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A RESOLUTION
of the
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE USA
Resolution on Peace in Colombia and U.S. Counter-narcotics Policy
Adopted by the NCCC Executive Board, February 27, 2001)

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The Policy Statement on Human Rights, of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA affirms that "Christians believe… that every person is of intrinsic worth before God, and that every individual has a right to the fullest possible opportunities for the development of life abundant and eternal." Viewed through this lens, current U.S. counter-narcotics policies are detrimental for the people of Colombia, and may be a loss for those suffering from drug addictions in the U.S. as well.

Funding for international narcotics control and law enforcement activities is one of the fastest growing foreign aid programs. The dramatic increase in counter-narcotics assistance is troubling, particularly because a considerable portion will be channeled into national security forces in countries with severe human rights violations, such as Colombia.

Over the last decade, the United States has spent over $25 billion in international drug control efforts. These efforts 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.

Meanwhile, drugs remain readily accessible within the United States. The number of people who die from drug-related causes has increased every year since 1979. The availability of drugs to high school students has increased. Moreover, mandatory minimum sentencing laws result in nonviolent drug offenders serving longer jail terms than violent criminals. These laws have contributed to making the United States the country with the largest per capita incarcerated population. Racial and economic disparities in enforcing drug laws have torn apart the very families and communities hardest hit by drug-related violence. At the same time, persons with drug addiction, desperate for support services, cannot get treatment.

Colombia and the Andean region need and deserve the support of the international community in confronting their myriad challenges, which include not only eliminating drug production and trafficking, but fostering fragile democratic institutions and addressing profound economic inequality. The situation in Colombia is tremendously complex. It is compounded by Latin America's longest running internal conflict -- one that is involving an increasing number of child soldiers. In this instance, despite its protestations, US policy has combined counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency efforts into a single package, with potentially disastrous results.

In the last fifteen years, Colombia’s internal conflict has produced over 2.1 million internally displaced persons, more than in Kosovo or East Timor. An increasing number of persons are seeking refuge in Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The U.S. has responded to this situation by allocating $1.3 billion to Colombia and the Andean region for an initiative called "Plan Colombia," most of which will support the building of the military apparatus in Colombia and aerial fumigation.

The honest and creative people Colombia, whether in poverty or comfort, are hoping to improve their situation, and are tired of suffering from or fearing human rights violations and the consequences of corruption. Colombians want peace, and the Colombian churches are calling on the churches of the US for assistance.

Whereas, the US decision to focus on military force to combat narcotics, in the context of an existing civil war, will undermine efforts for peace;

Whereas, the "Plan Colombia" aid package will draw the U.S. deeper into Colombia’s civil war, potentially intensifying the conflict, undermining democracy and the rule of law, and making the U.S. complicit in human rights violations;

Whereas, "Plan Colombia" includes plans for intensive aerial fumigation that will displace many thousands more from southern Colombia, forcing them off of their lands and deeper into the fragile rainforests or to city slums, causing great human suffering in addition to potentially incalculable environment damage;

Whereas, according to international law the destruction of food crops – in this instance by aerial fumigation -- is a human rights abuse;

Whereas, this policy 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 at tremendous financial, environmental and human cost;

Whereas, we are deeply concerned about the threat that illegal drugs and drug violence pose to children and communities in the US;

Whereas, in the United States, an emphasis on law enforcement strategies has failed to reduce demand or minimize the harm associated with drugs.

Therefore be it resolved:

That CWSW and NCCC and their member communions advocate with the U.S. Administration and Congress for policies and programs that would

  1. Support drug treatment and prevention programs to reduce the demand for drugs in the U.S.
  2. Reject an increased U.S. military involvement in Colombia and the Andean region;
  3. Support a negotiated peace process in Colombia with the active participation of civil society;
  4. Support multilateral humanitarian, development and environmental initiatives, working through the agencies of the United Nations and the Organization of American States;
  5. Encourage and adequately fund Colombia to reform its judicial system, requiring accountability through the elimination of automatic grants of immunity or impunity, and providing for the prosecution in civilian courts of all instances where military personnel have been implicated in human rights abuses;
  6. Support programs for the protection of threatened human rights defenders, civic, union and religious leaders, and judicial investigators;
  7. Support scientific and technological developments to develop innovative and non-agriculturally based programs that provide new sources of income for those who currently make their living raising crops for drug production;
  8. Provide increased humanitarian and development assistance to both the internally displaced in Colombia and those who have sought refuge in neighboring countries;
  9. Undertake a transparent and credible investigation of the chemicals used for crop eradication, including the implications of possibly using substances which are banned for use in the US.

The NCC urges that CWSW, on behalf of its member communions, develop educational materials to inform their members and others about the complexities of the situation in Colombia and the increasing US role, in order to shape a more constructive US policy towards the region.

That the churches in the US hold "Colombia-emphasis Sundays" as moments to bring attention to this issue.

NCCC urges that CWSW, on behalf of its member communions, develop and implement strategies to respond to the various humanitarian needs in Colombia and surrounding nations. Response efforts should foster ecumenical cooperation, strengthen cooperation of ecumenical partners, human rights and other civil society organizations in Colombia, taking into consideration the particular circumstances and perspectives of indigenous populations. These needs include:

Policy Base: Human Rights (1963); Latin America and the Caribbean (1983); Human Rights: The Fulfillment of Life in the Social Order (1995); U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Policy (1952).

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