First Meeting of the Independent Global Commission (IGC)

In defense of Human Rights, of ‘master’ plants and environmental survival

September 15 - 19  2004






  1. To promote the articulation and strengthening of an open peaceful transnational dialogue between movements tied to the cocalero issue, environmentalists and international drug policy reform movements.
  2. To encourage the exchange between concrete alternatives to restore the coca to the corresponding spiritual, nutritional, medical and environmental standing it has historically held in the Andean Amazonian Region.
  3. To further the goals of reforming 'drug' policies by giving shape to the Independent Global Commission and designing, together with legislators, reforms which contemplate the defense of human rights and civil liberties of growers and users.
  4. To echo the numerous voices worldwide which call for peace and the demilitarization of peoples' territories and resources.



In a search to build on social knowledge regarding drug policies and their manifold repercussions, the Fund for Drug Policy Reform of the Tides Foundation has generously contributed to the joint building of a moment and space for social deliberation on special plants and consciousness-altering substances, known as ‘drugs’. Numerous analysts, economists, pacifists, and politicians among others demand reforms and greater social participation in the design and implementation of ‘drug’ policies and measures. The alternatives are there and they are proposed from all countries. 


In 2003, academics, growers, users and activists from 16 countries founded the Independent Global Commission (IGC), a transnational social policy initiative that seeks to horizontally articulate social alternatives to repressive ‘drug’ policies and measures. Generously and beyond local and national frontiers, analysts and activists from all over the world search for the means to strengthen social proposals that reflect their own diversity. With these funds granted by the FDPR we are, initially, given the means to seek alternatives to shelter the coca and its peoples from the war declared against them, an Andean Amazonian Forum. Academic institutions such as the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) with Colciencias are backing this attempt at promoting dialogue. The forum would renew commitments to drug policy reform made at the International Costa Rica Peace Conference of 2000 and the Andean Amazonian Meeting held at the Cinep in 2001. It echoes the many former proposals arising from diverse sectors in the countries of the North and the South.


Our wider expectations are to assemble a meeting of the Independent Global Commission.  To this end, several organizations have already begun to seek the means to make an IGC workshop and public forum possible. We are here actively requesting that, those who can, join us through their own means and help us to find support for other guests. We wish to join in putting forward collective social proposals for more sensible and humane ‘drug’ policies by making this diverse transnational social policy instance come true.



The Forum is convened with te view of promoting the articulation and strengthening of visible peaceful international solidarity among these social movements and finding a common ground for our diverging approaches in the face of that which destroys and divides us: ‘drug’ policies and measures that range from “ignorance to racism”. While in the countries of the North penalization of consumption is used to obscure growing restrictions on individual rights, in the countries of the South, people’s territories and resources are alarmingly militarized under the coordination of US narcotics agencies. Terrorism —whether of the state or of the insurgency— thrives on prohibitionist policies. While governments stigmatize social opposition movements as terrorists, under the cover of antinarcotics policies, insurgents follow the military model laid out by Prohibition: targeting both growers and users while themselves thriving off of the business. The political tendency to narcotize, and by so doing militarize, the acute problems faced by peasants in the South calls on us to seek alternatives from within the communities themselves in a personal exchange which we are proposing in the Andean Amazonian Region.


The scope of the current agrarian cocalero movement in the Andean Amazonian region reflects the need for policies that respond to the region’s particular agricultural, environmental, and social realities. Social movements such as that led by Evo Morales; the call of Felipe Quispe for a communitarian constitution that would reflect the reality and expectations of the mainly indigenous Bolivian people; the diverse social movement against fumigation in Colombia; the Sacrifice Marches of the cocaleras and cocaleros of the Alto Huallaga; and the mobilization of the Federation of Agrarian Producers of the Río Apurímac and Ene Valleys (Fepavrae), all demand the respect and the sustainable and fair use of the region's rich natural resources. They are seeking the legal means to make their dignity, their rights and social expectations respected. In acts of peaceful resistance, this social mobilization seeks to reform current drug policies and measures under the cover of which peoples' territories and resources are forcibly controlled and their ancestral cultural rights denied.


