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Colombia: Resolution Authorising New Tasks for the UN Verification Mission and Presidential Statement

Today (5 October), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution expanding the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. The resolution tasks the mission to monitor the bilateral and temporary ceasefire agreed by the government of Colombia and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). The Council will authorise the deployment of no more than 70 additional international observers to help the mission take on this further responsibility. Also today, the Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement recognising the work of the UN Mission in Colombia, and welcoming the remarkable achievements in Colombia following the 2016 agreement.

The adoption of this resolution follows the bilateral and temporary ceasefire announced by the parties on 4 September in Quito, Ecuador. The agreement requested the participation of the UN and the Catholic Church in assisting the verification of a 102-day ceasefire. Council members had the opportunity to discuss the implications of this development with Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Colombia, on 11 September. At the time, Arnault briefed the Council on his engagement with the parties and expressed the intention of the Secretary-General to make recommendations to the Council to respond to this request.

On 29 September, the parties, in a joint communiqué, requested that the Council authorise the UN Verification Mission to be part of a monitoring and verification mechanism comprised of representatives of the Colombian armed forces, the ELN, the UN and the Catholic Church. The parties indicated that the mechanism would verify compliance with the ceasefire, prevent incidents through enhanced coordination between the parties, ensure timely reaction to incidents, and conduct independent verification of allegations of non-compliance. They further called for it to have a presence at the national, regional and local levels. The UN, as the international component of the mechanism, is expected to coordinate its work, resolve potential disagreements between the parties and make recommendations accordingly. These demands are heeded by the draft resolution.

A 2 October letter by the Secretary-General (S/2017/830) to the Council President considers this request favorably. It details how the Mission can carry out its anticipated responsibilities by focusing on 33 locations in areas of particular relevance for the implementation of the ceasefire. While the mission is expected to draw on its current staffing and logistical resources, the Secretary-General recommends the deployment of 70 additional unarmed observers, bringing the number of authorised observers to 190. The Secretary-General stresses the relevance of the UN’s involvement, since there has never before been a ceasefire between the ELN and the government of Colombia, and its temporary nature shows that much remains to be negotiated in the current talks in Quito. According to the letter, the UN’s engagement can “instill further momentum into the positive dynamics that have been emerging in the past few months” both in terms of upholding (and eventually extending) the ceasefire and bringing about humanitarian relief to affected communities. While the Secretary-General is expected to incorporate reporting on the implementation of the new tasks in the existing reporting cycle on the Mission, the draft requests an additional update to the Council on them by 8 December 2017.

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia started its work on 26 September, as the successor mission to the UN Mission in Colombia, which expired on 25 September. The draft presidential statement to be adopted today recognises the work of the UN Mission in Colombia and welcomes the remarkable achievements in Colombia following the 2016 peace agreement. In particular, it welcomes the assessments, recommendations and lessons learned described in a 26 September report of the Secretary-General (S/2017/801). The Council further expresses its intention to take them into account in the context of its ongoing efforts to enhance the overall effectiveness of UN missions.

Among other observations, the Secretary-General’s report characterises as an efficient practice the use of a two-stage mandating process involving preparations followed by a more detailed mandate when all information is available. The Secretary-General commends the Council for this approach, which is in line with the recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, and for providing the UN Mission in Colombia with a clear, time-bound and achievable mandate.

The new Verification Mission mission is tasked with verifying the political, economic and social reintegration of the members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, as well as security guarantees. Resolution 2377 of 14 September 2017 approved the Secretary-General’s recommendation to authorise the deployment of 120 unarmed, non-uniformed international observers, as well as an appropriate civilian component, to carry out these tasks.

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