By 1998 there was growing support for efforts to obtain financial resources for peacemaking, in a similar form to the hugely successful fund-raising for the Central American peace processes. Then, in response to a request by the Presidents of Central America in 1998, the UN Secretary General proposed a Special Coordination Plan (PEC) to support peace efforts in Central America, approved by consensus by an extraordinary Assembly of the United Nations. This plan committed $2 billion to debt relief, $2.2billion for special projects for the internally displaced, the reconstruction of sub-regional integration, institutional strengthening and democratisation. The UNDP implemented the Plan over a five-year period and it is considered an excellent model of international cooperation.
Following this example, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, the Colombian government developed a project estimated at US$3 billion. It was to be administrated by the Peace Investment Fund and implemented over a three-year period serving as the ‘Bank of the Process’, providing alternative development to facilitate the eradication of drug-crops and assisting the 1.5 million internally displaced people. The Colombian contribution of US$1.2billion was raised through a special tax.
However, the Colombian government, with the support of the US, subsequently included the need to strengthen the Security Forces in this initiative. Their modernisation was a necessity in order to recover the monopoly of force for the rule of law, the legitimisation of the armed forces and the success of negotiations through a new balance of military power. This led to the birth of Plan Colombia, which generated a strong reaction from the rest of the International Community, because of the weight of US military aid to Colombia, the Andean Region and the Caribbean. The US converted Colombia into an issue of national and regional security, epicentre of the war on drugs at the global level. It approved an aid package of US$1.3bn for 2000 and 2001, dedicated to supporting the government’s offensive in the southern regions of Colombia, improving its capacity to decisively intercept the cocaine and cocaine-traffickers, and increasing the eradication of coca crops. Only US$323 million was dedicated to other objectives. Following this, a three-year extension of the Andean Trade Preferences was also achieved, and the Andean Trade Promotion Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) was passed in recognition of the antinarcotics effort. With regard to the treatment of the drugs trade and its influence on the internal armed conflict, the European Union (EU) and US applied clearly different criteria, with obvious consequences in the economic, social and political domains. The EU refused to contribute to the military budget and instead directed its support to the defence of human rights and International Humanitarian Law, and initiatives aimed at supporting the internally displaced and alternative development.
Despite these differences, the continuation of multilateral initiatives to fight the drugs trade is essential. The eradication of illicit crops is vital in cutting off sources of finance from the guerrillas and paramilitaries. This can be achieved through initiatives that combine crop eradication with alternative development. Efforts should also be made outside Colombia to reduce levels of consumption, end the trade of chemicals and halt the money-laundering activities taking place in rich countries (the majority of whom are members of the EU).
During this period there were also meetings of a group of potential donors (the EU, Norway, USA, Canada and Japan) under the banner of the Support Group to the Peace Process, in Madrid (July 2000), Bogotá (October 2000) and Brussels (April 2001). In the last meeting the Colombian government and the FARC were applauded for the advances made in the Los Pozos Accord and the preliminary Accord signed by the ELN in January 2001. The meeting also expressed support for the work of the UN Secretary-General’s Special adviser and acknowledged the increased support for the process from regional governments. At the same meeting, the EU presented an aid package equivalent to Euro 330m over a five-year period, to be used according to four principal strategies: economic and social regeneration, institution strengthening and social development, (through humanitarian aid and integrated alternative development), the peace process and the fight against drugs. They also announced that Euros 45m of EC funding would support projects like the ‘peace laboratory’ in Magdalena Medio. The EU has also insisted that the war against drugs must be tackled by both the producers and the consumers. It favours the manual eradication of illicit crops, and supports plans for alternative income-generation methods and to addressing social needs.
The Support Group had limited success in its principal objective of securing the support of other important donors for Plan Colombia, with the exception of some bilateral promises from the EU, Japan and Spain. Due to the paralysis of the peace negotiations, the Group as a whole has not met again but the EU and Canada have followed the United States’ example in declaring the FARC and the United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) terrorist organisations, deepening their international isolation. They have also exerted constant pressure for the release of kidnap victims, giving particular attention to the case of former senator and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancur.