Five Years after Colombia’s Historic Peace Agreement, UN Chief Witnesses Firsthand the Progress and Challenges it Faces

UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited a small mountainside village in Colombia on Tuesday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC-EP, where former combatants and civilians live and work side by side. 

Along with Colombian President Ivan Duque and former FARC-EP commander Rodrigo Londoo, the Secretary-General paid a visit to the northern town of Llano Grande in the Department of Antioquia. Former guerillas are being reintegrated into civilian life in a number of locations across the country. 

Colombia is divided into 32 Departments, or ‘States.’ Antioquia was one of the areas hardest hit by the more than 50-year conflict, with up to 80% of its population affected. 

Former ‘enemies’ now live and work together in Llano Grande, a community of 150 people. With the help of the UN and the government, the little community has blossomed into a haven of peace, and, as unbelievable as it may have appeared five years ago, FARC fighters and villagers are now considered family. 

The UN Secretary-General took a trip across the town and spoke with residents who are benefiting from various reincorporation business ventures. 

He met with Monica Astrid Oquendo, a worker who recently told UN News that the Peace Agreement had brought with it measures that had substantially benefited their community. 

Mr. Guterres also met with other employees to discuss their job and the role of women’s leadership in the peace process. 

The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s commitment to the peace process and stated that he will discuss both the issue of security and housing with the Government. 

However, he acknowledged “humility” that the Organization’s effort is secondary, and that Colombians are responsible for the most important job in building sustainable peace. 

Rodrigo Londoo, the ex-commander of the FARC-EP, joined Mr. Guterres at Llano Grande, emphasizing that despite the deaths of nearly 300 signatories to the peace agreement, the FARC-EP remains committed. 

Mr. Guterres and President Duque flew by helicopter from Llano Grande to Apartadó in the Urabá region, a banana-growing district where the government chose to conduct a regional commemorative event to honor the fifth anniversary of the peace pact. 

They toured the region’s Territorial Development Programme before the event, which aims to increase the coordination of various territorial authorities in order to achieve more effective and sustainable development. These programmes, which have the support of the government, are funding a variety of reconciliation projects, including the construction of a school that will be opened soon. 

The ceremony took place in a park and drew a big crowd, including members of the municipality and the national government. 

The Secretary-General, for his part, emphasized the importance of women’s participation in the peace process and how it may contribute to greater inclusiveness. 

He went on to say that he was concerned about the fact that insecurity is growing in numerous locations. 

He came to the conclusion that peace necessitates confronting past suffering, and reconciliation is the only path to stable and sustainable peace. 

Mr. Guterres will attend a commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on his final day in the country. He’ll also be at the ‘La Paz es Productiva’ trade fair.