Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 21, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. SRSG Ruiz Massieu, thank you for your briefing and for the ongoing efforts of the Verification Mission. Foreign Minister Blum, it’s always an honor to have you with us. Thank you for joining today.
The Verification Mission has played a vital role in supporting Colombia’s peace and reconciliation efforts and the Mission should be proud of its contributions. The United States also wants to acknowledge here the government of Colombia’s commitment to Peace Accord implementation, particularly in the face of the daunting public health challenges posed by COVID-19, and as Colombia continues to generously host the 1.7 million Venezuelans who’ve been forced to flee disastrous and repressive conditions in their own country.
As all the members of the Council know well, the pandemic continues to worsen an already complex humanitarian situation and to strain available health care and social services in Colombia, particularly in conflict-afflicted communities and for members of vulnerable populations. The United States has provided more than $23.5 million in assistance for Colombia’s response to COVID-19 and the United States will continue to stand with Colombia in its fight against the pandemic.
As many of my colleagues have mentioned, more than four years have passed since the signing of the peace agreement. As this Council has adopted five Security Council mandates in connection with the work of the Verification Mission, now does seem an excellent time to reflect on what Colombia has achieved since November 2016, and to focus on urgent and ongoing challenges.
What can often be often lost, I think, in the specifics of our discussions in this topic is the magnitude of the peace agreement, and the profound impact it has already had on Colombian society. In comparison to previous decades, we must say, that Colombia has witnessed a significant nationwide decrease in violence, including in rates of homicides, kidnappings, and other conflict-related indicators. Against the backdrop of a conflict that raged for more than 50 years, and that was unsparing in its violence, that is no small accomplishment.
Yet, as the Secretary-General’s reports have also confirmed, during the same period since the signing of the Accord, hundreds of human rights defenders, social leaders, and former combatants have been killed, with 21 killings of former combatants in just the most recent reporting period, as we’ve just heard. Members of Colombia’s Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, LGBTI, and other vulnerable populations that have been among those most affected by the ongoing violence, as have Colombians who are working to address land and environmental issues.
As the most recent report indicates, these attacks have been concentrated in the rural areas where there is very limited state presence, there are illegal armed actors, and illicit economies. While there are no simple answers to address these complex underlying issues, this violence has a direct and damaging effect on the reintegration process and the implementation of the Peace Agreement and we join our other Council members and colleagues in saying it must end.
The United States applauds President Duque’s November 2020 meeting with former combatants, during which he reinforced his commitment to the reintegration process and to strengthening security measures for former combatants. It was a very important and vital step forward in addressing issues facing the reintegration process and security guarantees for former combatants.
The United States urges the Colombian government to continue to strengthen its presence in these rural areas and to hold those responsible for violence accountable.
Accountability in all forms is essential to implementing the Peace Accord. In particular, transitional justice is at the heart of the peace process and will be central to its success in the coming years, particularly with the first sentences of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace expected later this year.
Colombia’s transitional justice system is trying something truly innovative: to guarantee the rights of victims and support efforts to provide reparations, while providing some space for Colombian society as a whole to come to terms with the painful legacy of this conflict. The United States urges all parties to fully participate in truth and reconciliation efforts, and to help ensure accountability so that Colombia can heal. We certainly welcome President Duque’s recent letter to the Council in connection with a potential role for the Verification Mission, and we look forward to the Council’s consideration of this request and the supporting details.
In conclusion, let me say, implementing the Peace Accord was never going to be easy, or take place overnight. In the face of enormous obstacles, Colombia has continued to move forward with this essential task. The United States will continue its partnership with Colombia in the service of a peaceful and prosperous future.
Thank you, Mr. President.