Written Answers. - “Plan Colombia”.

John Gormley

Question:

287 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by many in relation to Plan Colombia, a US $1.38 billion aid package which is primarily directed at military support to wipe out coca production in Colombia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19910/00]

"Plan Colombia" sets out the proposals of President Pastrana's government to address on an integrated basis the enormous problems facing that country. The preface to the plan states: "We need to build a state for social justice, which will protect all our citizens and uphold their right to life, dignity and property, freedom of belief, opinion and the press . . . . we have to reduce the causes and provocations of violence by opening new paths to social participation". The plan encompasses the peace process; new approaches to the economy; counter-drugs strategy; reform of the justice system and protection of human rights and democratisation and social development.

The plan envisages overall expenditure of $7.5 billion, $4 billion of which is to be provided by the Colombian government, with 75% of all moneys to be allocated to socio-economic, human rights and institution building programmes. President Pastrana has appealed for a total of $3.5 billion in assistance from the international community.

In July 2000 the US Congress approved $1 billion over two years in equipment – including 90 army helicopters – and training for the Colombian police and army to enhance their anti-drugs capability – particularly crop destruction on industrial drug plantations.

More than $300 million was provided for a range of social, economic and institutional reform programmes including: voluntary alternative crop development for small farmers; environmental protection; assistance for displaced persons; protection for human rights workers; support for Colombian and international NGOs in documenting incidents and patterns of collusion between paramilitaries and State forces; support for the development of a national human rights strategy and the establishment of a network of human rights task forces; reform of the judicial system and criminal code: training of police and judges.

The aid for training and equipment for the Colombian counter-drugs forces was made conditional on the fulfilment of six human rights requirements by the Colombian government, to be certified by the US Secretary of State. On 18 August, Secretary of State Albright formally indicated that she was able to provide certification in the case of only one of the conditions, but reported progress in the case of several others, and set out the steps being taken by the State Department to endeavour to ensure that the Colombian government met all the conditions as soon as possible, stressing President Pastrana's commitment to human rights protection.

Under the terms of the legislation, President Clinton then made a ‘determination' that it was nevertheless "in the national security interest of the United States" to furnish the assistance, and issued a waiver of certification in respect of the outstanding five human rights conditions.

When President Pastrana visited Colombia on 30 August 2000, he defended his partial waiver and stressed President Pastrana's commitment "to developing military and police forces that both respect human rights and know they will be accountable for abuses". He pointed out too that if the second part of US aid was to be released in the 2001 financial year, Colombia would have to meet the human rights requirements of the US legislation.

The European Union would have wished that some aspects of the Plan Colombia had been drawn up rather differently, but in examining President Pastrana's request for assistance to support the Colombian peace process, the European Union will bear in mind such key elements as human rights; the plight of displaced persons; social exclusion; the socio-economic causes of conflict; institutional reform; the involvement of civil society and local communities in the planning and implementation of reform programmes; and the co-responsibility of the consuming countries for Colombia's escalating illegal drug production.
Possible areas of EU co-operation might include: human rights training; conflict resolution programmes; education for peace; land reform; aid for displaced persons; environmental protection; and alternative crop production.