Stars Move into Alignment for the Peace Accords: Heading toward the Finish Line in Cuba

February 1, 2016

Last week was a banner week for Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.  The UN Security Council, Latin American and Caribbean leaders from across the hemisphere, and the European Union all stepped up to the plate in support of the peace process in Colombia.  President Barack Obama and officials across the U.S. government are preparing to host President Santos for an official working visit this week in which fifteen years of strong bilateral relations under Plan Colombia will be celebrated.  Meanwhile, the peace process continues to move ahead in Havana, apparently energized by the recently approved UN Security Council resolution, and on track for a March 23 deadline.  The peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC have been working in parallel and joint talks resumed today in Havana.  Momentum is gathering, the stars seem to be coming into alignment, and a new peace constellation is beginning to emerge.

U.N. Approves Political Mission for Colombia

On Jan. 25, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2261, by which it agreed to establish a UN political mission in Colombia that will oversee a definitive bilateral ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and the setting aside of arms by the FARC rebels.  The twelve-month political mission, renewable by request of the parties, will be set up upon the signing of a final peace agreement.  As per the request by President Santos on behalf of both parties, the UN will coordinate a tripartite mechanism with the participation of both the Colombian government and the FARC.  It will be headed by a special representative of the Secretary-General.  The final peace accord is expected to provide more detail on the scope and mandate of the mission.

tumblr_inline_o1qjswU8SH1t4hvkd_500In its resolution, the Security Council called on the Secretary-General to initiate preparations now and to make recommendations within 30 days of the signing of a ceasefire agreement on the “size, operational aspects and mandate of the mission, consistent with the Joint Communiqué.”  It also requested that the Secretary-General “report on implementation of the mission’s mandate every 90 days after the start of its activities,” and agreed that the endeavor would include observers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC),  as per the parties’ request.

The Security Council session last Monday lasted just short of an hour, with interventions from representatives of all five permanent members of the Security Council (United Kingdom, United States, Russian Federation, China,  France) as well as Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, Ukraine, Malaysia, Angola, Egypt and Senegal.  In her remarks, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers noted, “Forging a lasting peace agreement will not resolve all of Colombia’s challenges, nor will it instantly help heal the deep wounds inflicted over the last five decades. It cannot undo what happened …  But if the fighting truly ends, then a new and long overdue chapter can finally begin.

The Security Council resolution was unusual for a number of reasons:

  1.  The resolution was co-sponsored by all of the permanent members of the Security Council, something that has happened only 14 times in the 60-year history of the Council, and was approved unanimously by the entire council.
  2. The request was made by both parties of the conflict for an unarmed UN mission through the UN Security Council.  Ordinarily such requests go through the General Assembly.  Of the 16 Peacekeeping Missions and the 38 special political missions approved by the UN, only three have gone through the UN Security Council.
  3. The resolution was expedited and approved without the Security Council knowing the exact content of the final accord that will shape UN engagement.
  4. The proposal from the Colombian government and the FARC was approved a mere 6 days after President Santos sent the letter of request to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council.

The quick turnaround was likely attributable to the considerable preparatory work and strong diplomatic skill that laid the groundwork for the resolution’s approval, as well as the impending deadline of March 23 for agreement by the parties on a final peace accord.  President Santos had previously secured support from Ban Ki-Moon and members of the Permanent Council for such an initiative.  In addition, Jean Arnault, the UN Secretary General’s special representative, has been participating in the talks in Havana since last August and providing counsel on shaping and making such a request.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar poses for photographers with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York. January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar poses for photographers with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York. January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Two women on Colombia’s diplomatic team were key to the resolution’s approval.  Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín, who joined the government negotiating team in Havana back in May 2015 as a plenipotentiary, was particularly instrumental in the design and negotiation of the joint Colombian government-FARC proposal to the UN Security Council.  Foreign Minister Holguín, a career service diplomat who served previously as an Ambassador to the United Nations, and Ambassador María Emma Mejía, Colombia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and one of Colombia’s few women negotiators in Colombia’s previous peace talks under President Andrés Pastrana, worked together to secure co-sponsorship and unanimous passage of the resolution in New York.  Together the two women negotiated a resolution that explicitly respects Colombian sovereignty, brings in a respected third party with strong international heft, and grants a role for both the Colombian government and the FARC on the verification team the UN will lead, as well as the option to extend the mandate after the first twelve months. In sum, the women secured a commitment from the UN to fund and set up an unarmed political mission that gives the Colombians tremendous latitude in shaping the mission and in moving it forward.

CELAC Approval

Following the Colombian success at the United Nations, the scenario turned to Quito, Ecuador, where, on January 27, President Santos attended the CELAC summit of the heads of state and government from throughout the hemisphere gathered for their fourth annual meeting. The CELAC assembly issued a declaration welcoming the commitment of the Colombian government and the FARC to ending the conflict and building a stable peace, applauding the recent UN Security Council resolution, and pledging to contribute observers to the effort, as the parties had requested.  It declared, “The definitive end of the conflict in Colombia will benefit the entire region and reaffirms the goals agreed to by the CELAC Heads of State and of Government in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, adopted in Havana, Cuba, on January 28 and 29 of 2014.” (Read the statement here.)

EU Stepping up to the Plate

Days later, High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo and FARC delegation head Iván Márquez appeared via teleconference before a meeting of the European Parlament.  View portions of the teleconference below:

Upcoming Visit to Washington

Meanwhile, D.C. is abuzz with the imminent visit of President Santos.  The visit is being billed as a working trip, with a range of activities at the White House and on the Hill, a lunch with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a public meeting being co-sponsored by five think-tanks– the U.S. Institute of Peace, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Council of the Americas, and Atlantic Council.  You can join the conversation on Twitter at #SantosDC and tune in here live for the public event on Wednesday, February 3, from about 9:45-11:30 am EST.  For more information and to view the broadcast live from the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in downtown D.C. check back here at the time of the event.…


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About Ginny Bouvier

Love reading, writing, thinking, and working with people to make the world a better place. Family and friends, yoga, travel, photography, perusing dessert menus keep me sane. Latin American enthusiast. Peace practitioner yearning for justice. Heading up the Colombia program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, but tweets and posts are my own.
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3 Responses to Stars Move into Alignment for the Peace Accords: Heading toward the Finish Line in Cuba

  1. Ben Joubert says:

    Many thanks for an excellent and crisp overview !


  2. Pingback: Peace and the Parallel Universe | Cuba Central - The Blog

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