Alternative 'Drugs & Peace' Policy for Colombia, proposed by TNI & Acción Andina

TNI Press Release, 26 June 2002
26 June 2002

The Transnational Institute (TNI) and Colombian partner, Acción Andina (AA), today announce a detailed alternative policy proposal on illicit drug crops and the peace process in Colombia.

The Transnational Institute (TNI) and Colombian partner, Acción Andina (AA), today announce a detailed alternative policy proposal on illicit drug crops and the peace process in Colombia. The ‘Proposal for Peace' will be presented formally at the "International Hearing on Illicit Crops and Environment", taking place on 29/30 June in the demilitarized zone in southern Colombia, hosted jointly by the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian government involved in peace talks. The aim of this ‘Audiencia' is to further debate amongst key negotiating partners the relationship between the illicit drug economy and the peace process. Also, interlocutors have been included to provide input and testimony on the most critical issue on their agenda, the widespread coca and opium poppy cultivation in Colombia and the connections with the armed conflict. Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina and Martin Jelsma of TNI will be official delegates at the discussion where they will release the alternative proposal on ‘Drugs & Peace,' in addition to a host of Colombian non-governmental organizations and government representatives from all European Union states, Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The TNI/AA policy proposal comes at a very critical political juncture in the negotiations of the peace process. The Pastrana government's ‘Plan Colombia,' means to provide the basis for large-scale international financial support for its peace efforts, a requested total of 3 ½ billion dollars. The plan has been criticized widely by Colombian, US and European NGOs, and several UN and European officials for its ill-conceived character based on a ‘carrot & stick' (Europe, Canada & Japan pay for the carrot and USA pay for and profit from the stick) approach that attempts to integrate incompatible strategies.

The US Senate last week (21/6) approved an aid package of roughly one billion dollars, almost exclusively devoted to ‘security assistance', as the US contribution to Plan Colombia. According to US Assistant Secretary of State, Rand Beers, "this focus on enforcement-related assistance, the so-called 'stick', will allow other sponsors to provide support for the 'carrot', developmental and humanitarian assistance projects for which they have special interests and expertise." The most controversial element in this package is the ‘Push into Southern Colombia', which is an effort combining military operations and intensified aerial chemical spraying against coca crops, aimed at regaining military control over this FARC dominated region where coca cultivation is concentrated. The victims of this ‘Push' campaign will be tens of thousands of small farmers dependent on coca for their survival as well as the Amazon rainforest into which many of them will be forcibly displaced-their move resulting in the cutting down of more tropical forest to replant the coca crops they lost.

Also in London last week (19/6), there was a preparatory international donor meeting for those on the ‘carrot' side of Plan Colombia where the Colombian government intended to gather another billion dollars for ‘alternative development' projects aimed at the substitution of illicit crops and humanitarian assistance. The majority of European countries rejected the Plan in its current form and their requested contribution to it. The main objections were rooted in the complete neglect of Colombian society in conceiving the Plan and also serious concerns were tabled over the potentially grave consequences in terms of human rights violations, environmental destruction and particularly the undermining of the peace talks due to the militarized strategy from the ‘stick' side of the Plan. The utility of the funds offered by the donors would, recognizably, be used to slightly mitigate or counter the devastating impacts of the American ‘security' aid package. The donor debate in London concluded that at least parts of the Plan will have to be seriously reconsidered, with the inclusion of civil society, before Europe will put funds on the table. The new starting point for this reconstruction of the Plan will be the meeting of the "Consultative Group in Support of the Peace Process" in Madrid on July 7, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Spanish government.

The AA/TNI alternative policy proposal goes right to the heart of these current political debates and controversies over the nature of the relationship between drugs and peace in Colombia and over the fate of Plan Colombia. The proposal is the result of many years of research and debate and it reflects the interests, views, realities and experiences of peasant and indigenous communities, independent experts, local authorities, informed officials, national and international NGOs and governments that are opening up ‘Harm Reduction' policy spaces in response to the clear and present failure of the War on Drugs. The alternative proposal, in great detail, argues for ending the policy of aerial fumigations; for decriminalizing small illicit producers; for gradual substitution processes; for full participation of the involved communities and demands respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Acción Andina and TNI argue strongly that drug policy changes in line with this proposal, supported by the international community, could not only lessen the harm caused by the current indiscriminately repressive policies, but could serve to safeguard the extremely fragile peace process negotiations which are under heavy pressure especially now the US military aid package will be operationalized.

For an Executive Summary of the proposal (in English) see: Drug Crops and Peace Process in Colombia - A Proposal for Peace.

For the full text of the proposal in Spanish, see: Cultivos ilícitos y Proceso de Paz en Colombia - Una propuesta para la paz.