Remarks for UN Verification Mission in Colombia Briefing

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 13, 2020


Thank you Mister President and thank you Carlos for your, for your briefing, it’s really nice to see you here. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here and congratulations to the foreign minister on your new role. It’s lovely to see you and also for the high commissioner to the council today.

Three years after the signing of the peace agreement, Colombia is to be congratulated, not only for ending decades of conflict – which is important – but also for faithfully working to heal the wounds of the conflict. Although many challenges remain, Colombians are demonstrating their commitment to the future of peace, reconciliation, and prosperity. That commitment was on full display when I traveled to Colombia in November and saw the staggering impact of the humanitarian and economic crisis in Venezuela on Colombia, which now hosts more than 1.6 million Venezuelan refugees and other displaced persons.

What was especially remarkable to me was how the Colombians have responded to the plight of the less fortunate; embracing them as family, despite the challenges that the Columbians are already facing. Your generosity is inspiring. The United States has hoped to mirror your example by responding to the crisis with over $650 million dollars of aid, with almost $252 million directed towards the response inside Colombia, by far the highest aid package from any donor country.

My visit was also an opportunity to learn about the challenges of the peace accord’s implementation, and the important work being carried out by President Duque and key stakeholders. The fact that Colombia’s local and regional elections in October were the most peaceful and inclusive in its recent history are a credit to their commendable efforts. However, the United States remains deeply concerned by reports of violence against human rights defenders, social leaders, and ex-combatants as outlined in the Secretary-General’s most recent report.

We support the Colombian government’s efforts to enhance protections for these groups, whose security is fundamental to a just and lasting peace.

We applaud Colombia’s progress on transitional justice, while recognizing that difficult decisions have not been made without controversy in Colombia. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Truth Commission, and the Special Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed Missing have made important progress, although their work is unfinished.

The United States views the transitional justice mechanisms outlined in the accord as important mechanisms for peace and justice in Colombia. We also welcome actions to ensure those who commit serious crimes post-accord are held accountable to the full extent of the law.

We must be mindful, though, that successful implementation of the peace accord is closely linked with two other challenges: Colombia’s narcotics problem and the crisis in Venezuela that threatens to destabilize the region. The United States is committed to working with Colombia to pursue a whole-of-government approach to counternarcotics, rural development, and rural security, including expanded manual eradication, and the resumption of aerial eradication when the requirements of Colombian law have been met. We share with Colombia the goal of reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production to half of 2017 levels by the end of 2023.

These efforts directly support peace implementation. More broadly, as I have previously noted, they boost economic development in areas with significant coca cultivation. The people of Colombia need viable economic alternatives to break out of a cycle that ultimately funds violence and impunity. Widespread and largely peaceful social mobilizations demonstrate that Colombians are paying attention to the peace process, and we applaud the “National Conversations” launched by President Duque in response. We hope these conversations will facilitate the government’s efforts to ensure the reintegration of former combatants, the extension of government presence and services into areas where it is lacking, and economic opportunities for all the Colombians.

Colombia has a friend in the United States, and we look forward to continuing our joint efforts to not only end the conflict in the country, but to mend the wounds that it causes.

Thank you.