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February 27, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – The National Council of Churches Executive Board today (Feb. 27) went on record against "Plan Colombia," questioning its effectiveness in the "war on drugs" and asserting that it is fueling violence and human rights abuses in Colombia.

Instead of spending $1.3 billion to build up Colombia’s military apparatus and for aerial fumigation of coca fields, the Board said, the United States should allocate the money for development assistance to Colombia and support for a negotiated peace process, and for drug treatment and prevention programs in the United States.

The Board’s action came, coincidentally, on the same day as President Bush’s first meeting with President Andres Pastrana of Colombia.

The Executive Board resolution follows directly on two consultations between the National Council of Churches and Colombian Protestant churches in January, at which Colombia’s churches called urgently on the NCC to speak out against Plan Colombia. The Latin American Council of Churches also has expressed alarm at Plan Colombia’s repercussions not just for Colombia but for the entire Andean Region.

"We have serious concerns that current U.S. policy is resulting in increasing violence in Colombia, and drawing the United States deeper into Colombia’s civil war," said Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary. Dr. Edgar participated in both consultations, as did the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service, the NCC’s global service and witness ministry, and several CWS staff.

"Plan Colombia is contributing to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destruction of food crops, damage to the health of people and their environment, and further deterioration of human rights," McCullough said. "The whole region is ripe for increased violence."

The NCC’s Washington, D.C., Public Policy Office noted that in March and April, the U.S. government will be evaluating future funding for Plan Colombia.

Today’s Executive Board resolution will provide the basis for the NCC/CWS’s advocacy for change in the United States’ Colombia and drug-related policies and programs, and for development of educational materials for U.S. churches "about the complexities of the situation in Colombia and the increasing U.S. role, in order to shape a more constructive U.S. policy towards the region."

In the resolution, the Board expresses its deep concern "about the threat that illegal drugs and drug violence pose to children and communities in the U.S." But it asserts that Plan Colombia is "unlikely to reduce the flow of drugs into the U.S., but is rather more likely to displace drug production in Colombia to remote areas or to neighboring countries …. "

Over the last decade, the background to the resolution notes, the United States has spent more than $25 billion in international drug control efforts, which "have at times temporarily succeeded in curbing production in a particular country, but have failed to stop the tide of drugs. Diminished cocaine production in Bolivia and Peru, for example, resulted in dramatic increases in Colombia."

The Executive Board further asked Church World Service, on behalf of the NCC and its 36 member communions, to develop and implement strategies to respond to humanitarian needs in Colombia and surrounding nations.

CWS already is planning $175,000 in support for several initiatives, including a nearly $1 million global ecumenical effort to provide emergency relief among the estimated 2.1 million Colombians driven from their homes over the past 15 years by Colombia’s internal conflict and by the aerial fumigation, including more than 300,000 displaced during the past two years.

The funds will support a collaborative program of churches, nongovernmental organizations and ecumenical bodies to provide food for displaced and refugee populations and improve housing and sanitation conditions in new settlements in marginal sectors of cities and towns.

In addition, Church World Service is providing blankets, shelter and food aid for displaced people and refugees, and supporting a human rights fund that helps human rights advocates and humanitarian aid providers at high risk.

CWS also is supporting a coalition of 64 local and regional displaced persons organizations that advocates for assistance to displaced persons and is initiating skills training, income generation opportunities and health services.

The resolution was brought to the NCC Executive Board by Mia Adjali of the United Methodist Office for the United Nations on behalf of the CWS Committee on Education and Advocacy for International Justice and Human Rights.


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