Thank you, Mr. President. It is excellent to have you with us back in the Council, welcome. Special Representative Ruiz Massieu, thank you for your briefing. We look forward to your leadership as we begin the next chapter of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. We also thank former Special Representative Jean Arnault for his outstanding contributions to the peace process in Colombia. We warmly welcome our close partners in the Colombian government, High Counselor for Post-Conflict Archila and Foreign Minister Trujillo. Thank you for joining us today.
Mr. President, on November 24, Colombians commemorated the second anniversary of the Final Peace Agreement. Since the signing of the peace agreement, Colombia has been an inspiration for peace not just in the region, but around the world. The gains of this peace are irrefutable. Over the past two years, Colombians have put aside over a half century of fighting, held peaceful and inclusive elections, stood up transitional justice institutions, and extended development and governance to remote areas of the country.
Mr. President, we believe the UN Verification Mission in Colombia has been vital to this success, and we welcome the Colombian government’s support for the UN. Despite this progress, now is not the time to become complacent – as evidenced by the deadly car bombing in Bogota last week. We strongly condemn this attack and offer our condolences to the victims and to their families. Ensuring meaningful justice and accountability for those responsible for serious crimes committed during so many years of armed conflict is vital to reconciliation, as is the need to tackle violence and poverty in the conflict-affected areas.
We remain concerned about the persistent instability and the violence related to illicit activities, security vacuums, and a lack of meaningful state presence in so many rural areas. We trust that the government will continue its efforts to protect vulnerable populations and human rights defenders, and to expand its presence in conflict-affected areas to keep illegal armed groups and criminal organizations from replacing the FARC and creating a new source of violence. Effective military and civilian agencies that provide security and government services in remote areas are critical to sustained peace. We encourage the government to continue its efforts to protect, support, and empower displaced Colombians.
President Duque knows well the challenges that face Colombia. We are encouraged by his strong resolve and his government’s partnership with the United States on matters ranging from counter narcotics and security to the humanitarian response to the Venezuela regional crisis.
Mr. President, the success of the peace accord and counter narcotics efforts are intrinsically linked. We are committed to partnering with our Colombian friends to dismantle criminal organizations and curtail narcotrafficking. In the United States, President Trump has made substance abuse prevention a priority for his administration, issued a global call to action on the world drug problem and chaired a high-level event on counter narcotics during High-Level Week here at the United Nations in September last year.
The United States continues to work with the Colombian government to cut coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia to half by the end of 2023. Together we can achieve sustainable results for the people of both our countries through increased resources, effective use of all available tools, and an integrated, whole-of-governments approach.
Mr. President, Colombia has shown its strength as a regional leader. The United States is grateful for Colombia’s generosity in hosting more than 1.1 million Venezuelans fleeing the man-made crisis in their country. We are proud to support Colombia’s response to the crisis by committing $92 million to assist the Venezuelan people, and the communities hosting them in Colombia, including $55 million in humanitarian aid and more than $37 million in bilateral development funding. We have also provided more than $39 million in humanitarian assistance for protection and assistance to Colombians forcibly displaced throughout the region, including internally displaced persons inside Colombia.
Mr. President, the United States stands firmly with President Duque and the people of Colombia as they continue to preserve the hard-won peace and build a strong and prosperous future for generations to come.