By Gustavo Gallón*, EL ESPECTADOR, January 25, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
This is the title of Chapter 4 of the recommendations contained in the volume of “Findings and Recommendations”. Its thesis is that “the policy of the war on drugs and drug trafficking (. . .) has been perhaps the greatest obstacle to progress in building the peace”, because “it’s ineffective in preventing consumption, it’s a factor in the persistence of the armed conflict, and it has been the source of profound harm to human rights, to security, and to development.” They propose, then, a substantial change in the policy so that, in the medium term, the current prohibitionism could be substituted with regulation of the market for drugs. While that is being accomplished, in the short term, they need to adopt measures to “confront the matter of the coca plantings with a focus on sustainable development that leaves behind the view of the problem as a matter of national security, abandoning aspersion entirely.”
This diagnosis and its proposals are based on the UN report, “Global Commission on Drug Policy” presented in 2018 by former heads of state from varying countries, including Colombia, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and other well-known international personalities. According to them, “the global war on drugs is a failure” after 50 years since its initiation. Therefore, they propose ending the criminalization of people who use drugs but do no harm, experiment with models of legal regulation, offer health services to those who need them, lend a helping hand to people involved in the lower segments of the drug market (campesinos, runners, and small sellers), focus on the repressive actions of violent criminal organizations, prevent young people from using drugs in the first place, replace strategies oriented by ideology with policies based on science, health, safety, and human rights, and break the taboos against debate and reform.
The Truth Commission is also based on the Peace Agreement, which contains important commitments by the government in that direction, to change the militaristic focus on drugs for one of human rights and public health, promoting opportunities for dialog and a large international conference, prioritize substitution in place of eradication, as called for in Integrated Rural Reform. These commitments have not yet been accomplished.
After the delivery of the Truth Commission’s report, the Global Commission on Drug Policy in November 2022 produced a report on “Drug Policy in Colombia”. The report insists that “large-scale military actions against the drug traffic should be re-oriented toward augmenting the government’s capacity to use funds for the prosecution of the high-level segments of organized crime, for the purpose of reducing violence, corruption, money laundering and smuggling” and it recognizes the importance of the Truth Commission’s report. It’s already time to overcome the mess with which the drug problem has been handled in Colombia, and regain sobriety to achieve peace.
Thank you, Truth Commission.
*Colombia’s Ambassador in Geneva