UK Ambassador to Colombia

02/19/2024

The United Kingdom has become a godfather to Colombia before the United Nations Security Council, in particular to accompany the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. In the recent visit of that organization to the country, the difficulties of implementing it and calling for its adherence to the agreement became apparent.

Ambassador George Hodgson was visiting Medellin, with an agenda dedicated to the theme of innovation, and after speaking with young people in the Leaders in Innovation (LIF) scholarship program established by his country's government in cooperation with the Royal College of Engineering, he spoke with the Colombiano.

Ambassador, what brings you to Medellin?

“Together with the mayor we reviewed issues such as the environment, energy transition, sustainable mobility, renewable energies, but also British investment in Medellin, and the projects we have with Ruta N, like this one involving 15 young entrepreneurs.”

The year 2025 will mark two hundred years of diplomatic relations between Colombia and Great Britain. What balance can be achieved?

“Well, it is actually a relationship that is more than 200 years old, because the British played an important role in fighting alongside Simón Bolívar for the independence of the country. And then the United Kingdom had an important role in investing in Colombia, in key sectors and it is a relationship that is developing and modernizing and now it is a relationship Great, with multiple themes such as environment, peace and security being one of the priorities. For us.”

What does environmental cooperation look like?

“We have the Alliance for Sustainable Growth that we signed a year and a half ago at COP 27 with three specific axes, which are the fight against deforestation and an important part of it is in the Amazon, but there are other forest areas, like the Amazon. Baramelo in Antioquia, which is very Importance. There is a part about biodiversity in Colombia, how to preserve it and create opportunities. There is a fundamental pillar of the energy transition.

How do you view the comprehensive peace proposal submitted by President Gustavo Petro of the United Kingdom?

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“Well, about a week ago, we had the United Nations Security Council visit to Colombia, with the encouragement of the United Kingdom and the main purpose of the visit was to show Colombia, but also to show the world, that the Security Council continues to stand firm in its commitment to peace in Colombia. And with the implementation of the 2016 agreement, which for us remains absolutely essential to achieving peace, security and the presence of the state in places where it does not exist in the country.

So the Security Council visit was a message to the government: Pay attention to the agreement already signed. Was it more about that than comprehensive peace?

“I would say that it was not a message to the government per se, but rather a message of support for the entire Colombian community, including the government of course and an exchange of views with the government on the implementation of the agreement and on other processes that are taking place.”

Former leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said the agreement is not being implemented well. What is your perception?

“There is progress and there are delays, for example, if we look at the fact that nearly 420 sites were killed. There is a problem and we have to work on the security of the sites, and when there is no economic activity that should be in the areas, there is something that needs to be done. We have invested “The UK has a lot to do with implementation through the UN Multipurpose Fund, as well as through the bilateral programs we have with civil society, JEP support, government support and security forces.”

How much did they invest?

“We have invested nearly £80 million in peace.”

The work of the Ministry of Peace in managing resources was weak, unlike the previous government, which had a specific body to implement the agreement. How do you see that situation?

“The Secretary-General has spoken in his reports about the importance of creating this person to lead implementation, something the President announced in March last year, and he said at a meeting at the ETCR in Caqueta that he would go about appointing someone to ensure the implementation of the agreement, which is something we are still waiting for. As for the United Kingdom, What is more important than the structures, which are ultimately a matter for the Colombian government, are the results and I think we agree with the United Nations, with the reports that are published every three months and with the government itself and that we agree with that. President Petro has identified that there are gaps and delays. In implementation.

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In the meeting with the Security Council, did Petro identify the gaps and promise to solve them?

“Yes. And for us, it is a priority not only for the government, but for the entire Colombian society, something that at the time was very controversial, but in what I spoke to with the various political currents in the country there is a consensus in terms of the importance of implementing the agreement and this is what must be done.” “We have to do it together.”

Do you think that the comprehensive peace process that the president wants to implement harms or helps the peace agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)?

“I think the president talked about comprehensive peace as a project that includes, and also includes, the implementation of the agreement, and for us, this agreement is the basis of any peace project that will be in the country. Everything must be anchored and supported by its implementation. In the 2016 agreement, it talks about security, state presence, public services, and economic opportunities for communities affected by the conflict…”

That none of it works.

“Well, they're ongoing projects.”

Let's move on to international politics, what does the UK think about what's happening in Latin America where we see some countries having closer relations with Russia or China today, and partly Colombia is going a little bit down that path…

“I wouldn't put it that way. I think it's clear for us that Latin America and the United Kingdom have great compatibility. We have a lot to offer each other. Colombia and most Latin American countries share with the United Kingdom and other countries an interest and a belief, if you will, in Democracy, human rights, women's rights, they are universal values, but there are countries, for example, where investment or interest in these values ​​is not very clear.

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Does the UK's approach to a government like Petro's, which is more populist, raise any concerns?

“I would say that besides the relationship between governments, between Colombia and the United Kingdom we have a relationship between countries, between nations, between peoples, between cultures. This is something that has been going on for 200 years. I am very confident about the future of the relationship with this government. We are very cooperative in Issues such as environment, energy and biodiversity.”

Finally, how has the UK fared with Colombians visiting since November 2022 who no longer need visas?

“Well, obviously we made the decision because of the great advantages that it brings not only to Colombia and Colombians, but also to our country in terms of interest in what the United Kingdom has to offer, which is tourism or education, short courses, investment, business. And that is what we have seen. And also some cases of abuse that worry us.” “.

Abuse like what?

“Well, there are people who go to the UK and claim asylum, for example, without having a real case and that is a shame because we want to focus on the positives.”

Can these attackers jeopardize open doors and get the visa back?

“It can, because obviously we have seen things like this with other countries and the result has been a change again in policy. This is clearly not what we want with regard to Colombia.”

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