From 16 to 18 October 2019, representatives of member states, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society attended the 6th Intersessional Meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. On 17 October 2019, representatives of coca and opium growers from Colombia and Myanmar delivered statements highlighting the situation of communities involved in the illicit cultivation of coca and opium in both countries. Below are their full statements.
The voice of communities involved in illicit cultivation had long been excluded from policymaking platforms. However, thanks to growing networks such as the Myanmar Opium Farmers Forum, more and more farmers have gained more space to provide input to drug policy discussions at the UN level.
Current drug control polices in South-east Asia are repressive and criminalise opium farmers, greatly affecting the lives of communities cultivating opium. Most policy responses – including from some armed opposition groups – focus on eradication of poppy fields and the implementation of strict bans on opium cultivation.
Today the Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum released the report of its third meeting. The report stresses that farmers grow opium to ensure food security for their families and to provide for basic needs, and to have access to health and education. According to the report, "The large majority of opium farmers are not rich and grow it for their survival. Therefore, they should not be treated as criminals."
The recently-released “Myanmar Opium Survey 2018” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) entails specific accusations against several of the conflict actors. This commentary explains how this further distorts, rather than reflects, the complex realities in Myanmar.