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UN to Ease Colombian Rebels' Transition to Civilian Life

By VOA News July 10, 2017

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday aimed at helping Colombian rebels return to civilian life after a peace deal halted 52 years of guerrilla warfare. The conflict has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced more than 7 million.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), founded in 1964 as an armed wing of the Communist Party, began laying down its weapons on June 27. The concession was part of a historic peace agreement reached by the rebels and the Colombian government. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about the deal.

The resolution establishes the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, which will begin once the current U.N. mission to oversee the cease-fire and disarmament process expires September 17. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has 45 days to make recommendations on the scope of the new mission.

Britain drafted the new U.N. resolution, recognizing that as 10,000 rebels begin new lives as civilians, the peace process is entering a challenging new phase.

"Experience from our own history in Northern Ireland has taught us that the hardest part remains ahead," British diplomat Stephen Hickey told the Security Council. "A sustainable and lasting peace will depend on the FARC's successful reincorporation into civilian life."

Many members of FARC remain vulnerable, camped out in the same tents and hammocks they lived in during the war. U.N. envoy Jean Arnault told the council last week that some FARC members are dealing with a "deep sense of uncertainty" about their physical safety after being stripped of their weapons.

FARC draws its strongest support from the country's rural regions. Speaking at the U.N. on Monday, Colombian Foreign Minister Angela Holguin stressed the importance of bringing economic and civic prosperity to the countryside, calling it "our main challenge."

"The development of political participation, greater equity and better justice will be fundamental to become the country that we want to be," she said.

As part of the peace deal, thousands of jailed rebels will be released and given amnesty and the FARC will be permitted to establish a political party. Farmers in FARC-controlled areas, longtime cocaine-producing regions, will be given incentives to switch to other crops.

France has pledged $930 million in aid and loans to the Colombian government to ease the region's transition from conflict.

"Now the goal is to win and entrench a lasting peace," France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the U.N. Security Council. "And for that, the international community, the U.N., must continue to be at the side of Colombia."

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