June 18, 2003


The GOAL of this workshop is to bring together people from different countries and diverse approaches to analyze and coordinate initiatives for confronting the Drug War and Prohibition. With this aim in mind, we wish to put forward a proposal for a INDEPENDENT GLOBAL COMMISSION to assess existing drug policies and their implementation, and to outline alternatives to prohibition, war, criminalization of peasants whose livelihood is tied to cultivating plants such as the coca bush, cannabis and poppy, and to penalization of consumers.



The failure of the long-standing model used to address the ‘drug’ phenomenon is becoming increasingly evident. Nonetheless, national and international decision makers have been unable to incorporate this fact and, on the contrary, are on the large adopting harsher punitive measures against peasant growers and consumers, in keeping with the Bush Administration’s security terror and with its, −and other governments’− unwillingness or  inability to halt further concentration of riches and allow for social demands. Despite a state of increasing Human Rights abuses as of repression of social demands, the growing force attained by a civil society linked by supranational solidarity and alliances makes feasible attempts at coordinating converging initiatives and efforts. The multiple aspects of the Drug War strategies need to be duly analyzed in a social scenario which calls for the participation of one and all: from those working on analysis regarding crop growers and consumers to the consumers and growers themselves.



  • Brief presentation of the participants (30 minutes).
  • Presentation by Mama Coca (10 minutes) and discussion (50 minutes) of the proposal regarding the International Commission.





In Colombia the idea of a high-level International Ad Hoc Commission to study the drugs issue has been previously put forward in different scenarios.[1]. The original proposal considered the need to involve people devoted to the search for peace and the defense of Human Rights; experts on the drug issue and analysts not tied to governmental and multilateral state entities. The Global Commission would propose its reports to the United Nations, national governments and social organizations and would work together with national technical commissions and citizens’ forums. This Commission would petition to bodies devoted to designing and assessing drug policies, as in the case of the UNDCP and corresponding responsible government bodies.


Whatever might be the practical mechanisms defined to expand and coordinate initiatives at an international level, some basic criterion to be taken into consideration are:


  • To strengthen analyses and initiatives based on Human Rights considerations, and the Precautionary Principle as refers to health hazards for growers and consumers, the environment and agricultural milieu.
  • Propitiate the scenarios to put forward proposals for revising, repealing or amending United Nations Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988.
  • Bring arguments to the defense of proposals aimed at overcoming the incrimination of peasant growers of plants declared illegal and penalization of consumers.
  • Consider advocacy for the cultural, nutritional and medical uses of plants such as coca, cannabis and poppy.
  • Other considerations to be proposed.



To assess the Drug War and alternatives to Prohibition

Proposal Mama Coca Workshop

June 18, 2003


I. Background

The proposal to create an Ad hoc Global Commission to assess the “Drug War” and options other than Prohibition has, among others, the following origins:

1.      The “International Meeting on Peace, Human Rights and IHL in Colombia” (Costa Rica, October 2000) “proposed the creation of a High-Level Global Commission on the ‘drugs’ issue “to make a public statement regarding 20 years of war on drugs and on options such as legalization and depenalization.” This Commission was to submit its results to the United Nations and to governments, national and international mediating organizations in the Colombia peace process. A technical group made up of Colombian and foreign experts would back the Commission in carrying out its tasks.

2.      This idea was widely accepted in the “Talks on the Andean Regional Initiative, Counter-narcotics Strategy and Cocalero Movements of the Andean Region”, CINEP (Bogotá, August 2001), held in the Center for Popular Research and Education (CINEP - Colombia) in August 2001 with the participation of social leaders, peasant organizations, NGOs and drug policy experts from Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and the United States.


II. Context

The Bolivian, Peruvian and Colombian social cocalero movements have openly and through diverse means made known their opposition to forced eradication measures being implemented by their governments. These communities vindicate traditional, cultural, nutritional and industrial use of the coca as a legitimate source of life and cultural identity. During the Centennial Commemoration Ceremony at the Universidad Agraria la Molina (Lima 2002), the organizations and individuals present demanded an end to violent coca substitution campaigns and the Peruvian government was exhorted to “carry out the necessary steps with the United Nations in order to require the withdrawal of the coca from the list of substances subject to control, it classification as a narcotic and coca chewing as an addiction.”

