the constitution, it should take place once every four years. As for the 16 additional seats, under the FPA they should have been filled back in 2018. So we are actually having a four-year delay.

In view of the pending vote in Colombia, I would like to express our hope that future leader of the country will be guided by the imperative of full compliance with the Final Peace Agreement. Should the course towards a substitution of notions prevail again, Colombia might very soon encounter most negative consequences of such approach. Mr.President, we would very much want for your country to be able to avoid this.

As a P5 member, Russia will keep supporting Colombian peace process in order to make it lasting and irreversible. In this context, responsible engagement of the UN Mission in Colombia under the lead of a Special Representative is crucial. The Mission is already doing such work, and we would want to count on it in the future.

Thank you.