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Statement by Ambassador Maria Emma Mejia, Permanent Representative of Colombia, at the official presentation of the Guidance Note of the Secretary General: "Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence".

New York, August 1st 2014


Thank you so much Mr Chairman, colleagues, ambassadors, DPRs, all of you in this -as Mr. Simonovic said- packed room. It's a good signal to the birth of this guidance note, as I see today, in the presence of the President Deputy Secretary General of the UN. I'm very proud to be member of the UN even in this difficult times, representing my country.

First of al, I would like to express our thanks to Mr. Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary general of the UN for his presence here today in moments that are so critical for the international community, as he explained to us just before. And to a member of the Security Council as well, Ambassador, thank you so much for being here, because I know today is not a good day for the international community.

Being here to present the secretary general's Guidance Note on Reparation for Conflict Related Sexual Violence in the context of a dialogue series on the rule of law at the international level, is essential to us, and I would like to express that for Colombia, the efforts you put to each of this problematic is almost action oriented, in its nature, guidance that will build upon good practices around the world for affective remedy and reparation, and to explore lessons learned.

We just heard from Señora Bangura, from Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, from Mr. Simonovic, but this process must be a statement, to express, to share our experiences in a conflict and hopefully soon, in a post conflict setting; must be a response to a country with a strong and solid institutions fully committed to a final consolidation and an integral reparation in conflict related sexual violence. I hope that together with Paula Gaviria, we will help the presidential attention. Paula and myself, both of us women, who have worked and have experienced, in the field, hope in Colombia we provide some lights and lessons to present, and hopefully, passed and closed moments, in which conflicts may arise, and this lessons and actions taken in the last 3 years by the government of president Santos.

To set you all in context -you may Know- but I would like to go through...Colombia's government and FARC began a peace process two years ago: the mutual decision to end 5 decades of conflict, the last in the Americas hemisphere, who does not have any other conflict, where there is peace, and we hope… as a condition to maintain a sustainable peace. A peace where victims were placed at the center of the agreement, with a face, with a name, with a future, and there's a very comprehensive methodology that involves not only the government, the UN, the church, but the academia, altogether at the same time.

The fourth, out of five points, designed by the Government to negotiate, the forth (politics) is being discussed for the first time in the negotiation table. We have here a president of human rights, dear friend, who's been very much involved for how long? Very much involved in a negotiation process, and thank you for being here, because we have worked very closely with the UN in this process.

We have tried in 4 previous occasions to achieve peace in fifty years. Four occasions. I have many times been asked as a negotiator myself, 14 years ago, why we failed in the past? And how do you think we are going to achieve a successful process this time? And to my mind, the first thing I remember, are the faces of so many guerrilla women even girls; that maybe because I was the only woman negotiator at the time, 14 years ago, approaching me, and many of them, most of them … and even forced to join FARC, to join force by the same FARC, kidnapped in many occasions out of their homes. And maybe they are not alive today…most of them won't be alive today, to maybe see a possible process prospect and to succeed.

I would say this time we won't fail because we have a Colombian commitment of the Estate, of the Colombian society, an international community, as a whole, committed and ready to succeed. Ready to end this prolonged conflict, to stop war, and in the words of President Santos, when he issued the law of sexual victims "because we want to recovered no just a political, but also the dignity and humanity of our fellow Colombians".

As the Deputy Secretary General cites the chart: "dignity and humanity" as main elements. And in this context to share the presentation of the guidance note, for us is like music to our ears. Paula will agree with me that out of the eight principles of the guide, we are already applying 8 points. We have a few issues still to tackle, of course. I mean, it's not a victory that I want to express here: it's a committed exercise particularly more important because when it comes to victims, we didn't wait until the end of the process, which is important. Most processes wait until they finish and sign a peace treaty and then they begin. We legislated in 2011. We protected, we legislated, we provided remedies, to their often deer conditions. It began long ago; Paula will tell us about it, and it follows a long way taking into account these guide principles. I'm sure we will see at track, a past example of processes and future processes.

I think you expressed it very well, senora Bangura, how difficult it is to come out of a combatant and just be on the street. For many of our guerrillas, maybe 50 years, out in the mountains, they don't know even how to act under a normal behavior in a city, or how to survive, or how to leave behind or find a solution to their psychological traumas of the past. Colombia has learned the lessons the hard way, but now it's ready to share our experiences, because of the internal conflict and how we have faced those challenges, pursuing probably the most important goal of our modern history: achieving a lasting peace where the victims and survivors of this long and degraded conflict could get effective access to justice and reparation and non-repetition.

It's not that Colombia hasn't signed peace agreements with insurgents. We have done it in the past, with 4 groups of insurgents. But off course, maybe we didn't go into the justice reparation and non-repetition that we had to do at the moment. So I think that what we failed to really succeed in the reparation of the previous processes of demobilization maybe can be achieved now. And looking around at conflicts in the world today we found ourselves witnesses that these are key of the type of discussion, the type of debates, this aspirational ideas that we have today… that maybe some can be a guide … in a moment in which precisely focusing on basic and essential principles must prevail even at war, and they constitute the baseline for sustainable peace.

We have 4 pieces of legislation that is interesting for you to follow, and I will be very glad to allow you to have all the information needed. And of course, it began in 2011 with the victims' reparation and land restitution law and the legal framework for peace in 2012. It involved getting it approved by Congress and sanctioned, it involved, a very hard debate at the national level, and of course it began a road map with society that was of great importance to us.

We have gone into an official developing role which gives all the indicators, all the amount of resources involved, and all the methodology to work not only at the national level but at the level of the local authorities, that are essential in the peace process. It involved all the institutions at all levels that I think is for us the important inclusive justice sector essential in this moment that we are involved. The participation of the civil society and the strong support of international community were essential so women, boys, girls and adolescents don't stay behind in -what you mentioned to us and perfectly described- as the words of silence.

There are not just isolated pieces of legislation, as you will see with Paula Gaviria statement, and a road map she would explain, but I wanted to give you these first key elements within a big picture where we are building a new campaign for human rights and international humanitarian law. Principles are in front and centering a post conflict scenario. As president Santos stated recently when approving the Law we just mentioned, if we are decided to end this conflict, if we are determined to end this war, is because we want to recover not only the calm of the country but also the dignity and humanity of our fellow Colombians.

Thank you very much and I hope we will continue working together.