Remarks at the Colombian Presidency’s event “Two years of implementation of the Policy Peace with Legality: Commitment with Actions”
Gobierno de Colombia
“Two years of implementation of the Policy Peace with Legality: Commitment with Actions”
EU Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process, Eamon Gilmore
16 September 2020
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President Duque, former Presidents González and Mujica, Under-Secretary-General Di Carlo, Emilio, Carlos, Luis….
It is an honour to join you today at this important event to mark two years of this Government’s peace and legality policy. I would have liked to be with you all in Colombia on this occasion, but I look forward to the day soon when we can meet again in person once travel is possible.
I would like to start by expressing my sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. I would also like to extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of all those who were killed or injured in the violence following the death of Javier Ordóñez last week, many of them young people, as well as those that have lost their lives in the latest criminal attacks in the regions.
Since I was appointed five years ago as the EU Special Envoy for the peace process in Colombia, I have often been asked why is the EU and its 27 Member States supporting peace in Colombia. It is because in Europe, we know only too well the horrors of war and we also know that to overcome conflict, international solidarity and support are crucial. Building peace is hard work and rarely smooth. We know that it is you in Colombia that have to do that hard work, but we want you to know that the European Union stands with you and will support you, for as long as it takes.
I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the guarantor countries, Norway and Cuba, for their tireless efforts in supporting the process and to the United Nations, especially the Verification Mission, for its tremendous work in ensuring the agreement translates from the page to the ground. I also want to welcome the participation here today of former Presidents González and Mujica. Your valued involvement in the peace process is greatly appreciated.
Since the peace agreement was signed nearly four years ago, it has rightly been held up as a model for the world. It put to end over five decades of conflict that left 9 million victims. To do that, it needed to be ambitious, break new ground and embrace the full complexity of the conflict and the compromises needed to resolve it.
In order to implement such a complex agreement, two things are necessary. Firstly, it needs to be implemented in its entirety, as it is an interlinked set of commitments, which are interdependent in addressing the causes of the conflict. Secondly, the institutions set up under the agreement need to function well, in particular the implementation commission, the CSIVI. To ensure the effective functioning of the peace institutions, dialogue is key, particularly with FARC as party to the agreement, in order to strengthen the functioning of those institutions.
I spoke with the FARC leadership during the summer and they reiterated to me their continued commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement. We see this continued commitment in the reincorporation process and in the productive projects that we are supporting through the EU Fund for Peace in Colombia.
Transitional justice is vital to complete this reincorporation into society. I salute the work of the Truth Commission, the Search Unit and the JEP. Transitional justice asks very difficult questions, but this is necessary to ensure the needs of victims are never forgotten. Ignoring the truth destroys the possibility of putting the past to rest and undermines the future. It is important that all who have submitted to the transitional justice system give a full account of what happened during the conflict. There must be truth in order to forgive what seems unforgiveable. And we have seen some important steps this week in the Truth Commission – the military report on violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights during the conflict; the testimony of Ingrid Betancourt and the public apology from FARC leaders for kidnapping.
The adoption of the peace and legality policy just 100 days after taking office was a positive early indication of the new Government’s commitment to implementing the peace agreement. I wish to commend in particular the leadership of President Duque in that effort and the work of Emilio Archila in driving forward the implementation.
Signing a peace agreement is always just the start and as in every peace process, there are many challenges, some predictable but some unexpected. I am deeply concerned by the killings of social leaders, human rights defenders and ex-combatants since the agreement was signed. I know that the Government has taken steps to improve the security of those concerned and I trust that these measures will have a rapid and concrete impact.
The work of the National Commission for Security Guarantees can play an important part in addressing this extremely difficult situation. Practical solutions can only be found by sustained dialogue with civil society and local communities and the Commission can be an important vehicle for that dialogue.
I recognise that these past few months have been very difficult for many— that the fear, uncertainty and hardship of the Covid-19 pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that insecurity and inequality are still daily realities in some parts of the country. I have been shocked by recent massacres of civilians and the deterioration in the humanitarian situation of local communities, which has created considerable fear.
The comprehensive presence of the State in rural areas needs to become a reality, not just a security presence, but also an effective civilian presence with social services. Sustainable development, including through addressing illegal economies and illicit drugs, goes hand in hand with security. We know that this is foreseen in the Government’s Future Zones and that great work is being done through the PDETs. We understand this does not happen overnight, but it needs to happen more quickly.
While the events of the past week were not specifically about peace or the peace process, they clearly point to mistrust, anger and frustration, which also need to be resolved with dialogue. Now is the moment to ensure any necessary institutional reforms, so that there is trust between the population and those who protect it. To ensure that trust, any excessive use of force must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The right to peaceful protest is essential in any healthy democracy. But indignation and outrage, while understandable, should never be accompanied by violence. As the great John Lewis once said: “Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.”
Peace is important too when facing a common enemy like Covid-19. This is why the EU strongly supports the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire to bring relief to the most vulnerable. That call has particular relevance for Colombia and so, I again call on the ELN to stop its campaign of violence, to release all kidnap victims and stop the recruitment of minors. The EU will continue to support all possibilities for dialogue to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace.
In my own country of Ireland, last month we said goodbye to our greatest peacemaker, John Hume. Peace in Northern Ireland owes more to John Hume than to any other individual. Through his moral clarity and strategic vision, he saw clearly that “when people are divided, the only solution is agreement.” And the basis for that agreement, “the basis of peace and stability, in any society, has to be the fullest respect for the human rights of all its people.”
Mr President, you also spoke of those principles at your inauguration when you said: “when we join together, when we are able to contribute and do all that we propose together, we are capable of achieving feats that not even magical realism can imagine.” You invited all Colombians “to build a great pact for Colombia, to build a country, to build a future and to put the things that unite us above differences.”
Peace and politics are not an easy mix, but we do need to get to a place where polarisation about peace is part of the past. To build anything you need hard work but also hope. Now is the time to refocus Colombians on the unity and vision of that inauguration address; to use that unity and vision to bring the Government’s commitment and the achievements we have heard today of peace and legality to the people. Now is the time to focus on what unites all and on dialogue for what divides.
We must learn from the past, look forward without fear and shape the future.
The full video of the event is available on YouTube.