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U.S. Department of State

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The Certification Process

Fact Sheet released by the Bureau of International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs
U.S. Department of State, November 12, 1999

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The Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended, requires the President every year to submit to Congress a list of those countries he has determined to be major illicit drug producing and/or drug transit countries. The FAA requires that half of most U.S. Government foreign assistance to any country on this "Majors" list be withheld until the President determines whether the country should be "certified" under the certification process, first enacted in 1986.

A major illicit drug producing country is defined as one in which:

A major drug-transit country is defined as: The "Majors" List for 1999

On November 10, the President approved and sent to Congress the "Majors" list for 1999. The 26 countries and dependent territories included were: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The President is required under the FAA to review anti-narcotics efforts undertaken by those countries on the "Majors" list in order to determine and transmit certification decisions to Congress by March 1, 2000. The President may select from the following certification options for each of the countries on the "Majors" list: full certification, denial of certification, or a "vital national interests" certification.

In order to "fully" certify a country, the President must determine that it has cooperated fully with the United States, or has taken adequate steps on its own, to achieve the counternarcotics goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. If a country receives full certification, all aid that was withheld is released.

Denial of certification requires the U.S. to deny sales or financing under the Arms Export Control Act; deny non-food assistance under Public Law 480; deny financing by the Export-Import Bank, and withhold most assistance under the FAA with the exception of specified humanitarian and counternarcotics assistance. The U.S. must also vote against proposed loans from six multilateral development banks.

If a country has not met the standards for full certification, the President may nevertheless certify the country by determining that the U.S. vital national interests require that assistance be provided/not withheld and that the U.S. not vote against multilateral development bank assistance for the country. When a country receives a "vital national interests" certification, assistance is provided in the same manner as if it had been given full certification.

The Certification Determinations for 1998

Last year, the President determined and certified that the following major illicit drug producing and/or drug transit countries have cooperated fully with the United States, or have taken adequate steps on their own, to achieve the counternarcotics goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention: Aruba, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The President determined that it is in the vital national interests of the United States to certify the following major illicit drug producing and/or drug transit countries: Cambodia, Haiti, Nigeria and Paraguay.

The President determined that the following major illicit producing and/or drug transit countries do not meet the standards for certification: Afghanistan and Burma.

The Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the Department of State initiates the certification process each spring. Based upon the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) produced by INL each year, and also upon input from other U.S. Government sources, a proposed "Majors" list is compiled and presented to the Secretary of State for consideration.

The Secretary sends her recommendations to the President, who makes the final determinations regarding inclusion on the "Majors" list. The White House transmits the list to the Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House International Relations Committee, and the respective Appropriation Committees. The "Majors" list is due in the Congress by November 1.

INL works with U.S. embassies and governments in the countries on the "Majors" list to develop targets that each country should work toward in the coming year in order to be certified. Throughout the year these criteria are discussed with each nation and periodic progress reports are provided by the U.S. embassies.

Between December and mid-February, the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs coordinates an interagency process to recommend whether countries should be certified fully based on their counternarcotics performance, denied certification, or granted a vital national interests certification. These recommended determinations are presented to the Secretary of State, who forwards the State Department's recommendations to the President. The President makes the final determinations in a memo to the Secretary of State, who then notifies the Congress by March 1.

The Congress has the option of passing a joint resolution disapproving any of the President's certification determinations within 30 calendar days, which the President can either sign or veto. If the President vetoes the resolution, the Congress would need a two-thirds majority to override the veto and overturn the President's decisions.

[end of document]

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