Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Deputy U.S. Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 10, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

Special Representative Ruiz Massieu, thank you for your briefing. Foreign Minister Trujillo and High Commissioner Archila, we are also very glad to welcome you to the Council again today.

The 2016 peace agreement remains an inspiration to us all and a reminder of the enduring value of aspirational leadership. The United States will continue to support the Verification Mission in Colombia, and we recognize the Colombian government’s commitment to the Mission.

On the subject of aspirational leadership, we are encouraged by the efforts of President Duque to expand the government’s presence in conflict-affected areas, and to bring hope to vulnerable populations through justice, security, and opportunities for legitimate economic activity. These efforts represent welcome progress.

President Duque and his administration have also shown admirable resolve by expanding counter-narcotics efforts and working toward our shared goal of halving coca cultivation and cocaine production by the end of 2023.

This resolve has produced modest but noteworthy results: coca cultivation is estimated to have slightly declined in 2018. And the United States welcomes this news. However, while we understand that lasting peace is the work of decades, not of days or of weeks, several hurdles have slowed the peace accord’s implementation to a worrying pace.

We note that some two-thirds of former combatants still reside outside of territorial areas for training and re-integration. A smooth transition period is needed, as the legal status of these areas has expired. We also remain deeply concerned by reports of violence against human rights defenders, social leaders, as well as political candidates across the ideological spectrum.

Especially in light of upcoming elections – Colombia’s first nationwide local elections since the accord came into effect – we reiterate our support for the government’s efforts to protect leaders and ensure that they can safely conduct their vital work.

With security in mind, the United States applauds the recent signing of a national non-violence pact, with President Duque and SRSG Massieu as witnesses. We urge all parties to honor the principles of that pact. We are also alarmed at the SRSG’s report that participants in crop substitution programs continue to be the target of threats, attacks, and killings.

We call on the Colombian government to ensure their protection and boost economic development in areas with significant coca cultivation. The people of Colombia need viable alternatives to this crop – indeed, they need visible paths to dignity – if they are to pull themselves out of an economic cycle that ultimately funds violence and impunity.

The Colombian government’s commitment to the equal dignity of all people is especially evident in its response to the crisis in Venezuela. The government hosts 1.4 million Venezuelan refugees and other displaced Venezuleans driven from their homes by the chaos and violence sown by the illegitimate former Maduro regime. It is even granting citizenship to thousands of Venezuelan children born in Colombia. Furthermore, Colombia has shown leadership by supporting interim President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

We are grateful for Colombia’s leadership and generosity, and we want to be clear today that the United States is equally committed to peace in the country and region. But we cannot merely endorse aspirational leadership as we address these challenges. We must practice it.

That’s why we have provided over $214 million in assistance to manage the effects of Venezuela’s man-made crisis on Colombia. That’s why, just yesterday, Secretary Pompeo welcomed Foreign Minister Trujillo and High Commissioners Archila and Ceballos to Washington for a High-Level dialogue. And that’s why Deputy Secretary Sullivan, USAID Administrator Green, and Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump visited Colombia in September for the launch of initiatives designed to empower women and enhance economic development.

Fellow Council Members, the United States is committed to envisioning and realizing a better future for all Colombians. We look forward to continued partnership with Colombia, and to continued progress as it implements the peace accord.

Thank you.