UN chief sees progress and challenges first-hand five years after Colombia’s historic peace agreement |
Peace brings “family ties”
Mr. Guterres visited the northern town of Llano Grande, in the Antioquia Department, accompanied by Colombian President Ivan Duque and former FARC-EP commander Rodrigo Londoño. The city is one of the many regions of the country where former guerrillas are being reintegrated into civilian life.
Colombia has 32 departments, or “states”. With up to 80% of its population affected, Antioquia has been one of the regions most affected by conflict for over 50 years.
Llano Grande is a town of 150 inhabitants, where former “enemies” now live and work together. With the support of the United Nations and the government, the small village has become a place of peace, and as inconceivable as it may seem five years ago, FARC fighters and locals now see each other as family.
The UN chief walked around the city and was able to talk to its inhabitants who benefit from various entrepreneurial reintegration projects.
“I am very happy to be in Llano Grande and see with my own eyes the achievements of peace,” Guterres said while visiting the town’s sewing workshop.
There, he spoke with employee Monica Astrid Oquendo, who recently told UN News that the Peace Agreement brought with it initiatives that have greatly helped their community.
Mr. Guterres also spoke with other workers about their work and discussed the importance of women’s leadership in the peace process.
A new brand of coffee
Meanwhile, a group of ex-combatants took advantage of the visit of the UN chief to launch Trópicos, a new brand of coffee created by a cooperative of 1,200 members.
Mr. Guterres was very interested in the process of growing the plant and the different types of coffee produced in Colombia.
“Tropicos [Spanish for ‘tropics regions’] is a brand whose geography offers particular characteristics. The “rebellion” of the tropics makes this coffee special because it comes from the community and from people in the process of being reincorporated. It not only has a social origin, but also quality standards. We have carefully selected each grain to be able to achieve a high quality and offer “Trópicos” to the world, ”explained Frey Gustavo de Maté, one of its creators.
The Secretary General also learned of other projects such as a municipal school, an arepa factory (Colombian cornmeal cakes) and a soap factory.
Later, in a brief address to the community at the city’s soccer field, Mr Guterres congratulated everyone for “their enthusiasm and dedication” in these projects which he added have the support. government and the international community.
He also recognized that the projects are progressing in a context of financial difficulties and stressed that it is necessary to redouble efforts to ensure their sustainability, as well as to involve the private sector.
The UN chief recognized the work of the community throughout the municipality of Dabeiba, of which Llano Grande is a part, and in other neighboring municipalities, which he hailed “as an example of integration and reconciliation for to have welcomed the ex-combatants with open arms and to normalize democratic life ”.
“This shows real human qualities of teamwork, generosity, hope and courage to build a better future,” he added.
Peace doesn’t come overnight
After hearing from many other members of the community, Mr Guterres said they know better than anyone that peace does not come overnight.
“It costs work to build it, to take care of it, to maintain it … There is a paradox: the objective of peace is a society without enemies, but unfortunately there are enemies of peace”, he declared, expressing his solidarity with the victims and their families.
Since 2017, there have been 30 homicides and four disappearances, mostly men, in the department of Antioquia alone, according to UN reports.
Across Colombia, there have been 303 killings of ex-combatants and 25 disappearances. Nearly 500 human rights defenders and social leaders have also lost their lives in violent attacks.
Mr. Guterres admired “the tenacity and commitment” of these people who “continue to focus on building peace in Colombia on a daily basis”. He also warned that “ensuring their security is vital to consolidate peace”.
The UN remains engaged
The Secretary-General reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to support the peace process and assured that he will discuss with the Government both the issue of security and housing. “We will all use this meeting to enrich our work,” he said.
However, he said he recognized “with humility” that the work of the Organization is secondary and that the essential work in building a lasting peace belongs to Colombians.
“If it were a film, we would not be candidates for the Oscar for best actor, but for best supporting actor,” he concluded.