CIP doesn’t invite terrorists to the United States Losing interest in a “manageable” conflict?
Feb 252006

CIP was among several NGOs invited to spend a few hours yesterday afternoon in a “consultation” with officials in charge of USAID’s human rights program in Colombia. Part of USAID’s $20 million-per-year “democracy” program area in Colombia [PDF format], the human-rights section supports Colombian government agencies, civil-society human rights groups, and a government “early warning system” to prevent abuses. It overlaps closely with other USAID programs like judicial reform, physical protection of human-rights defenders, and support for displaced people and ex-combatants.

The meeting was quite detailed and frank. There was general consensus about what wasn’t working – the early-warning system, and especially the costly and utterly results-free work of the Colombian vice-president’s human rights program. There was praise for what was working – assistance to the Procuraduría human-rights unit and the Defensoría, the flawed but necessary Interior Ministry protection program, and efforts to ensure that human-rights groups critical of U.S. policy may still receive assistance, despite a past controversy.

Though the meeting was positive, it was marked throughout by an air of frustration. Our frustration wasn’t aimed at the USAID officials, most of whom are top-notch public servants trying to do a difficult job under very challenging circumstances. In fact, they no doubt share our dismay at a theme that kept coming up: the chronic lack of resources available to carry out these critically important programs, and the likelihood that no increases will be forthcoming.

We had a long “wish list”: more assistance to groups and government agencies fighting impunity; more aid to the Defensoría and Procuraduría, especially in conflictive regions, as well as the human-rights unit of the Fiscalía; funding for agencies responsible for identifying and seizing demobilized paramilitaries’ stolen land and assets; more focus on gender, race, and economic, social and cultural rights; and many others.

You can guess the response our “wish-list” items received. There’s no money. Resources are tight. We have to make do with what we have.

There’s no money, even though for every dollar USAID gets, four go to military and police programs, from fumigation to “Plan Patriota,” most of which are yielding few if any results.

There’s no money, even though the “Andean Counterdrug Initiative” (ACI) account – which provides USAID with all the money it gets for work in Colombia, and within which money can be moved around without an act of Congress – gives USAID only about $135 million, while military and police efforts get 2 ½ times as much (about $340 million).

There’s no money, even though just a ten percent cut in what the ACI spends on fumigation, or in what it spends to maintain aircraft given to Colombia in past years, could free up enough funding to double the size of USAID’s democracy program in Colombia, more than fulfilling the items on our wish list.

Yesterday’s meeting was very useful for us, and we hope for USAID as well, and we hope to do it again sometime soon. CIP laments the resource scarcity that became a recurrent theme in the meeting, and which forces USAID to make such hard choices.

The frustrating part is, we know that the money is actually there, it’s being appropriated for Colombia already – but that it’s going to weapons and herbicides, not for human rights. We will continue to channel our frustration: not by complaining to USAID, but by helping those in Congress who are trying to change U.S. priorities in Colombia.

3 Responses to “A good consultation with USAID; if only they had money”

  1. jcg Says:

    Completely agreed on that last part. Personally, I don’t see why so much money can be spent on fumigations that will have to be repeated endlessly with little or no results, and so little on USAID programs that could actually make a significant and positive difference.

  2. Rainer Cale Says:

    If you look at the percentage increase in the value and number of projects over the past 5 or 6 years, there has been a significant rise in the value of USAID projects. As an example, I think CAPP started out as a 3 million dollar project a few years ago, and is now merging with a $180 million project.

  3. Rainer Cale Says:

    There’s another 5 year AD project starting alongside MIDAS valued at $240 million. The USAID table you refer me to doesn’t seem to reflect this. Strange.

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