Bolivia, UNODC Agree on $22 Million Program for Tackling Organized Crime

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The UNODC has promised to expand cooperation with the government of Bolivia on combating organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption, a sign of the international community’s continued support for the Andean nation.*

The Bolivian government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed an agreement on February 2 to cooperate on a $22 million project that aims to “to strengthen Bolivia’s capacity to prevent crime and respond to the interconnected threats related to drugs, organized crime and corruption,” the foreign ministry stated.

The funds will be used for the 2016-2020 “Country Program” (pdf) between the UNODC and the Bolivian government. Bolivia will pay $1.75 million out of the total $22 million aid package, while the rest will be financed by the European Union and its member states. The partners have already obtained $9.5 million in financing, equivalent to 43 percent of the total.

The program has five pillars: coca cultivation and integral development ($6.2 million); public health and drug legislation ($4.7 million); prevention and fight against organized crime ($5.9 million); prevention and fight against corruption ($2.6 million); and reform of the criminal justice system ($2.7 million).

InSight Crime Analysis

UNODC efforts to help Bolivia tackle drug trafficking and organized crime have to be considered in light of the country’s falling out with the United States on antinarcotics policies. This dynamic has led the financial aid from the international community, and in particular the European Union, to gain increased significance.

The EU has long provided anti-drug aid to the Andean nation, whether through direct cooperation or by funding UNODC programs. The EU signed a contract with Bolivian government last November to help local institutions combat drug trafficking and related criminal activities.

But the EU’s continued financial support has gained importance since the diplomatic fallout between Bolivia and the United States. In 2008, President Evo Morales expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as well as the US ambassador, before taking a similar step with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2013. Over time, these events led to an almost total elimination of US anti-narcotics aid to Bolivia. 

SEE ALSO: Bolivia News and Profile

The Bolivian government has taken a markedly different approach to reducing coca cultivation than Peru and Colombia, which continue to receive US funding. The government’s emphasis on self-policing and farmers’ rights appears to be working; in 2015, the number of coca crops fell to their lowest point since the UNODC began monitoring in 2003. 

That is not to say Bolivia has solved all of its problems related to organized crime and corruption. The government is still attempting to deal with significant drug trafficking activities on its territory, while corruption plagues state institutions and the Bolivian prison system is among the most overcrowded in all of Latin America, with an occupancy rate of 254 percent.

* The original version of this article inaccurately implied that the UNODC would provide $22 million in funding directly to the Bolivian government. This article has been updated to clarify that the program will be implemented in partnership with the Bolivian government.

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