In countries where crop used for illicit purposes are grown such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, India, Bolivia, Peru y Colombia, peasant and indigenous communities, Human Rights organizations and peace movements have alerted national and international public opinion regarding the severe consequences for crop growers, harvesters and the rural populations as a whole which ensue from forced eradication measures compounded by military operations. The destruction of staple crops and of traditional crops of plants used for illicit purposes makes forced eradication into a weapon of war which violates citizens’ fundamental rights, endangers democratic stability and undermines food safety while turning the state into an agent in the disarticulation and displacement of indigenous and peasant communities.

Approximately 8,000 signatures by Parliamentarians worldwide, other citizens and organizations support the appeal launched by the Radical Transnational Party and the International Antiprohibitionist League “Appeal to Governments and the United Nations” of 2003, which holds that the policy of prohibition of the traffic, sale and consumption of drugs which is based on UN Conventions 1961, 1971 y 1988, is the true cause of increasing harm. It thus requests the UN Secretary General and member states of the United Nations to initiate a process of revision of these Conventions.

Fellow organizations such as the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Encod, TNI and a great number of analysts working on harm reduction for consumers and liberalization of use have for years advocated changes in their national legislations and international conventions that rule Prohibition, winning in some cases important victories such as educating the public and the acceptance of medical and recreational uses of marihuana.

These appeals against Prohibition answer to increasing evidence to the fact that current policies are totally unsuitable. Increasing growing of crops used for illicit purposes and of use of mind-altering substances both natural and synthetic as well as changes in the types of drugs produced and consumed highlight the mockery of prohibitionist laws making them into a mere legal façade without any real basis on the customs of the time. Additionally, under the prohibitionist regime, the prospering of organized crime, narcotics trafficking fiscal havens is sheltered by ongoing legislating which currently tends to blur the distinctions between small growers, narcotics traffickers, street dealers and consumers and, in the case of grower countries, of the aforementioned sectors with up-in-arms groups, now pointed to as terrorists.


III. Motivation

In accordance with the above, we believe it possible and necessary to advance in the articulation of efforts among diverse social initiatives in the search for alternative proposals as of the following criterion:

-          Strengthening of analysis as of considerations regarding Human Rights and the precautionary principle insofar as concerns the health of growers and consumers, the environment and rural milieu.

-          Propitiating scenarios to put forward proposals to revise, repeal or amend UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 y 1988.

-          Developing informed proposals oriented at overcoming incrimination of peasant growers of condemned plants and penalization of consumers.

-          Compiling and making known the information to vindicate the immense medicinal, nutritional and cultural value for humanity at large of the coca, cannabis and poppy plants.

-          Other suggestions …


IV. Some of the Commission’s Goals

1.     To analyze the diverse traditional uses, views, policies and strategies concerning planting and use worldwide in such a way as to organize and globalize a data base with this the information required by the Commission to carry out its work. To seek out similarities and discrepancies between current national policies and the requirement made by national organizations involved in the ‘drugs’ issue with the aim of generating new ties and finding a common ground for working together.

2.      Assess the diverse impacts generated by the long-term implementation of demand reduction of substances considered illicit and which is based on incrimination of growers, banning of crops, physical destruction of plant through forced eradication and military operations which violate Human Rights and well as the infringement of consumers’ civil rights and the discrimination and marginalization to which they are subjected..

3.     Design a mechanism for social oversight of the ‘drug’ phenomenon in abidance with the need for social responsibility and political co-responsibility when addressing the issue.

4.     Propitiate analyses in accordance with principles of respect of the diversity of the peoples of the world, their dignity and customs and the building of a peaceful and inclusive alter globalization.


V. Some of the Commission’s Characteristics and the Technical Group

1.      The Commission will be autonomous and independent from governments and national and international bodies charged with designing or implementing ‘drug’ policies.

2.      In accordance with the above, it will be made up by a Group of experts and people who are knowledgeable but who have no direct nor indirect ties with governmental national, bilateral or multilateral bodies involved in the issue.

