PRESS RELEASE

UNODC head tells President Santos that Colombia plays vital role in fighting drugs and crime

Vienna/Bogotá. 27 September 2011. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), praised Colombia for demonstrating strong political will to counter transnational threats. On his first visit to the country, he thanked the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, for his Government's generous funding towards UNODC technical assistance projects in the area of illicit drugs, crime and terrorism prevention. Colombia's contribution, combined with that of other donors, is worth around US$ 250 million.

These efforts have paid off. Ten years ago Colombia was by far the world's leading producer of cocaine, now its share has shrunk significantly. Its economic growth in the last decade shows a distinct correlation between increased national security and a declining drug economy.

"Colombia's progress in drastically reducing drug production has had a positive global impact in terms of security and public health. UNODC is prepared to continue to support Colombia in addressing existing and future challenges related to drugs and crime," said Mr. Fedotov.

Accompanied by Ambassador Freddy Padilla de Leon, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Vienna, throughout his trip, Mr. Fedotov visited Antioquia province, where many alternative development programmes are taking place. He commended those successful efforts, which have helped wean poor farmers off coca crop cultivation by encouraging them to pursue legal livelihoods.

Programmes supported by UNODC have helped over 150,000 farmers switch from dependence on illicit markets to gainful employment by creating over 28,000 jobs and 600 rural enterprises. Competitive and high-quality products worth US$ 40 million (coffee, cocoa, palm heart, chocolate, honey and legal cash crops) sell through national and international supermarket chains.

By pioneering the Forest Warden Families Programme, Colombia has made over 4 million hectares "drug-free", an area the size of the Netherlands.  These efforts may also help mitigate climate change - a gram of cocaine destroys four square metres of unspoiled rainforest but restored forests have captured some 75 million tons of carbon.

Mr. Fedotov stressed the principle of 'shared responsibility' and the need to build national, regional and international efforts in a comprehensive strategy on the cultivation, production and trafficking of drugs. Colombia is one of the few countries to embrace this principle by allocating considerable resources not only to the fight against drug production and trafficking, but also to large-scale programmes promoting sustainable livelihoods, alternative development projects and drug abuse prevention campaigns.

"Consumer countries must do their part too and reduce the demand that drives the drugs trade, trafficking and violent crime" he said.  "This is a matter for all of us.  I urge the international community to keep up support for Colombia, which has shouldered so much of the burden of drug-related crime and terrorism in the past."

The UNODC head witnessed the latest methods employed by the Colombian navy to control maritime smuggling. "By their actions, Colombia's naval and coastguard officers are helping to keep drugs off our streets and to prevent them from harming consumers," he observed.

Colombia passed a law in June 2011 to return land to displaced people and other victims of armed conflict, as well as illicit crop eradication policies and alternative development programmes. "We might gain valuable insights from Colombia's experience for countries confronting similar situations," said the Executive Director.

The Executive Director also commended the country for playing a leading role in combating human trafficking. UNODC is helping to implement a successful anti-trafficking in persons project in Colombia, which has culminated in the enactment of new anti-trafficking laws.

UNODC enjoys cooperation with the private sector and the media, for example, Caracol TV, which is filming a series featuring the issue with credit to UNODC. The Executive Director will sign a 'letter of intent' to cement collaboration with Caracol in human trafficking prevention, including the promotion of the Blue Heart, a global UNODC awareness campaign that also helps raise funds for victims of human trafficking.

"Colombia has much knowledge to offer countries - in the region and beyond - on narco-trafficking, human trafficking, alternative development, money-laundering, anti-kidnapping and sound monetary policies" Mr. Fedotov told the President.

For further information please contact:

In Bogotá, Colombia:

Aldo Lale-Demoz, Country Representative: UNODC

T: (+57-1) 646-7000 | E: aldo.lale-demoz {at} unodc.org

Or

In Vienna, Austria:

Preeta Bannerjee, Public Information Officer: UNODC

T: (+43-699) 1459-5764 | M: (+43-699) 1459-5764 | E: preeta.bannerjee {at} unodc.org

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