From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org


NCCCUSA Board Critiques "Plan Colombia"


From CAROL.FOUKE@ecunet.org
Date 28 Feb 2001 15:40:31

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2227
E-mail: news@ncccusa.org; Web: www.ncccusa.org
NCC2/28/01 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NATIONAL COUNCIL 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 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.

-end-


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