Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Questions (81, 82, 83)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

81. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the new commitment of the Colombian Government to implement the peace process according to the peace agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24474/19]

View answer

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

82. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the importance of ensuring the all the inhabitants of the 24 ETCRs in operation are guaranteed proper and secure reincorporation regarding the Colombian peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24475/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

83. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the assessment he has made of the importance of continuing support for the physical and economic security of FARC members in the reincorporation process; the assessment he has made of the necessity to ensure that all the inhabitants of the 24 ETCRs in operation are guaranteed proper and secure reincorporation; and the assessment he has made of the decision of the Colombian Supreme Court to release a person (details supplied). [24512/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 to 83, inclusive, together.

The peace agreement that was signed between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) in November 2016 brought to an end over 50 years of armed conflict in the country, which cost the lives of over 200,000 people and resulted in widespread violence and displacement.

Colombia has made great strides in the implementation of the peace accords, and I was pleased to see President Duque sign the statutory law governing the transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisidicción Especial para la Paz - JEP), last week. Transitional justice is an integral part of the peace process and this marks an important achievement.

However, significant challenges remain, including regarding the safety and reincorporation of former combatants, as well as the protection of human rights defenders, social leaders and activists. In our exchanges with the Colombian Government, Ireland raises regularly reports of violence, threats and intimidation against these groups. 

The reincoporation of former combatants, and the ability of human rights defenders and social activistis to safely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly, are essential to the successful implementation of the peace accords and to the transition of Colombia to a peaceful, stable, post-conflict society.

Our new Embassy in Bogotá, which opened earlier this year, regularly meets with all relevant stakeholders, including our multilateral and civil society partners, to discuss the implementation of the peace accords and the human rights situation in the country, and has met with a number of former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders. Having a permanent presence on the ground means we are better equipped to engage on these important issues.

Ireland has been, and continues to be, a longstanding and committed supporter of the peace process in Colombia. Ireland has provided over €14 million in funding since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on the areas of human rights, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.

Ireland was a founding member of the EU Trust Fund for Colombia and will contribute €3 million over the five-year lifespan of the Fund. The Fund finances projects targeted at the marginalised rural areas of Colombia which have been most affected by conflict, and works to support the reconciliation and social and economic reintegration of former combatants.

Ireland also provides funding to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Colombia, which works to support stabilisation in areas affected by the conflict, towards reincorporation of former combatants, and to support victims and systems of transitional justice, including by working to strengthen the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.  

As well as financial support, Ireland has also provided support in the form of lesson sharing based on our own experience of peacebuilding and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. My Department is very pleased to support former Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, in his role as EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process, in sharing his experience and insights into the process. Most recently, this month my Department shared lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process with Colombia by engaging with the Government in a series of discussions around the implementation of the peace accords. 

Not least among the lessons we have learnt in twenty years of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is how long it takes to build peace and that it is not a linear process. We have seen how slow and painstaking the work is of building trust between communities and of enabling reconciliation and a culture of trust.

I firmly believe that Colombia’s peace accord provides the framework in which the endemic violence and impunity which has afflicted Colombian society for decades can successfully be addressed. Ireland remains committed to supporting the Government of Colombia in the implementation of the agreement and in addressing the challenges that inevitably lie ahead in such a momentous and historic chapter of the country's history.