3.      It will have a Technical Operational and a Multidisciplinary Technical Group in charge of coordinating and preparing the basic information, consultancy, and the meetings required for the fruitful development of the Commission’s work..

4.      Governments will be turned to to give free and generous access to information, consultation, interviews and visits to sites growing crops used for illicit purposes.

5.      A group of individuals and civil society organizations interested in the issues addressed by this Commission would work together for a six-month period in order to improve, socialize and find funding sources which might back and sponsor the establishing and putting into effect of this commission.


VI. Practical Workings of the Commission and Expected Results

The Commission would submit it report and recommendations to the United Nations and governments and social organizations and would be backed by national technical committees and citizens’ participatory forums or work groups. It would put forward its needs to national and international bodies when necessary.

As part of the expected results:

1.      A written assessment report regarding ‘drug’ policies, alternative and peaceful proposals to address the ‘drug’ issue in general and the crops issue. Clearly stating the recipients of the report, the recommendations emitted would seek to contribute to propitiate a redefinition of state policies, peace negotiation agendas and agreements between civil society and governments.

2.      Written and film memoirs of the meetings and regional forums which will be held throughout the development of the Commission’s work..

3.      Written and film memoirs of the International Forum to be convened for the presentation of the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.

We hope to further develop this idea which has had wide acceptance in several meetings, apart from those already mentioned above: II National Meeting of Citizens’ Roundtables for a peace Agenda (Bogotá, March 30, 2001); III Plenary of the Civil Society’s Permanent Peace Assembly (Rionegro, Colombia July 2001).


Immediate proposal:

We propose that an Impulse Committee be constituted here and now for the Independent Global Commission. This Committee would be made up of people who are knowledgeable on the issues of crops used for illicit purposes, drug policies and harm reduction from Europe, USA, Asia, Africa and Latin America. This Committee would be charged with perfecting this proposal and carrying out the necessary steps to make it feasible.





Cartagena de Indias, June 18 and 19, 2003


Independent Global Commission
for a social assessment of ‘drug’ policies


Notes: Elsa Nivia Gil


The Mama Coca Workshop came together in two sessions −June 18th and 19th 2003− through the “Crops Issue” on occasion of the Colombian Thematic World Social Forum [Cartagena de Indias, June 16-20, 2003].

June 18th: During the first session, translated by Riley Marline from Witnesses for Peace, Mama Coca coordination formally presented the proposal to conform an ad hoc Global Independent Commission (GIC), autonomous from governments and multilateral bodies and charged with assessing ‘drug’ policies and presenting alternatives from a social perspective [attached.] The proposal was discussed and a meeting convened for the following day to establish an Impulse Committee which would launch the Global Independent Commission’s processes by perfecting the proposal and its feasibility.

June 19th: The following session took off where it had left off on the previous day. Darío González Posso y María Mercedes Moreno summarized the proposal, emphasizing the aim of creating an Impulse Committee (IC) for the Global Independent Commission.

Darío González Posso pointed to basic criterion: 1º-that it be of a horizontal nature; 2º -that it be independent; 3º -inclusive y and work hand in hand with regional and grassroots actors in the different countries; y 4º -and that it join peoples and organizations from all of the world’s regions: Asia, Africa, Latin America, the United Sates, and Europe.

Dario pointed out that this initiative has its roots in prior converging initiatives. In Colombia, for example, a citizens’ decision convergence has brought together diverse autonomous and independent initiatives. One of its most important expressions has been that of the peasant movement which, by a flowing together of the different tendencies, carried out the National Agrarian Congress and issued the Agrarian Mandate [2003]. Other important references are the Citizens’ Roundtables for a Peace Agenda. [2000, 2001, 2003]. The initial proposal for an Independent Global Commission arises from the need to address the ‘drug’ issue from a citizens’ perspective in order to advance on the path to a political settlement to Colombia’s armed conflict. Accordingly, diverse social sectors started developing the process with the aim of acting on an international scope. These steps have been taken in different scenarios such as the Colombian Peace Process Meeting in Costa Rica [October 2000] and the Andean-Amazon Talks by the CINEP.