The immediate issues in each of the Andean countries vary. Very generally speaking, in Peru the cocaleros demand a halt to alternative crop programs and to forced eradication, they demand a Coca Law and the deactivation of Devida and Enaco. The popular Bolivian movement is discussing development proposals in the cocalero zones and demands that Law 1008 be reviewed. This movement encompasses wide national grievances such as society’s right to oversee the use of its natural resources.  In Colombia widespread demands are for a political solution to the country's conflict which has already massacred millions of Colombians, for the right of communities to their autonomy and neutrality in this conflict, for social and not military solutions, for an end to the incrimination of peasants, a halt to the chemical war with pesticides and that the rights of the coca be recognized.


Although any of the Andean Amazonian countries could host this regional and international meeting, several Andean nationals have suggested that it be held in Colombia. The narcotized view through which the Region is viewed completely discounts the region's agrarian crisis and seeks to isolate the cocalero movement and ignore the wide social expectations it expresses. The coca and its growers are victims of aggression throughout the whole region. Nonetheless, possibly nowhere is the coca, nature and the sacred more profaned than it is in Colombia. Despite the fact that coca is part of the cultural, spiritual and natural legacy several of its indigenous peoples, of the Colombian nation, the coca and its traditional uses in Colombia are almost completely obscured  by the narcotics traffic and the economic and political interests tied to it.  The Colombian Administration has taken the lead in regional strategies to disarticulate social protest and consistently stigmatizes all social protest tied to cocalero issues as a part of the Drug War and/or narcotics trafficking. The Uribe Administration is also building a society governed on suspicion (paid snitching); a society where peasants are armed against each other and massive raids and detentions of the nation’s farmers as well as intense chemical war measures against the coca and its peoples are presented as success figures in the Drug War. This US Administration states that its aim is to eliminate the coca plant from the face of Colombia. 


Coca is a part of the natural and cultural legacy of the Andean Amazonian Region, and its forced disappearance from the zones where it is endemic would affect the balance of fragile and immensely rich ecosystems. It would violate the spiritual, agricultural, and cultural traditions of millions of peasants. One of the territories which has played an historic role in the survival of coca in Colombia is the Cauca.  The Cauca territory is the home the Nasa People, the Güambiano People and of diverse Afro-Colombian, mestizo and white communities. Coca there is consumed both for its sacred purposes and for its nutritional and medical use; there the coca provides its own answers. With the welcome and logistical support of the local communities in convening and seeing to our safety, we wish to invite you to this Andean Amazonian Forum in Popayán (Colombia) on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of September, 2004. 


The Cauca convenes as of its long history of social organization and its multi-ethnical culture and Popayán, its capital, is a peaceful colonial city with the required infrastructure to support this event at a low cost.  Popayán is situated in southern Colombia, which makes it easy to access for delegations arriving overland from other Colombian coca territories, from Peru, from Ecuador, and from the Amazon.  For these reasons and in an appeal for support for the millions of peasants (white, black, mestizo and indigenous) Colombians assassinated, persecuted and displaced from their homes by the Drug War, and with the aim of expanding our collective knowledge and strengthening our social proposals, we believe it important to build this opportunity for cocaleros, environmentalists, analysts, users, and organizations for drug policy reform to come to Popayán in the name of peace.


Our immediate purpose with the resources at hand is to bring together cocaleros, cocológos (coca researchers) and those who are knowledgeable on ‘drug’ issues from the Andean-Amazon Region in a dialogue which would allow us to propose concrete peaceful alternatives for restoring the coca leaf to the rightful nutritional and medicinal standing which it has historically held in the region. A further goal is to consolidate the international alliance of drug policy reform movements through the presence of our US, European, Asian, and African colleagues. To this purpose, we are actively seeking their support to join us for 4 days in Popayán. We especially wish to invite with our international colleagues who have for many years advocated the rights and defense of the coca leaf and of all of those who make up the IGC. Your presence and contribution to this dialogue on Master Plants and mind altering substances will expand the reach of our transnational search for peace and demand for respect for consumers’ and growers’ human rights and civil liberties.


Drug policy reform commences with social praxis, for example social organizations’ endeavor to implement programs to shelter populations displaced by the war being fought in the name of ‘drugs’; harm-minimization programs such as those successfully implemented by our European colleagues; and the legal achievements towards raising awareness and changing mentalities by activists for medical marijuana in the United States. The support and funding required to bring these experiences together is noted in general terms below. We have attempted to include a series of practical aspects in this draft and would appreciate any and all suggestions regarding the different aspects of this proposal.


