Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Colombia

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 11, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, SRSG Ruiz Massieu, for your informative briefing, and Mr. Rodrigo Botero, for all you do to advance environmental justice in Colombia. I would also like to thank the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission for your important perspective. Let me also welcome Foreign Minister Leyva once again to the Security Council.

Colleagues, the United States remains one of Colombia’s strongest partners, and we remain committed to the successful implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord. Implementation will help bring about stability and security. It will drive progress forward on counternarcotics goals. And it will strengthen the protection of human rights, help bring truth and justice to victims of Colombia’s decades of conflict, and enhance economic development and equality in Colombia in rural and urban areas.

There are three messages I want to convey today. First, the United States is committed to working with Colombia as it implements the 2016 Peace Accord. The United States is deeply committed – as the first international accompanier of the Ethnic Chapter – to partnering with Colombia to consolidate a lasting peace that centers on justice and equality for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people.

The United States is also committed to the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. The mission plays a critical role in strengthening peace and security in Colombia, and we are grateful to the SRSG and his team for their tireless efforts. We echo the Secretary-General’s call on all groups behind violence in areas affected by armed conflict to halt their actions against civilians.

Second, the United States supported the Security Council’s expansion of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate last August to include monitoring and verification of the ceasefire with the ELN. We continue to engage with the SRSG to stay up to date with the UN Verification Mission’s efforts to monitor the implementation of the government’s ceasefire with the ELN.

But we are concerned about the ELN central command’s ability to maintain the ceasefire at a time when various fronts under its command continue to express discontent. Although the ceasefire with the ELN seems largely intact, a recent media report indicated that 40 percent of ELN members would reject a peace deal with the government. Why? Because they continue to see lucrative earnings from drug trafficking and illegal mining.

I want to close with a third point on the potential further expansion of the UN Verification Mission’s mandate to include the ceasefire with the FARC-EP, also referred to as the EMC. The EMC’s recent announcement that it would cease offensive operations against the Colombian military and police forces and begin a 10-month ceasefire is a positive development. But we need to see more progress in this effort before the Council considers further expanding the mandate.

And let me be clear: ELN, EMC, and Segunda Marquetalia remain designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations under U.S. law.

Colleagues, as we support peace efforts, we must learn from past mistakes. We know from other peace processes that a security strategy is essential. And that it can pressure illegal armed groups to negotiate in good faith and to avoid impunity for abuses.

Before the Security Council agreed to expand the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to monitor the ceasefire with the ELN, there were multiple rounds of talks between the ELN and the government negotiating team. Additionally, several international accompaniers and guarantors had already committed to support the process. And the Security Council regularly heard inputs from the Colombian government’s negotiating team, which gave us a clearer sense of their expectations. The talks between the government and the EMC still lack this maturity.

We look forward to continuing to hear from the SRSG and the Colombian government as these talks progress and the parties develop mechanisms to maintain the ceasefire going forward. And we look forward to continuing our engagement on these efforts and will closely follow the talks with the EMC.

Colleagues, the 2016 Peace Accord is Colombia’s blueprint for peace and justice. Now, the parties must make these promises real. The Colombian people, who have endured decades of conflict, deserve nothing less.

Thank you, Mr. President.