3 November 2017 - Colombia and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today signed a historic agreement, valued at around US$315 million, 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.
In remarks at the official signing ceremony, the Executive Director of UNODC Yury Fedotov said, "This agreement highlights the importance of addressing the challenges of drugs and crime to promote peace and security, human rights and development."
He added, "We are grateful for the confidence that Colombia continues to place in UNODC, and we aim to live up to this trust." In his own remarks, the High Commissioner on Post Conflict, Human Rights and Security of Colombia, Rafael Pardo Rueda said, "Today we come to Vienna and to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with a message of hope. We are working with energy and optimism on the construction of opportunities, progress and social justice."
The official signing ceremony was held at the Vienna International Centre in front of representatives of member states, and staff from the Vienna-based organizations. Mr. Fedotov signed on behalf of UNODC, while Mariana Escobar Arango, the Director General of the Territorial Renewal Agency did so on behalf of Colombia. High Commissioner Pardo Rueda also signed the agreement as an honoured witness.
UNODC has been a strong and committed supporter of Colombia's activities to encourage local communities to voluntarily give up coca cultivation. The new project enhances this support and is based on UNODC's decades old experience of working with farming communities across the world.
Mr. Fedotov, also reaffirmed UNODC's full support for the implementation of the peace process, particularly under Chapter 4: Solving the problem of illicit drugs.
In a press statement, he said, "I warmly congratulate the Colombian Government not just for its ceaseless efforts to find peace, but also for its recognition that the pursuit of peace requires tangible solutions to the crimes that fuel and feed conflict."
"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", noted Pardo Rueda in a statement.
He added: "Today we come to Vienna, a few days before commemorating the first year of peace in Colombia, with a message of hope: we are working on the construction of opportunities. Pursuing a solution to the problem of illicit drugs begins with tackling criminal organizations, launching sustainable and inclusive programs, and seeking alternatives for the application of a differentiated approach within the criminal justice system."
The High Commissioner highlighted the expertise of UNODC in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the illicit crops reduction policy, as well as the broad experience on territorial interventions through alternative development programs. He stressed that the cooperation project is a new chapter in the history of the strategic alliance between UNODC and Colombia.
Alternative Development-the process of encouraging farmers to cultivate licit crops such as cacao, spices and coffee-is a fundamental pillar of international drug control strategy. UNODC has been implementing such programmes for over 30 years.
UNODC currently supports alternative development programmes in six countries: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Peru. In Colombia, 65 per cent of UNODC's work is related to Alternative Development.