As Dario stated, we at times improvise but are certain in our cause which enjoins us to find the common ground to build within a diversity of approaches. The Independent Global Commission, −initially proposed as of Colombian issues and later expanded to the Andean Amazon Region’s social concerns− could be projected by the Impulse Committee to encompass diverse national and international scenarios and projects and activities geared at local levels, all converging around the issue of socially assessing ‘drug’ policies, their impacts, and putting forth alternative proposals. Not only from the standpoint of seeking alternatives to criminalization of peasant and indigenous growers of coca, poppy and cannabis and the war measures applied against them but also as refers to how these policies and conditions affect consumers. We welcome the presence of colleagues such as Nancy Obregón, Sub Secretary National Confederation of Peru’s Agricultural Cocalero Producers (Conpaccp), Luis Carlos Acero of the Colombian National Peasant Council (CNC) and an ample group of people from different countries who are knowledgeable on users’ issues, experts on money laundering, dynamics of trade, geopolitics and crops.

Baldomero Cáceres, Peru, stated the need and right of consumers to quality.

Alain Labrousse, France, mentioned other initiatives such as, for example, that carried out in Valencia (Spain) with an NGO at a university through seminars with Moroccans and haschish producers and others with Bolivians and Colombians. He pointed to the fact that he was awaiting feedback on the Andean Amazon Talks. He proposed his cooperation through ties with the NGO mentioned, Black Africa and Afghanistan, where he hopes to be working for the coming months.

María Mercedes Moreno, Colombia, did the interpretation and stressed the need to set up a working basis here and now before returning to our respective countries. The reason for establishing the Impulse Committee immediately is so that we may start defining its goals and the work to be done and start thinking of meeting again to get the Commission’s processes going.

Luis Carlos Acero, Colombia, of the National Peasant Council, stated that he wholeheartedly supported the establishment of an Independent Global Commission. He spoke of his experience with the cocalero mobilization in Southern Colombia in 1996. He commented on the fact that many of the marchers were killed but that one of the factors which helped the others to survive was precisely the movement’s horizontal nature. Since we in Colombia are ad portas of a “democratic dictatorship”, he welcomes the inclusive and horizontal criteria proposed for the Commission. He also proposes the participation of the Peasant Association of Beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform (Acbra), to be represented in this Impulse Committee by Alejandro Mejía and himself. Luis Carlos introduced Nohora Cecilia Velásquez of the National Peasant and Indigenous Women’s Association (Anmucic). Nohora Cecilia ratified her organization’s interest in participating by coordinating projects with its communities.

Marco Perduca, Italy, expressed his willingness to cooperate with the Impulse Committee. He spoke of the Drug War in Italy and the recent counter-narcotics legislation passed and stated that, if the Commission wishes to work at an international level, he could offer his support as of his experience with the United Nations and other international forums such as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS.)

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, Great Britain, mentioned that we all have different capabilities and skills, some for fund raising, others as educators, for training, for politicization, and to propose drug policy reform. She thinks the Impulse Committee would need further support towards fine tuning the Commission’s approach and, once that established, to start building alliances with, for example, those working on harm reduction for users.

Martín Jelsma, Holland, says it is necessary to promote actions towards the Commission but he has questions on how to pinpoint it character, its nature. Mainly questions regarding the decision-making levels addressed by the Commission so that we might determine criterion. He considers it essential to find a balance between first, its horizontal nature −that all of us might take part somehow− and, second, the building of an image of independence tied to the image projected by those of us who wish to weigh on the issue. Thirdly, if we wish to make sure that from the start the Commission is taken into consideration at those levels that we wish to influence, it is basic that we build ties with those instances from the outset. This balance would, at least, have to be clearly stipulated from the beginning; to be clear regarding whether we will be working on an independent basis but with ties to official bodies. Fourthly, he refers to those, who like TNI, are involved in Vienna pressuring to build an assessment group with the United Nations, have been working since April 2003 and will continue seeking support to set up this group. He asks how these initiatives can be brought together. ¿Might we consider the possibility of a shadow committee for this Commission proposed within the UN?

