(New York, October 10, 2005)
Statement by Ambassador María Angela Holguín, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, Item 107: International Drug Control.
I would like to thank you for chairing our session today. We support the statement of Venezuela on behalf of the Andean Community of Nations.
For Colombia, the illicit drug problem is of global scope. Therefore it demands a full application of the principle of shared responsibility to allow us all to overcome its pervading effects through different forms of cooperation already identified. All operating stages of such a scourge, such as illicit crops, production, processing, selling, demand, trafficking and distribution of narcotics and psychoactive substances including synthetic drugs, the detour of precursors and all other related crimes must be addressed under the principle of shared responsibility.
The world drug problem relates to transnational organized crime and to terrorism as it becomes one of its sources of financing. That is why in the world's war against terrorism and organized criminal activities, fighting production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs must be part of a more holistic global strategy to eliminate the supply of economic resources to criminal and terrorist organizations.
The International Narcotics Control Board's report highlights once again, how illicit drug trafficking is linked to organized crime. Therefore both for the UN and for the world it is of pier importance to acknowledge what is stated in paragraph 69 of Secretary-General's Report (A/60/1), "each time there are even more links between terrorism and drug trafficking". We believe that by fighting transnational organized crime we are also fighting the resources that finance terrorism.
Mr. Antonio Maria Costa in his report of October 7 to this Commission expressed how Colombia has suffered from an evil alliance between illicit drug traffickers and guerrillas. He stated that despite this alliance, Colombia has shown an unwavering determination to fight the production of drugs and the insurgent groups linked to this activity. Colombia has been eradicating coca crops for a long time. There is still much to be done yet, this has been a great accomplishment, that has committed great national efforts together with bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
The UNODC under Mr. Costa's leadership has contributed considerably to a strategic national setting, which is that of alternative development. Our country renders high recognition to the effort and the vision towards full and sustainable eradication of illicit drug crops. This Office also cooperates with member States to implement international legislation in order to fight money-laundering and financing of terrorism, through direct technical assistance.
Mr. Costa also made reference in his statement to the various regional perspectives of the drug problem. It is not only about the cropping and production. Other States different from those who face the problem of production are also linked to the problem through issues of corruption, money-laundering, transit, crime and violence as further expressions of this phenomenon. Demand, especially in the developed countries is a determining factor of this chain reaction scenario. In this regard, there is an utmost need to design more effective policies to reduce and hopefully eliminate the demand.
For Colombia, alternative development programs are a key element for the sustainability of the eradication of illicit crops. Several UN resolutions have made a call to the international community for cooperation, to provide new and additional financial resources in order to carry out alternative development and environmental protection programs.
Colombia's achievements in the eradication of illicit crops are evident and acknowledged, as it shows on the UNODC 2005 World Report on Drugs. Colombia has shifted from having 163,000 hectares cropped with coca plants to a total of 80,000 hectares showing a reduction of 51% in those areas of the country affected by illicit crops.
This was possible because of the full implementation of the Program of Eradication of Illicit Crops launched by President Alvaro Uribe's Administration, that includes a complete process of manual and aerial eradication carried out under strict technical, sanitary and environmental controls, including the use of satellite technology to identify and localize the specific areas to be eradicated. The inclusion of glyphosate, a herbicide used around the world since the 70's classified as of low-toxicity and environmentally safe has been acknowledged by the international parameters in the International Chemical Security Program, Environmental Health Criterion 159, WHO 1994.
In this same regard, the Government's commitment not only shows in the illicit crops eradication but has also been notorious in the prevention and repression initiatives carried out by Colombian authorities, which throughout 2005 show in the confiscation of 120 tons of cocaine.
On the other hand, Colombia fully believes that eradication cannot be successful if it does not bring along a sustainable program that warranties cost-based alternatives for our peasants to stop illicit crops as their primary source of income. That is why, Colombia is currently working on a proposal at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna entitled "Strengthening of alternative development as a strategy to reduce illicit drugs supply, protect the environment and fight poverty". This proposal focuses on strengthening alternative development strategies not only given their effectiveness to reduce illicit crops, but also given their potential regarding poverty eradication in the most affected areas, the promotion of sustainable development, and the core impact they have on the protection of the environment and forestry resources. It also emphasizes on the high social and economic costs that countries burdened with illicit drug production have to bear with.
This initiative presented to this multilateral forum seeks to develop programs that comply with three basic objectives: illicit crops eradication, promotion of alternative development programs to ensure greater effectiveness, and environmental protection. The forest keeper families program and other productive programs convey these objectives.
The Presidential Program of Forest Keeper Families created three years ago includes already 36,500 families supported by the State in their environmental conservation duty of 365,000 hectares free of illicit crops. The State has allocated these past two years an amount equivalent to 55 million USD, and during 2005 the total will surmount the 79 million USD.
The program operates in different regions of the country and has received financial contributions both from the national private sector and the international cooperation community, specifically from the UNODC, who donated 400,000 USD for organic cocoa and coffee projects, as well as to promote ecotourism. The program of eradication of illicit drug crops and alternative development sponsored by UNODC includes the creation of small business in order to strengthen community capacity and avoid further linkage to illicit crops.
Within this cooperation arrangement, a program we could call "from coca to coco nut" explores the marketing benefits of coconut. Aside from by-products such as coconut milk, jam and pina colada, the coconut shell is now being crafted. Seventy five afro-colombian women from the Pacific region have produced in their small businesses environmentally friendly cutlery, ash trays, soap boxes, piggy banks, candle holders and crockery. USAID has joined the UNODC programs with a contribution of 34,000 USD with which five workshops have been given to craft coconut shell by-products. This practice should further replicate if there is a conviction that it could be a good way out of illicit crops.
This is an example of what the UN can do, while there is creativity and political will to set the basis for sustainable alternative development which will have direct and positive effects in the wellbeing of the people.
The success and positive impact of alternative development programs in our communities should inspire international organizations devoted to development, the multilateral banking institutions, and the community of donor countries to firmly promote a related political commitment. This should translate into a broader and more effective access to financial mechanisms and small loans, promotion of community productive capacity building, and a more favorable economic environment for these alternative development products to access global markets as a precondition for full employment and eradication of poverty.
The world drug problem concerns us all. It is as well a multilateral one whereby international cooperation has been a key element to combat this scourge which affects all populations of the world, whether they find themselves at the beginning, the middle or, the end of this chain of addiction and violence. We must all reaffirm the interest and the political will to eradicate the production, trafficking and demand of illicit drugs in order to insure a better and healthier world for future generations.