Colombia agreed to invest $315 million in a United Nations-led counter-narcotics program that seeks to curb record cocaine production in the South American country.
The investment would boost faltering efforts to curb the mass cultivation of coca, the base ingredient of the illegal drug of which the country is the world’s largest producer.
The UN’s Office on Drugs in Crime had already been cooperating in motivating coca farming communities to take part in a voluntary coca substitution program.
The “historic” deal would allow the UNODC to “monitor the country’s policy to reduce illicit crops and to strengthen rural development, as a crucial part of the country’s ongoing peace-building efforts,” according to the international organization.
Independent observers have said the crop substitution was underfunded. Forced eradication operations have left multiple people dead in clashes between farmers and police.
The deal signed with the UNODC is a major investment in the investment program that is shunned by the United States, whose ambassador claimed it would help former guerrillas rather than farmers.
The US is one of the largest sponsors of counter-narcotics operations in the South American country.
Its so-called “War on Drugs,” however, has become increasingly unpopular in Latin America where drug trafficking to the world’s largest drug consumption market has been fueling all kinds of violence.
Colombian President went as far as calling it “perhaps even more harmful than all the wars the world is fighting today, combined.”
“This agreement highlights the importance of addressing the challenges of drugs and crime to promote peace and security, human rights and development.
UNODC chief Yury Fedotov
Colombia’s Post-Conflict Minister, Rafael Pardo, had traveled to Vienna, Austria, to formally sign the agreement with UNODC chief Yury Fedotov.
This project is the largest in Colombian history with UNODC. The expertise and neutrality of the United Nations are guarantees for implementing the monitoring and evaluation of our illicit crop reduction policy.
Post-Conflict Minister Rafael Pardo
According to the UNODC, Colombia is the sixth country to invest in alternative development rather than the repression of illicit crop cultivation promoted by the US.
Other countries that are taking part are Afghanistan, Bolivia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Peru.
The Colombian authorities vowed to substitute more than 50,000 hectares of coca will legal crops like coffee and cacao this year as part of a peace process already monitored by the UN.
The counter-narcotics strategy, like other elements of the deal that seeks to end more than half a century of armed conflict, has been marred by government inefficiencies and resistance from drug traffickers.