We hope that this FDPR seed money and the ICANH funds will be the first of the contributions towards this convening of social assessments for peaceful resistance to war and to the terrorist model. We are asking you and your organizations to join us in supporting local, national, and transnational initiatives for drug policy reform. Our wide expectations are noted below and we hope each one of you proposes the presence and support you might deem necessary in order to strengthen social alternatives to current drug policies and measures through the Andean Amazonian Forum and IGC Meeting in Popayán.



We currently have US$25,000 (and others not noted yet) which we hope to use as follows:


·         US$2,500 to organize the event: travel and other expenses for Monica Juliana Lalinde for a 4 to 6 week stay in Popayán with the local communities to jointly prepare the public forum and to serve as English-French-Spanish liaison for the local communities.

·         US$2500 for overhead and unforeseen needs

  • A US$3,000 fund for supporting part of the needs of those communities which might make it overland to join us.

The remaining $17,000 from the FDPR will serve to bring together hopefully 27 participants (without expenses) for travel and a 4 day stay in Popayán. With these initial funds, we would like to support those people (22 international/regional and 5 national guests) who might otherwise not be able to attend.


This forum is scheduled from September 15th  to the 19th , immediately after the end of the more expensive high season in order to reduce costs. In very broad terms, we estimate that from the Andean Amazon Region the ticket should cost around US$550. From Europe and the US, the ticket would cost approximately $1,000. From the rest of Latin America the cost would be similar to that from the US and Europe. From Asia, tickets cost approximately $1,800. A 4-day stay in Popayán costs approximately $200.



Cultural diversity is recognized by all international conventions. Nonetheless, this law of coexistence —of diverse cultural usages and diverse responses— is not applied when it comes to plants such as the poppy, the coca and cannabis. Natural and common law is completely disregarded and norms are decreed violating that which is protected by law: the growing and consumption of plants whose use responds to a belief in a spiritual awareness, to social rituals, dietary and medical customs, and a life of coexistence and sustainable use of our environment.  First we are told that these plants are harmful for users, then that they are destructive to society, and now that the phenomenon is chiefly chemical, we are told that these plants harm the environment. Growers and users —both adversely affected by antinarcotics measures and policies which breach international conventions signed to protect human and civil rights, people’s traditions, livelihood and the environment— have put forward peaceful alternatives. The Andean Amazonian Forum in Popayán seeks to promote an exchange between growers, users and analysts of the ‘drug’ issue. It seeks a public forum that would allow us to project our common ground, and workshops to discuss differences to be reconciled.




o        The coca and cocaleros: cultural, agrarian and environmental life in the Andean Amazonian

The practices, lives and projects of growers in the Andean Amazonian Region under the impact of counter-narcotics measures and policies


Goal: The Drug War is costing millions of lives and endangering peoples´ subsistence, resources, and future. The imbalances generated by the current prohibitionist economic model particularly affect peasant growers of banned crops in the countries of the South. The communities suffering under these drug measures have found diverse survival strategies. Complementary and/or contradictory, these multiple proposals generate alliances and differences which merit a space for social deliberation in the face of the ever-growing penal and military dynamics. 


o        Users’ harm rejection proposals. The defense of medical marijuana, of consumers, and of harm and risk reduction alternatives


Goal:  Historically, society itself has been at the forefront of defending the traditions it seeks to conserve and promoting legislation to incorporate evolving mentalities and rights. Cannabis has been grown and used for medical and recreational purposes for centuries. Marijuana, with a low degree of toxicity, is one of the few plants which serve to alleviate the painful symptoms associated with illnesses such as cancer, sclerosis, migraine headaches, arthritis, and gastritis; it alleviates glaucoma, epileptic convulsions and the nausea produced by chemotherapy, among other problems.  Western pacifist and organic culture has adopted this Asian legacy and defended it from the economic dynamics of prohibition. Organized communities of medical marihuana, recreational and users in distress propose practices for defending this right to health and free will.


o        Reformulating shared international responsibility

Legislative approaches and practical alternatives for socially reformulating ‘drug’ policies


Goal: In order to reform drug policies, local communities and analysts must have a chance to share their experiences and knowledge with those who design legislation and oversee its application. As members of civil society we are here calling on independent legislators from the American Region and Europe to join us in order to strengthen the legislative initiatives they have already presented to address the ‘drug’ issue.


Below you will find a list of the guests we hope to finance. It is basically composed of those people who, due to lack of funding, might otherwise not be able to join us.  Individual presentations follow. A longer list is also being composed since there are, as mentioned, several organizations already proposing alternatives and seeking further funding for the Andean Amazonian Forum and Independent Global Commission meeting in Popayán. 



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