In the area of failed alternative development (AD) projects, the Andean region has its sorry share to contribute. The constant peasant uprisings n the Bolivian Chapare and the social tensions rife among cocalero peasants in the South of Colombia are woeful indicators of such failure. In January, TNI attended a conference in Germany, hosted by the German government and UNDCP. The purpose was to critically evaluate experiences in AD and draw conclusions for its future.
In 1961, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibited planting crops having no medical or scientific purpose, fixing a period of 15 years - for opium - and 25 years - for coca - as deadlines for their ultimate extinction. Those targets were clearly not met. In 1998, ignoring decades of lack of success in addressing the issue of illicit crops, the UN set the year 2008 as yet another deadline by which to eliminate coca and opium. At the UN Special Session on drugs, AD was identified as a key instrument to be used in fulfilling this objective, as part of an integral anti-drugs strategy. The strategy's other components were eradication and law enforcement. Experience has demonstrated that the simultaneous use of these means - commonly known as the 'carrot and stick approach'- is counterproductive.
This issue of Drugs & Conflict is dedicated to this central theme in international drug control policies. Supply reduction, one of AD's objectives, has proven a failure in the Andean region. To what was this failure due? What may be expected of AD programmes in the future, given the accumulated experiences?
In reference to eradication pacts and AD projects undertaken in the Putumayo (Colombia), Ricardo Vargas points out that there is no fair compensation between what is expected of peasants: destroying the main source of their livelihood, and what the state offers them in exchange: non-viable projects doomed to fail and the impending threat of fumigation should deadlines not be met. International anti-drugs policy forces the Colombian government to measure its results by the number of hectares eradicated, without regard for the region's specific development conditions.
State institutions in Colombia have no capacity to operate effectively in the Putumayo. Locked into a crisis combining US pressure to intensify aerial spraying, a collapsed peace process and guerrilla action against the economic and services infrastructure, the central government is not in a position to guarantee the adequate running of AD programmes. To add fuel to fire, there is now the argument that finance for terrorism must be combated. This further erodes the social and economic rights of the peasants and down-plays the impact of aerial spraying on health and the environment.
In spite of widespread recognition of the failure of current 'carrot and stick' policies (a mixture of AD and repression), a 'zero option' mentality persists and deceit about success still abounds. The final declaration issued at the German policy conference is not radical in this sense. It does, however, offer some leaps forward in terms of fine tuning the AD concept, based on a better understanding of livelihood decision making processes, the importance of regular evaluations and, the acceptance of the reality that the communities most affected have not been allowed to participate sufficiently in their own development process. The declaration also manages to define somewhat more precisely the troublesome balance between AD and repressive law enforcement. It is worth noting that the UNDCP participated actively in the conference, displaying real willingness to seriously exchange opinions on these issues. This yields a modicum of optimism regarding the possibility that international bodies can learn to identify best practices and see the need to separate these from the current repressive policies, increasingly recognised as more harmful than drugs themselves.
An ethnographic study of women and drug use in inner city neighborhoods in Kingston, Jamaica, revealed that cannabis is commonly used in conjunction with crack cocaine to minimize the undesirable effects of crack pipe smoking, specifically paranoia and weight loss.
A strong attack against the European practice of 'leniency' regarding cannabis use and possession took place at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) session (11-15 March, 2002) in Vienna. There was an orchestrated attempt to pass a CND resolution to put a dam against the 'leniency'.
Mirjam van het Loo, Ineke van Beusekom, James P. Kahan
01 July 2002
Drug use is an increasing problem in Portugal. In response, following the advice of a select committee, the Portuguese government has recently issued a number of laws implementing a strong harm-reductionistic orientation. The flagship of these laws is the decriminalization of the use and possession for use of drugs.
This briefing contributes towards theorising democratic, egalitarian and emancipatory politics that have for some time been struggling from below. Hilary Wainwright highlights practical lessons learnt from the experiences of labour and broad-based social movements in Brazil, the UK and the USA.
James Shearer, John Sherman, Alex Wodak, Ingrid van Beek
31 May 2002
The illicit use of amphetamines continues to be a growing problem in many countries around the world, yet treatment responses remain in need of further development. This is particularly true with regards to pharmacotherapy for amphetamine dependence. In this Harm Reduction Digest four authors who bring together considerable research and clinical experience in this area describe the nature of amphetamine-related problems and consider the role of amphetamine agonists in substitution therapy for amphetamine dependence.
This is a book about modern wars in fragile states, one of the most important issues in the international system, and how the media, the academic and non-governmental organisations understand, act towards, interact among them and provide knowledge about their armed conflicts.
Recent developments in drug policy can be regarded as taking place in stages based on certain changeable paradigms: the abstinence paradigm, the medicalization paradigm and the acceptance paradigm. For the time being there seems to be a slow transition from the first to the latter, implying that elements of all three are presently active in a diversity of policies and strategies, differing between states and regions of the German federal state and the European Union as well as between different levels of drug policy and drug care.