Council of Churches Press Release and Resolution, February 27, 2001
Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2227
NCC2/28/01 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OF CHURCHES BOARD CRITIQUES "PLAN COLOMBIA"
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Colombias 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
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 Colombias
civil war, potentially intensifying the conflict, undermining democracy
and the rule of law, and making the U.S. complicit in human rights violations;
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
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
Support drug treatment
and prevention programs to reduce the demand for drugs in the U.S.
Reject an increased U.S. military involvement in Colombia and the Andean
Support a negotiated peace process in Colombia with the active participation
of civil society;
Support multilateral humanitarian, development and environmental initiatives,
working through the agencies of the United Nations and the Organization
of American States;
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
Support programs for the protection of threatened human rights defenders,
civic, union and religious leaders, and judicial investigators;
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;
Provide increased humanitarian and development assistance to both the
internally displaced in Colombia and those who have sought refuge in neighboring
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:
those of refugees
and internally displaced with particular attention to gender concerns;
As of March 16, 2001,
these documents were available online at http://ncccusa.org/news/01news19.html
those of individuals needing immediate protection from human rights violations
including those needing to go into exile;
those impacted by conflict and/or poverty, who are without food, shelter,
medical attention, counseling, or other supportive assistance;
individuals and communities seeking to develop and implement alternative
economic models in order to enable the voluntary eradication of coca;
communities and organizations of civil society seeking to expand the capacity
for self-governance and sustainable development.
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).