UN proposes to play role in FARC peace process

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay suggested Friday that the global body could contribute to Colombia's efforts to reach a peace deal with leftist FARC rebels, as she visited Bogota.

"The United Nations will certainly be ready to play a role, same as my office," she said in reference to talks started in Cuba last year aimed at ending the half-century-old conflict.

It "is very important to have independent monitors on the implementation of peace agreements, so I'm ready to play a role," she told a news conference at the end of her three-day visit.

Pillay's trip to the Latin American country was marked by controversy after President Juan Manuel Santos hypothesized about a possible closure of the local UN office, claiming to have made sufficient progress on human rights. He later backtracked.

"I do agree that it would be better if we are in the country," Pillay told reporters.

Officials in Bogota announced Thursday they had decided to extend by a year -- until October 31, 2014 -- the mandate of the UN's human rights office in the country.

Each year, the office -- whose mandate has been regularly renewed since it opened in 1997 -- publishes a report on the human rights situation in the country.

During her visit, Pillay met with the president, as well as with a dozen ministers and NGO representatives.

"I pay great tribute to what has been done. This government has taken enormous steps that will be very useful for full protection of human rights in this country," Pillay said.

She stressed, however, that more needed to be done to provide reparations to victims of the armed conflict.

"Right now I'm focusing on implementation," she said. "Why? Because I had listen to communities, I had (to) listen to NGOs, and they haven't found the benefits of these resources."

Formed in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, is the country's largest guerrilla group, with an estimated 8,000 fighters.

The peace talks, which opened in November in the Cuban capital Havana, are the fourth attempt since the 1980s to bring peace to Colombia.

The war has ravaged Colombia for fifty years and has left 600,000 dead, more than 3.7 million displaced and 15,000 missing.