Martín Barriuso, Basque country, comments that one of the aspects to be debated would be where to influence. And, depending on this, to address ourselves to those issues which we consider would be the most useful. It is no use producing information just for the sake of it. The coming weeks will show us how many alliances we can build and incorporate into this initiative. In Spain, Western Europe, a harm reduction network is starting to take form. The aim of this network is to determine the difficulties faced by user organizations within the current legal framework; but not solely from the concern of those sectors interested in assessing ‘drug’ policies. This initiative is currently being built and could thus serve as a point of support for the Commission.

Luis Alberto López, Caquetá (Colombia), mentions that he worked with the Caja Agraria, peasants’ public bank, which no longer exists, and with communal and peasant organizations in the Caquetá. He also acts together with peace organizations such as the Institute for Peace and Development Studies (Indepaz), the Peace Initiatives Network (Redepaz), with the Peasant Association of Beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform (Acbra) and other organizations tied to the agricultural sector. He tells how he lives in the Southern part of Colombia, a region which suffers the impact of counterdrug policies. He offers his cooperation and support for the Commission from the view of the rural communities affected. He would work towards convening local communities.

Hubo Cabieses, Peru, says he considers this an excellent initiative as it is the continuation of former initiatives without Adam-and-Eve complexes on the part of those who are promoting it. Nonetheless, he sees five yellow lights: First, it would be a mistake if this initiative became excessively narcoticized; he thinks the agenda should be expanded; other issues as, or more, important than drugs should make us ponder. Second, this is an initiative which comes from former experiences but much has been added from the user perspective, it would be better to expand on production and narcotics traffic issues. Third, we could tend towards an excess of academicism and we should therefore keep up a permanent search for grassroots representatives to pull us academics towards proposing feasible alternatives. Fourth, keep from falling into the trap of westernizing the issue in terms of centering our attention solely on Latin America, the United States and Europe. We should know and better articulate Asian concerns, above all if we are an international work group. Fifth, in former experiences there has been the tendency to bring together those of us who are already convinced, forgetting that the goal is policy reform. Accordingly, we should debate policy reform, move in wider circles; go from being protestors to being proposers (“de protestones a propositivos”.)

Sanho Tree, USA, says that, in accordance with the last point, the mechanism of that which we wish to change is important. What can we do to influence our institutions? Are we trying to change public opinion or international treaties? To change financing of repressive policies? The laws which criminalize these activities? In each country, each region, things function differently. He mentions that he works in Washington trying to change drug policies and the harm they cause in the Andean Region. In the US, under the Bush Administration, an Independent Global Commission would have as much effect as the pig at a barbeque, but it might be more operative in other countries. He suggests, for example, working to put an end to fumigation and militarization of the Drug War. Nonetheless, focusing resources to this aim might no be easy. He observes that for each one of us it’s something different.

Luis Suárez, Cuba, mentions that, following the same train of thought as Hugo Cabieses, even in the West, it would be interesting to assess other experiences. This debate does not take into consideration Caribbean problems and, in particular, those of the Insular Caribbean have been left out of the debate. Attention has centered on Andean-Amazon issues, excluding other dimensions of what is internationally known as related crime. He states that he agrees with a Global Commission to revise policies, one in which all experiences are manifest. Secondly, his framework would diverge from that of Hugo in the sense that, although it is true that we should discuss other points of view, among ourselves we still have to continue discussing the issue. Maybe the coming actions to agree on should be the objective and tactics of this Commission, and then go on to convene those who see things differently.

Ibán de Remetería, Chile, comments that, coming back to something he mentioned in the previous meeting, [Taller Mama Coca, June 18.] He would request a minimal program, an independent international assessment of the three UN Conventions. The two sides which suffer the implementation of these regulations, on the one hand what Sharda Sekaran commented on, all the suffering in the US for consumers and we in Latin America know our realities and in Asia and other parts of the world as concerns growers. Our problem is to conceive these assessment instances. If we take the example of Canada, the Justice Minister requested a report on the consequences of drug use and he was informed that existing regulations were inadequate to solve the problem and new laws are being enacted. In England, likewise, the government requested a report form the Chamber of Lords and it was informed that the situation was disastrous; with the result that the government felt authorized to demand legislative reforms. Our main problem is how to attain an international committee somehow related to the United Nations. He believes TNI can help us to gain influence in the United Nations for maximum legitimacy.

