Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 14, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President.
Carlos, thank you for your briefing, and for your report. Colombia is closer to finding a lasting peace, thanks to you and your Mission’s efforts. Foreign Minister Blum, we also welcome you to this briefing, and it is great to see you.
We want to applaud the UN team, the government of Colombia, and all Colombians for their joint work to continue implementing the peace accord during the COVID-19 pandemic. We praise the government of Colombia’s commitment to press forward with peace accord implementation, while also responding to this urgent public health challenge.
The United States continues to stand with Colombia as we confront COVID-19. The Trump Administration has provided more than $23.6 million in assistance for Colombia’s response to COVID-19. The United States is helping Colombians prevent the spread of the virus, deliver water and sanitation supplies, care for COVID-19 cases, and provide emergency food assistance.
We also express our solidarity with the 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia, who are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic’s health and economic effects. As Secretary Pompeo affirmed during his September visit to Bogota, we commend Colombia’s inspiring generosity to so many of the most vulnerable, which I saw firsthand during my time in Colombia in November of last year. The Colombian government’s support of interim President Juan Guaidó and a democratic transition for Venezuela provides the foundation for Venezuelans to return home voluntarily and with the promise of prosperity and security.
We echo the report’s strong condemnation of the multiple killings that have taken place in Colombia in recent months, including those of children and young people. Once again, we must reiterate the urgent need to protect Colombian’s human rights defenders, including those who work on land and environmental issues, social leaders, former combatants, individuals in rural communities, and members of Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, LGBTI, and other vulnerable populations that have been most affected by this ongoing violence. We urge Colombian authorities to take appropriate action, including by holding those responsible for these killings accountable.
While we acknowledge progress by the government of Colombia, particularly the National Protection Unit’s recent approval of 94 urgent protection measures for former combatants, more must be done in order to ensure safety, particularly in the areas formerly controlled by the FARC.
We welcome Colombia’s continued progress in counter-narcotics efforts and reiterate our commitment to continued partnership with the Duque Administration to combat the destructive illegal drug trade. As Secretary Pompeo noted in Bogota last month, Colombian law enforcement, even in these difficult times, has stepped up cocaine interdiction and eradication, manually clearing 57% more coca fields in 2019 compared to 2018. The United States remains fully engaged with the Government of Colombia to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production, extend state presence, and promote integrated rural development that enables Colombian citizens to pursue legitimate economic activities.
The commitment has been consistent since the establishment of Plan Colombia twenty years ago. Through the new U.S.-Colombia Growth Initiative, our governments are working to build on State Department and USAID’s long-term investments in Colombia to continue improving security and to bring even more private sector investment into rural areas.
On that note, we echo your call to encourage the parties to continue working together to develop economic opportunities and to provide effective security for the new reintegration areas. Technical assistance, access to markets, greater attention to monitoring and evaluation, and increased assistance to former combatants’ cooperatives can all play important roles in economic development.
We continue to support implementation of the Final Peace Agreement and its transitional justice efforts, including those undertaken by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. We also note the Council’s readiness to consider a potential role for the Mission in its connection with the verification of SJP sentences.
We are conscious of the significant challenges that remain. The need to protect the lives of social leaders, to strengthen citizen security, and to provide economic opportunities in rural areas, have become even more urgent due to the pandemic. But we remain confident that with the support of the United States, the Verification Mission, and the international community, Colombia will continue to forge a durable and equitable peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.