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Colombia Serves As ‘A Model’ For Countries Using Dialogue To Forge Peace

Colombia has reached an “important juncture” in advancing peace after decades of war, but efforts to sustain the current momentum must be redoubled, the head of a UN mission in the country told the Security Council on Tuesday.

“However difficult and demanding of patience, Colombia’s decision to prioritise dialogue as a principal means to resolve conflict sets the country apart as a model that is more relevant than ever in today’s world,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.

Emerging from decades of war, the Government has since made critical strides in implementing the 2016 Final Peace Agreement by advancing ongoing dialogue initiatives, he said, recalling the Council’s recent visit when members were able to observe firsthand the “deep desire for peace”, from the highest levels of government and state institutions through civil society and vulnerable communities in the regions still afflicted by conflict.

‘Still a long way to go’

“The key challenge for transforming that aspiration into reality is to channel the abundant political will and the drive of civil society into ever more tangible dividends of peace on the ground,” he said.

Eleven former combatants have been killed since the Secretary-General’s last report, and social leaders and entire communities still suffer the full impact of ongoing violence and the limited presence of State institutions in various regions, he said, adding that there is “still a long way to go” to meet the peace agreements ambitious goals.

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Recommending better use of existing tools to implement the peace agreement, he called on the government to finalise legal instruments and reintegration programmes for former combatants to provide these men and women with certainty and consolidate their transition to civilian life.

Anticipating ‘concrete results’

However, the Secretary-General’s latest report recognises significant increases in budget allocations and efforts of the current government, he continued.

As such, he anticipated “concrete results”, including on the agreement’s provisions that seek to address the longstanding exclusion and disproportionate impact of the conflict on women, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons and the soon-to-be-launched national action plan for implementing Security Council resolution 1325 – on women, peace and security.

“I trust that this Council will echo our calls to encourage all actors in Colombia to redouble their efforts to implement the 2016 Peace Agreement and to pursue dialogue as a way to further consolidate peace in the country,” he said.

‘Scarred by war, yet hopeful for peace’

Marcela Sánchez, Executive Director of the non-governmental organisation Colombia Diversa, briefed the Council on the conflict’s impact on LGBTQ people and what remains to be done to ensure an inclusive peace.

“Thanks to our collective efforts, what was once unthinkable is now possible: peace initiatives that recognise all Colombians, slow but meaningful social change towards a world without discrimination and a legal framework rooted in the fundamental principle of equality,” she said. “I come from a country scarred by war, yet hopeful for peace.”

However, challenges persist, she said, as LGBTQ people have long been targeted for who they are due to entrenched patriarchal norms and discrimination, and Colombia remains “one of the deadliest countries in the world for human rights defenders”.

“Every attack against an LGBTQ person, every human rights defender killed and every murder left uninvestigated sends the message that our lives are dispensable,” she warned, pointing to reports of at least 6,000 crimes committed against them during the armed conflict and at least eight deaths against rights workers in 2023.

‘Think of Colombia as a laboratory’

For a lasting peace, LGBTQ people must be involved in every stage of peacebuilding, she stressed, offering suggestions how the Security Council can recommend this process around the world, including by demanding the full participation of women and LGBTQ people in implementing Colombia’s peace agreement and calling for an end to all targeted intimidation and attacks and for perpetrators to be held accountable.

“Think of Colombia as a laboratory for implementing the principles of equality, non-discrimination and inclusivity that are so central to the women, peace and security agenda,” she said. “Success or failure here could set an important precedent for the protection of LGBTQ rights elsewhere in the world. We hope this Council seizes the opportunity to lead by example.”

She said she hoped “that the Security Council can send a powerful signal to the LGBTQ population in Colombia that their lives matter and that you will stand by your commitment to protect their rights”.

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