Camilo González, Colombia, comments that he has listened to the proposals and wishes to put forward simple ideas to help round up. First, that Impulse Committee could be made up by those present, pending their agreement. Second, that the immediate role of the Committee should be to take the document presented, and this discussion, and draft a new document focused on goals, mechanisms and tactics. The basic criteria outlined in the original document should lay the foundation for the ensuing document. We could share this text in order to start adding precise thoughts on the proposal to establish the Global Independent Commission and determine what has to be done to this end, via e-mail, for a start

Luiz Guanabara, Brazil, talks about hi organization Psicotrópicus and states that his main interest is the union of the Latin American countries. Lula’s government’s policy is geared at strengthening ties with Mercosur and the Andean countries. The ALCA (FTAA) is a danger for the countries in Latin America. The same can be said for drugs. If we’re thinking of changing UN Conventions, that’s fine but he does not consider that this is what’s most important. He gives the example of Brazil where there are laws which ban adultery yet everyone commits it. The law exists, it is just not enforced. The discussion would center on why we insist on reforming a law and if it would not be better to think about changing people’s mentalities. He offers his cooperation as concerns this context in Latin American countries.

Luis Suárez calls for a certain order in the procedures since we have different views. That is precisely part of the problem. He suggests that, with certain modifications, we adopt what Camilo said: fine tune practices towards defining goals and paths.

María Mercedes Moreno says that the meeting was precisely convened with the aim of getting to know each other better and starting to seek common ground for building through our diverse approaches a mechanism for social oversight of the drug phenomenon in abidance with the need for social responsibility and political co-responsibility when the addressing the issue.

Darío González proposes that we start rounding up and summarizes Camilo’s proposal. He adds that we are currently working within a plural framework and senses that we have basic points in common, the most important being the defense of Human Rights.

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, GB, adds that as many of us know that five years ago, in 1998, people mobilized in the United Nations. Three months later, there was a meeting to establish an international coalition of organizations building through a network. She proposes that we join the ENCOD international coalition.

María Mercedes Moreno proposes that Encod be present in the Impulse Committee. Many of us work with Encod already and are certain that we can build well horizontally.

Ibán de Rementería proposes that María Mercedes Moreno, Darío González and Henry Salgado, who have coordinated this group, also coordinate this work group.

Hugo Cabieses proposes the the Coordinating Team include people from Europe and the US so the Impulse Committee will not be so limited. He asks whether we are all part of the Impulse Committee; if we would participate individually or as institutions. He proposes that this be up to each one of us.

Darío González then states that we can all be part of the Impulse Committee and certain people can be in charge of drafting the document and coordinating communication. He then suggests that people volunteer for this group.

Ricardo Soberón proposes that we not limit the scope of the Commission proposal from the beginning. That it is better to have an encompassing title −drug policy assessment− so that we can perfect it later, once the Committee’s proposals and ensuing document have been studied.


The voluntary Coordinating Team is made up by: Mama Coca (represented by María Mercedes Moreno and Darío González), Henry Salgado from the Cinep, Marco Perduca, Ricardo Soberón, Alain Labrousse, Jorge Atilio Silva, Luiz Guanabara, Ana Maria Motta, Iqbal Khan, Ecofondo (represented by Elsa Nivia y Rafael Colmenares) Sharda Sekaran, Molly Charles, Martín Barriuso y Luis Suárez Salazar.



[1]International Meeting on Peace, Human Rights and IHL in Colombia” (Costa Rica, october 2000); II National Meeting of  Citizens’ Roundtables for a peace Agenda  (Bogotá, March 30, 2001); III Plenary of the Civil Society’s Permanent Peace Assembly (Rionegro, Colombia July 2001); “Talks  on the Andean Regional Initiative, the Counternarcotics Strategy and Cocalero Movements of the Andean Region”, CINEP (Bogotá, August 2001).


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