The end of the Western Hemisphere’s longest armed conflict is closer than ever today following the agreement in Havana between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army (FARC-EP) on a ceasefire and the laying down of weapons.
In a ceremony witnessed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council, the parties completed a major phase of the Colombian peace process, and one of the thorniest. In doing so, they also gave the United Nations the green light to plan the full deployment of its Special Political Mission in Colombia.
“Today the Colombian peace process validates the perseverance of all those around the world who work to end violent conflict not through the destruction of the adversary, but through the patient search for compromise,” the Secretary-General said after the signing.
The agreement calls for a ceasefire and definitive and bilateral cessation of hostilities; the laying down of weapons by the FARC-EP; security guarantees and fighting against criminal organizations responsible for murder and massacres or which target human rights defenders, social or political movements, including criminal organizations designated as successors to paramilitary groups and their support networks; and the prosecution of criminal conduct that threaten the implementation of the accords and the building of peace. Peace talks will now continue in order to conclude a final agreement.
The Secretary-General will present to the Council within 30 days detailed recommendations on the size, operational aspects and mandate of the UN Mission, which is led by his Special Representative, Jean Arnault. The Mission will begin its verification and monitoring activities following the signing of the final peace agreement.
United Nations Role
Today’s agreement is part of a process that started in 2012, when the Government and the FARC-EP agreed on a framework agreement for peace talks. In addition to today’s deal, the parties have so far reached agreement on five items of the original six-point peace agenda: on rural development, political participation, the problem of illicit drugs and victims, in addition to today’s deal. Delegations will now continue negotiations to determine how a final agreement should be endorsed by the population and the verification mechanisms for its implementation.
The UN has had a role in promoting peace in Colombia since late 1999, when then Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Jan Egeland as his special adviser for international assistance to Colombia to reach a negotiated settlement with the FARC-EP. Mr Egeland held the role until 2002, when he was succeeded by James Lemoyne, who served until 2005.
The UN was called to play a more active role in July 2015, when the parties invited the Organization to assist the discussions on verification and monitoring of the “sub-commission on end-of- conflict issues” of the peace talks in Havana. The Secretary-General appointed Jean Arnault the following month as his Delegate to the sub-commission.
On 19 January, the Security Council received a joint request from the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP for UN involvement in the verification of their future ceasefire. This type of joint request – from parties to an internal conflict – had not been seen at the UN in more than a decade.
The Council responded on 25 January with a resolution establishing the United Nations Mission in Colombia. That resolution was not only adopted by all Council Members, but, in a demonstration of the strength of the support for the peace process in Colombia, it was co-sponsored by all of them. The Secretary-General subsequently appointed Mr Arnault as his Special Representative and Head of the Colombia mission.
According to the request of the parties, the verification work of the United Nations Mission in Colombia to be conducted within the framework of a tripartite mechanism with the participation of Government and FARC-EP representatives, a formula with no exact precedent in the history of UN ceasefire observation.
The Mission will serve as the international component and coordinator of the tripartite mechanism. It will be a special political mission under the aegis of DPA and consist of unarmed international observers responsible for the monitoring and verification of the laying down of arms. It will also monitor and verify the definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. All monitoring and verification activities will commence following the signing of the Final Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC-EP and continue for 12 months, a mandate renewable with the agreement of the parties.
Title Picture: Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (centre left), President of Colombia, shakes hands with Timoleón Jiménez (“Timochenko”), Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- People’s Army (FARC-EP), at the ceremony in Havana for the signing of a ceasefire and the laying down of arms between the Government of Colombia and (FARC-EP). At their side is Raúl Castro Ruz (centre right), President of Cuba. Pictured looking on (from left): Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe