U.S. and Western Hemisphere: Partnership and Shared ResponsibilityAbout the Authors: Bogdan Pintilie is a Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow and Peter Kranstover is a Conflict Prevention Officer. Both work in S/CRS.
Following the success of the conflict assessment conducted at the U.S. Embassy to Panama in April 2009, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS) invited the U.S. Embassy in Panama to submit a proposal for funding under Section 1207. The Section 1207 program administered by S/CRS provides immediate reconstruction, security, or stabilization assistance to maintain peace and security in countries that are unstable. Panama’s Darien region is in danger of becoming a base of criminal operations for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). The influx of DTOs in the area threatens the stability of the country and the flow of commerce through this vital crossroads of the Americas.
The goal of the Panama Section 1207 project is to build the Government of Panama’s capacity to maintain the security of its extended southern borders, the Panama Canal, and the infrastructure that makes Panama so important to global trade. Application of Section 1207 funds will prevent destabilizing elements from coalescing in the Darien while coordinating Panama Government activities there. The total Panama Section 1207 project is $5.07 million and includes funds for national organization capacity building and to prevent recruiting into the FARC and other DTOs.
The Section 1207-funded program builds upon the conclusions of the previously conducted conflict assessment and is based on three elements:
• Improving effectiveness of government services and assistance programs by encouraging and supporting the appointment of a Darien coordinator who would be responsible for coordinating and monitoring all Government of Panama actions in the Darien, and the formation of a Darien coordinating body that would bring together Government of Panama, international and civil society stakeholders in the Darien.
• Improving quality of life to prevent and deter recruitment of local young people into the FARC and DTOs. The project would provide funds for the Darien coordinator to quickly fund and execute high impact projects in critical areas that will improve water systems, schools and health care facilities, or improve economic opportunities. This funding would also be used to fund programs for at-risk youth in local schools and communities and an information operations campaign in the Darien to encourage FARC members to turn themselves in, and to discourage residents of the Darien from collaborating with or joining the FARC or DTOs.
• Improving citizen security through support to the National Frontier Service (SENAFRONT). Funds will be used to create a dedicated training center for the National Frontier Service to improve their capabilities at community policing and law enforcement in a jungle setting, and make it possible to increase the size of the force in the mid-term. Section 1207 funds will also be used to provide bonuses for the Frontier Service when units deploy to remote locations in support of other 1207-related activities.
Successful implementation of the Panama Section 1207 project will help the Government of Panama reestablish its presence in this relatively isolated region and maintain security in an area that many in Panama hope will serve as a buffer against conflict in Colombia.