Last Updated:3/16/01
National Council of Churches Press Release and Resolution, February 27, 2001

Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2227


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.



of the
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

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 region;
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 rights abuses;
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 countries;
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;
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).

As of March 16, 2001, these documents were available online at http://ncccusa.org/news/01news19.html
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