“Building trust is fundamental”, says UN Mission Chief of Staff

The Second United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia started operations on 26 September. PBI talked about it to the Chief of Staff of the UN Mission, Raul Rosende. Raul Rosende is Uruguayan and has led humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in Yemen, Syria and Jerusalem. During the first Mission he was in charge of verifying the ceasefire, cessation of hostilities and disarmament, agreed as part of the Final Agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC.

Current affairs: Threats and attacks overshadow the second mandate of the UN verification mission which starts today, 26 September 2017

PBI: First of all, how successful was the first Mission?

Raul Rosende: The purpose of the first Mission was to verify two things: the ceasefire between the Government and the FARC, and the FARC’s disarmament.  The ceasefire verification process was carried out jointly with the Government and the FARC under the newly created Tripartite Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.  The UN had never taken part in a tripartite mechanism anywhere in the world before.  And we saw it as a very good thing because building trust between the parties is fundamental, particularly after fifty years of fighting and conflict.

PBI: What challenges will the Second Mission face in ensuring that social, economic and political conditions exist for the FARC’s members?

Raul Rosende: The Second Mission will look at the FARC’s reintegration into civilian life, and security guarantees for former FARC members and for the communities that live in these zones, which is a completely different mandate.

An important issue to take into account is that there is a tendency in different parts of the world to think: Oh good, the disarmament has happened and so the peace process is complete. But in reality the disarmament is just one of the phases. The greatest challenge is to not lose the attention and momentum needed for the subsequent phases of the process to genuinely move forward. There is a big job to do in terms of reintegration and creating security conditions for the communities.

PBI: What are the risks and obstacles in the reintegration process?

Raul Rosende: In a reintegration process there are at least three elements that must be ensured, three kinds of security. First, socio-economic security: they need to earn a living, to have a job, to have land, to earn a living with dignity. Second, legal security: the legal status of those who demobilised needs to be clear and stable, and the third consists of physical security, and this aspect is particularly crucial due to the fact that reintegration will be taking place in historically conflictive areas.  The fundamental challenge there is for the State to be deployed in these areas, in many of which there has been no State presence.

The Peace Agreement sets out new mechanisms regarding the Security Forces for protecting communities and ex-FARC members; it also creates the Security Guarantees Commission, with civil society participation, which we consider important; the deployment of organisms like the Human Rights Ombudsman will also play a fundamental role in our view.

These are the main challenges and purpose of the Second Mission in terms of verification.  But in some way too, the philosophy of verification is not just to evaluate what happens on the ground, but also to try and help the parties ensure that what was set out in the Agreement actually happens on the ground, and has a genuine effect on the ground.

PBI: How do you see the State’s handling of retaking control over the monopoly of weapons? How can the expansion of neo-paramilitary groups in the regions be avoided?

Raul Rosende: We really believe that the Peace Process has generated very important results until now. Now, there are still challenges of course, because there are other sources of violence, and that is why the deployment of different State institutions is crucial. The Agreements make provision for creating different bodies that should reach the communities; obviously it is very important to try and preserve or generate spaces for dialogue with the communities so that the State’s presence is not only effective, but also adequate in terms of generating good relationships with the community in areas where in many cases the State has never been present. On the other hand, we also believe it is crucial that the relationship between the FARC and the authorities is maintained, so that communities can see that its arrival is done by mutual agreement and with consensus.

PBI: How can trust be created in conflict areas where the civilian population distrusts the authorities?

Raul Rosende: In some areas I think it is normal that after fifty years of fighting, it takes time to develop trust. It is very important that the Peace Process yields some immediate effects, especially in terms of bringing in goods and services, for people to start seeing the dividends of peace in a very tangible way. Permanent dialogue between the authorities and communities, in many areas, which involve the FARC, can contribute to generating trust.

PBI: Thank you very much for the conversation.

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