News Latin America Juliette de Rivero: “You don’t have to reinvent things, the solutions are...

Juliette de Rivero: “You don’t have to reinvent things, the solutions are outlined in the peace agreement”

Juliette de Rivero, Representative in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.UN Human Rights

Juliette de Rivero is the representative in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and arrived in the country in 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. A year later, she lived through the social outbreak and generated various critical reports against the Government of Ivan Duque for the police repression that left several young people dead. Now, with the arrival of President Gustavo Petro to power, he participates in mediation meetings between protesters and the Police and talks about the messages that the new Executive has sent so far, about the security policy and the need for a dismantling strategy. of criminal structures while advancing in humanitarian agreements.

Ask: How does the UN understand this concept of total peace of the government of Gustavo Petro?

Response: We look very favorably on the total peace proposal because we believe that it also has a comprehensive peace approach, which addresses aspects that have to do with security and lasting peace.

P. And what recommendations do you make to the government to land it?

R. We have made several recommendations that are contained in the last Report, where we analyze territorial violence in the last two years, its forms and the impact it has had on human rights. The first group has to do with how the territory is demilitarized and there we believe that it is important to implement the dismantling policy that was foreseen in the peace agreement and that has not been elaborated. The agreement at that point asked the State headed by the presidents to lead in the National Commission for Security Guarantees a policy of dismantling structures [criminales]. And that hasn’t happened yet. Many of these structures are heirs to the conflict of the past and operate throughout the territory, but there is no strategy to dismantle them. Simultaneously to this, there must be submission routes, an effective legal framework for submission that can be a route for some of the groups.

P. They also talk about humanitarian agreements

R. We believe that we must listen to the call for humanitarian agreements that comes from the territories and above all from the affected populations, which includes the possibility of initiating a process with the ELN, but also agreements to respect minimum humanitarian requirements, the protection of life and international humanitarian law standards. And, finally, something that we have insisted a lot on is that the State must have a strategy for the protection of the civilian population. In the previous government, this was left in the hands of the Public Force, whose strategy was to kill or capture the leaders of these organizations and armed groups. The central objective was not necessarily the civilian population and the State must direct its efforts towards that.

P. What could they do specifically?

R. For example, currently considering how to help lift the confinements in Choco or how to intervene in specific points where boys and girls are being recruited. Really guide the action of the Public Force and the State as a whole around the issue of protection due to the serious situation that is being experienced in the territories.

P. He mentions the policy of dismantling the peace agreement. Even if the conflict has changed in these years, do you think they shouldn’t invent anything, that everything is there?

R. Yes, of course, we have said it many times and we also repeat it to the ambassadors who have been arriving in Colombia. For that you don’t have to reinvent things, you don’t have to diagnose. The solutions are outlined in a very complete way in the peace agreement. We believe that the Government’s commitment in proposing a total peace also includes the correct implementation of the peace agreement which, beyond being an agreement between a group and the State, tries to resolve substantive issues, the root causes of the conflict and also which means its heritage, that is, that of paramilitarism and structures of that type. And that is why dismantling is proposed as a central axis. It is not for nothing that, in the concept of this agreement, the National Commission for Security Guarantees is chaired by the president.

P. In their Report they say that the previous government’s strategy of attacking the leaders of armed groups was not effective. The current one has said that they still do not have clear “value objectives”. They’re going to have to keep looking for the ringleaders, what should they do differently this time?

R. For us, the first objective has to be to protect the civilian population. In other words, the military and State strategy must target the population and its protection, because they are really exposed to such a high level of violence that this should be the first objective. Second, it must be a comprehensive strategy, not just a military one, and be accompanied by the entire State apparatus and resolve the underlying issues. Advance in the resolution of the land issue, consolidate what began with the Development Programs with a Territorial Approach [PDET]. Alternatives must also be created to illicit economies and the State must be more present and stronger in those places. The local authorities are very weak against the armed groups, so they have to be consolidated as much as the other branches of the State, such as the justice system, the prosecutor’s offices, etc. We believe that it is the set of things that can begin to provide an answer, but a solely military approach has proven not to work.

P. Three weeks have passed and so far only public messages have been sent and the security policy is not known. Which ones do you think are on the right track and which ones are not?

R. We value the messages and the approach used, which for us is about rights. For example, the fact that changes are announced in drug policy, from the brake to forced eradication and the use of glyphosate is very important because forced eradication has generated violence between the Public Force and communities and has not served to find solutions either. lasting, taking into account the rights of peasants. So prioritizing a more social approach to crop substitution is very important and also consistent with the peace agreement. In the announcement to suspend the bombings due to the risks that exist of affecting the lives of young people who have been forcibly recruited by these groups. The approach that is being given to the management of the Public Force and the announcement that dialogue will be used as the tool for managing social protest is something very significant and necessary for Colombia.

P. Beyond the symbols, how do you see the landing of those ideas and approaches? Because finally the emergencies are big in a country like Colombia.

R. The challenge is immense because the levels of violence and the absence of the State are something historical that must be changed. But we believe that Colombia has the capacity to do so. Unlike many countries that emerge from war contexts, Colombia has great institutional capacities, great academic thinkers. It is important to have territorial strategies and a national strategy where the protection of the civilian population is the objective. That is the element that should unite the entire State security policy. Also, strengthen the security system in terms of accountability, transparency and implement reforms of the entire security apparatus so that there is more control of civil authorities over the functioning of the Public Force apparatus in the territory.

P. In the Report they talk about relaunching the National Crop Substitution Program [Pnis]. The Police has announced something in that sense, but there are critics about the fact that it cannot be done in one fell swoop. It not only involves peasants but also a chain that is surely rearranging itself.

R. Of course. The Pnis is a program focused on farmers and those who are cultivating the plant. The approach seems important to us because it helps these people to get out of that circle in which they find themselves and that, although it generates income, also puts them in a context of violence that violates their rights. But the dismantling policy has more to do with the criminal structures that allow all this to happen. So, the Pnis is important at the level of the accompaniment that is given to the peasantry. Hopefully without them being the first targets of anti-drug policy. But the dismantling has to attack the structures that allow all this, including the financial structures that facilitate it. It is the vision of the peace agreement and it is ambitious, but the problems here are structural and longstanding. If you don’t attack those structures you can do a lot at the grower level, but that’s not the solution either.

P. Together with the government, they received a shock plan for social leaders.

R. We think it is very good that a shock plan has been drawn up for these first 100 days, because it is important to take urgent measures to protect the lives of leaders who are facing these groups almost alone. Adjustments had to be made in the way the institutions are working to protect these defenders. It is very healthy that this plan exists and that the most affected territories have been prioritized, although they are not the only ones, but at least where the highest levels of violence are being experienced. Having given that priority in the first weeks of government is very important because concrete results must be achieved in the territory. Of course, it is not an absolute guarantee, but the fact that these unified command posts are now being articulated for the protection of leaders in seven regions is an important first step that we welcome. And of course, this does not replace a public policy that will be elaborated with more detail and more time.

P. A coincidence in the recommendations of the report of the Truth Commission, the UN Report and some of the messages given by the government is striking. How much can you help?

R. It is totally unprecedented that this confluence of visions exists and that a government has come to power with a proposal for total peace and welcomes with open arms the proposals of the Truth Commission, which are so important because they speak of the structural causes of conflict. That allows renewing and rescuing the implementation of the peace agreement. For us there are now opportunities to change the way the State has been managing the country in terms of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, as well as the recognition of peasants, as subjects of protection. These are very big measures and opportunities for this country that must be seized very quickly in this government.

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Source: EL PAIS

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